Over the next few weeks, Liverpool fans will get a good indication of how the team is going to fare this season. Shankly used to say that pre-season was one of the most important times of the year. That wasn’t because new players blended with the ones already at the club. And it wasn’t because the players regained their match fitness. It was because he used the time to instil a winning attitude in the players and to tell them that the previous season’s achievements, or under-achievements, as was the case last year, had gone.
Along with Bob Paisley, Shankly used to focus on intensity in pre-season games. Indeed, he once told Tommy Smith to kick players on an opposing team to raise the intensity of the game because Liverpool were winning easily and the players weren’t taking the game seriously. Crazy? Well the difference between genius and insanity can be measured only by success. And when the season kicked off for real, the players competed for every ball.
The last couple of seasons have followed dour pre-season tours where the team has ambled through and we have started badly in the league as a result. Obviously the levels will build with each game but the team really does need to hit the ground running this year.
Pre-season is also a good opportunity to see new players in the Liverpool shirt and I for one am particularly looking forward to seeing Adam. If he can spray balls like he was doing at Blackpool then Dalglish will have signed a real bargain. It will be interesting to see how Kenny is going to juggle Gerrard, Adam, Kuyt, Merieles, Lucas, Henderson, Spearing, Rodriguez and any potential winger once the season begins, but it’s a nice problem for him to have. I have to say – I’ve been disappointed at the level of criticism aimed at the club’s transfer dealings this summer. Whilst I was growing frustrated at the lack of activity prior to Adam’s arrival, it would seem a winger is imminent and with the aforementioned players fighting for selection we have a very competitive midfield. I know Lucas and Spearing aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but both have been continually improving and were rewarded with new deals towards the end of last season so Kenny obviously sees something in them. Henderson is clearly a player for the future and although he has come with a reportedly inflated price tag, that seems to be the norm for British players. As Liverpool fans, if we say we trust Kenny, we need to show it and get behind the team. That is what our fans are famous for after all.
In addition to a winger, another striker, a central defender and a left back would obviously be good additions but there are still players in our squad that the manager is looking to offload and we may not get all our targets. One thing is for sure though, with the new owners, the new manager and his coaching staff, along with the players we have already signed, we are much stronger now than we were twelve months ago.