Liverpool’s 2018 year in review, and the beauty of daring to dream again

Oli Fisher
during the Quarter Final Second Leg match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on April 10, 2018 in Manchester, England.

While some supporters of big teams will argue that a calendar year can’t be deemed a memorable one unless it comes with the physical evidence of a trophy, I’d have to say that 2018 was a personal favourite.

And that’s coming from an old (let’s say mature) Liverpool fan who knows the thrill of winning titles and Champions Leagues.

Much of how you rate a year depends on expectations. Reaching the final of the 2018 Champions League was beyond mine and the football we played en route was breathtaking. Going 5-0 up in the first leg of a semi-final. Astonishing. I doubt we’ll ever see that again.

And, then, of course, there’s been August onwards and our best ever start to a top-flight season. Played 20, Won 17, Drawn 3, Lost 0, For 48, Against 8.

So, Reds fans, pinch yourselves, rub your eyes, perform a series of double takes. Liverpool will end the year seven points clear at the top of the table.

If 2018 was excellent, 2019 could go through the roof.

As a collective, Liverpool fans are being hammered on social media for daring to dream. And, personally, I’m finding it hard to keep my thoughts in check, to stop my mind racing ahead and picturing us doing laps of Anfield hoisting up the trophy.

But what about the players? What are they thinking?

The other day on Amazon Prime, I watched an excellent documentary about Steven Gerrard. One of the main storylines was how much of a strain it put on him trying to, single-handedly it felt at times, end Liverpool’s long drought for a league title.

As the local lad and the team’s star player, the pressure was huge. His body was failing him in that agonising 2013/14 campaign when we had one hand on the trophy. Gerrard admitted that he shouldn’t really have played in the Chelsea game which delivered such a fatal blow to our hopes and condemned him to a lifetime of wondering ‘what if’.

But that was then.

Heading into 2019, our star players are a Dutchman, an Egyptian and a Brazilian.

Let’s turn this on its head to make my point.

Imagine if Gerrard in his younger days had signed for say Feyenoord (European Cup winners in 1970) or Sao Paulo and those teams hadn’t won their own domestic trophy since 1990, the same as Liverpool.

Gerrard would have some awareness of that from the fans but it wouldn’t be a millstone around his neck. He’d sense there was an opportunity to ride into town to play the hero. To end the supporters’ years of agony which he, himself, hadn’t felt.

Mo Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson haven’t been fretting about Liverpool’s lack of a title as they’ve only been at the club for the last year or two.

They’re young, vibrant men with healthy bodies and uncluttered minds.

Sure, the fans will be telling them what it would mean, but they have everything in front of them. Futures laden with trophies and champagne – with us or, dare I say it, other teams – rather than in the Gerard position of drinking at the last-chance saloon.

Spurred on by Jurgen Klopp, the world’s most positive human being, our elite stars and supporting cast are having a blast. There’s absolutely no reason why this title bid crashes on the rocks of expectation.

If Man City win every game and beat us by a point, then congratulations to them. But the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to believe that the key men (Van Dijk, Salah and Alisson) hopefully about to write a memorable new chapter in the history of Liverpool Football Club are some of the coolest dudes around. Pressure? Nah. This is opportunity.

Of course, it never hurts to have a title winner in the camp and James Milner is just about the perfect person to help steer the ship through these final 18 games even if his own playing time is limited.

James Milner TEAMtalk

Mention of Milner leads me towards Thursday night and that hugely pivotal clash with Manchester City.

In theory, it’s now a game we can afford to lose although that would be bad for momentum; ours halted, theirs accelerated.

A draw is a fine result, with the seven-point gap maintained. But imagine if we went there and won.

Leicester did just that in February 2016 and really made their fans believe that a miracle was possible when many expected City to put them in their place that day.

A Liverpool title win would be no miracle this time though.

This isn’t Newcastle in 1995/1996 or us in 2013/14. Those sides were terrifically exciting but possessed a soft underbelly that left them prone to collapse.

This Liverpool team is more of a Red Machine, reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s Anfield line-ups. True, those sides had a mental advantage over the rest after years of winning but history has to start somewhere and you can see quite clearly how the timeline with this current squad has unfolded.

First, Klopp built the attack, then he steadied the midfield and now he’s laid perhaps the two most important bricks in Van Dijk and Alisson.

I’m certainly not taking anything for granted and injuries can be game-changers. But everything seems to make sense now. The foundations have been laid, the cement has hardened and the house that we’ve tried to build since 1990 looks bang on track to be ready for completion in April 2019.

Dave Tindall

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