In his weekly Liverpool blog, lifelong Reds fan Dave Tindall insists the wave of optimism surrounding the club under Jurgen Klopp mustn’t be dampened despite a disappointing week.
I wrote last week’s Red Letter, in which I suggested the title was a realistic aim for the Reds, on a wave of euphoria.
We’d just demolished Southampton 6-1 at St. Mary’s, Daniel Sturridge had returned with two lethal strikes and title talk was in the air.
This week I’ve had to witness a miserable 2-0 defeat at Newcastle and Sturridge is injured again.
Yep, football can sure kick you in the teeth.
Firstly, a response to those who chided me for even having a flickering thought about Liverpool winning the title. I’ve had comments from mates such as, “told you so, you were in dreamland” and “you jinxed it”.
Let’s deal with the latter point first. I don’t mind a bit of football-based superstition but, seriously, me having ‘title thoughts’ did not have a direct result on the outcome at Newcastle. Call me crazy, but I think us playing crap and them being arsed for once was more of a contributory factor.
Also, why is it wrong to dream? I don’t buy into this “it’s the hope that kills you” argument. I like having hope. Maybe I won’t experience it again this season but, after other results had gone our way, I went into that game against Newcastle thinking we could win the title. I never believed such a thought, however fleeting, would enter my head at any point during the 2015/16 season. I’m glad it did.
Channel 4 once did a reality TV programme called ‘Space Cadets’ where they convinced contestants that they were Britain’s first space tourists. The final three were told they had blasted off from a cosmonaut training camp in Russia although they were actually just sat in a fake spaceship in a warehouse in Suffolk.
They were later told it was a prank and they’d been set up and obviously a big thing was made of their let-down and disappointment.
However, I couldn’t help but focus on the bit of the show when they were looking back at earth from the spaceship in a state of wonder and amazement. For those moments, they genuinely believed they were in space. You can never take those feelings away from them even though reality hit them over the head later.
I wanted to ring Steven Gerrard and tell him about this after Liverpool blew the title in 2013/14. After the win over Man City and, again after the 3-2 victory at Norwich, Stevie G must have gone to bed believing he was finally going to win the title. What a feeling. He got to experience thoughts that looked as if they would forever pass him by.
Okay, it didn’t happen but surely it’s better to have revelled in the thrill of possible glory rather than never have got anywhere near it in the first place.
Anyway, this has all got a bit philosophical so let’s return to that St. James’ Park debacle.
I don’t mind saying this but I’m definitely in the ‘Jurgen got it wrong’ camp.
Not playing Divock Origi after he was on a hat-trick high seemed strange, as did a midfield stodge of Lucas, Allen and Milner. All too similar.
There was a stat doing the rounds after the game that was both telling and depressing. Liverpool had misplaced 124 passes against Newcastle, their most in a Premier League game in any of the last five seasons! Anyone who watched the game won’t have been surprised by it.
To Klopp’s credit, he smacked of a man who knew his system for that particular game hadn’t worked but, hey, these are early days. There are bound to be unexpected bumps in the road like this as he settles in.
But, despite everything going wrong – “better you lose a bad game than (play well and lose) a good game,” he said wisely – how refreshing to see him smile and congratulate Steve McClaren BEFORE the full-time whistle rather than head off down the tunnel afterwards in a Wenger/Mourinho/Ferguson huff. He’s a class act our boss.
Ironically, in a difficult week for Liverpool fans, it was Sir Alex Ferguson who offered a welcome reminder about how lucky we are to have the German and the positive future Klopp threatens (deliberate choice of word given the ex-Man Utd manager’s perspective) to bring to Anfield.
“He’s a fantastic personality, with those big white teeth always showing,” said Ferguson. “I know him quite well from the coaching seminars. He’s going to make a difference at that club with his personality, drive and knowledge. Things are looking up there.
“I’m worried about him because the one thing United don’t want is Liverpool to get above us.”
Pluses from the Sion bore draw
As for the here and now, I’m writing this just moments after the non-entity of a game in Sion; the dullest of 0-0 draws played out on a pitch resembling a cow field.
Almost nothing happened in Switzerland but here are 5 facts: 1) Brad Smith did well, 2) Firmino wasn’t any good again, 3) It was cold, 4) No-one got injured, 5) They played Status Quo at the end of the match.
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Of course, that result maintained the status quo in the group with Liverpool starting the night in top spot and ending it that way. The opposition was poor but to go through the six games unbeaten was a decent effort. I definitely believe that, with Klopp in charge, we can do something big in this competition this season.
However, having failed to see Liverpool score in 180 minutes of action this week, I’m desperate to see the net ripple on Sunday.
There’s a snag though. The visitors this weekend are West Brom and they’re managed by Tony Pulis.
Pulis has been something of a thorn in our side down the years. On three separate occasions during his Stoke tenure he bought the Potters to Anfield and went away with a ‘mission accomplished’ stamp on his baseball cap after watching his team hold out for a 0-0 draw.
He’s got West Brom playing the same way and a glance at the Premier League table shows that no side have conceded fewer goals away from home this season.
Add in our results after Europa League games – 1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 1-2, 1-0 – and everything screams ‘difficult afternoon’.
Still, as the Newcastle game showed, nothing is predictable in football so maybe Christian Benteke will power us to a 3-0 victory before Monday’s Europa League draw pairs us with Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund (yes, it’s a possible scenario) in the last 32.