Blog by: Beyond The Kop
The madness of the summer transfer window has finally passed and it’s time to sit back and reflect on our new signings and enjoy that feeling of being top of the league once more.
Whilst nobody reading this can claim that Liverpool will win the league this season, we can enjoy sitting top of the table even if it’s only for a while. Liverpool have not won all three opening matches in the last 19 years of the Premier League era, never mind beating the champions of England, or fierce rivals in the process.
Fans have longed for something to be happy about and as the Sky Sports News reporter outside Anfield said on deadline day ‘Liverpool are tonight calm, composed and happy with the business they’ve done this summer. They’re enjoying being top of the league’.
Business is done and dusted until January at least, now is when results matter, now it’s time to focus on each game with its own merit. We can’t enjoy the Champions League or even the prospect of the Europa League this season. Liverpool have one core objective this season and that is to break back in to the top four, and once they’re back they intend to stay there.
Looking at Liverpool’s signings this summer – there’s a consistent pattern emerging that is reflective across the existing squad and they knew signings. Some are seeking redemption, redemption from poor starts to their Liverpool careers; others seeking redemption from never quite delivering over the last few years of premier league campaigns.
Others are seeking to prove themselves. It’s a world cup year and they all know they need to play, they all know the need to deliver, and mediocrity just won’t do.
All of these players want to make Liverpool great once more. They want to play in the Champions League; they all want to meet their objectives of playing, competing and beating the best of the best. Fans want this too; we want our club to be great again. We want to believe there’s something to get behind, something to believe in once more. That’s written in our DNA from the days of Bill Shankly right the way through to the modern era.
When Shankly took Liverpool back into the top flight after years spent in the second division, Liverpool travelled to Goodison where over seventy thousand fans awaited the fixture which hadn’t happened since the early 1950s. There’s a story that someone even painted the posts red for the occasion which left the grounds men reeling and had to be repaired prior to kick off in the afternoon.
After a shocking start and two disallowed goals for the home side, Liverpool found themselves down two nil with the Goodison ground breathing down their necks, then all of a sudden the crowd starting to sing LIV-ER POOL, LIV-ER POOL, LIV-ER POOL, LIV-ER POOL. The players then focused on Shankly waving his fists and conducting the match as if he was God on the touchline.
That gave the players hope, and they went on to draw with the fierce rivals who, at that time, were top of the league. This was a learning point for Shankly’s young side. This was a new chant he’d hear more and more as the team started to find each other, pass the ball to the nearest red shirt and keep moving, keep passing, keep finding that red shirt.
Shankly always knew what it meant for Liverpool fans to be amongst and competing with the best, and the crowd that day reminded him of that hope they still had in their team.
Just weeks before Shankly had nearly resigned due to board interference in the transfer market, it was Matt Busby who convinced him to carry on. It was Matt Busby who carried Bill throughout his career when the going got tough and convinced him to keep moving forward, to get up and carry on.
Hope and belief is something that’s important in football as is that feeling you’ve reached your realistic objectives in the game. For us fans, we’ve been through the highs and the lows and how we desperately want highs again. History tells us it’s not overnight; history tells us there is also pain and shock along the way.
The same is true for players, especially our own captain Steven Gerrard who described watching other teams in Europe (and indeed winning domestic titles) as ‘horrible’; you can only imagine the emotions running within Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Daniel Agger who know only too well what it feels like to play on the European stage.
Players who are all capable of gracing the turf with Europe’s elite; all capable of competing with the best of the best. The list goes on and on… Skrtel, Sakho, Cissohko, Moses. All players who know what it’s like to play in the Champions League. All with massive points to prove, all players who find themselves in a similar situation
With fans and players equally feeling the tug of the Champions League, we’ve also had to deal with the madness of the summer transfer window. Many of us have cast an envious eye over to Spurs in recent weeks with the team going from strength to strength and a whole host of players joining, who many would have gladly welcomed to Liverpool.
But at what point do we start to focus on ourselves? Whilst it’s worthwhile looking over at our rivals in order to ensure we don’t fall further behind, we shouldn’t forget the club we all love. In equal measure, the players shouldn’t forget who they play for or the size of the task ahead.
Find the nearest red shirt, keep moving, keep passing the ball, and be hungry for the ball. Liverpool has shown so far this season that they have a number of ways of playing something that sorely looked to be missing last year. This Liverpool team know how to win games; they know now what to do when a match hangs in the balance.
As a squad, you can count any number of players who have all something to prove. Kolo Toure is a prime example of a onetime invincible, Premier League winner and once regarded as one of the best defenders in England. A man left on the side-lines at Manchester City, he knew he had more to offer, and in his short time at Anfield, has looked like the multi-million pound centre back we needed. The sight of him banging his fists against the pitch when Agger conceded the penalty is something I’ve not seen in a Liverpool team for a long time; it’s something I welcome!
Steven Gerrard, the man who’s rescued Liverpool time and time again, is now looking to lead his side from the middle of the pitch. Since Brendan Rodgers arrived at Melwood, there’s been a marked shift in the public persona of the Liverpool captain. The man so famous for getting forward and scoring breathtaking goals, so famous for rallying his team to that unforgettable night in Istanbul, has finally had his age catch up on one of the best midfield players Liverpool has ever seen.
Yet, Gerrard has adapted his game under Rodgers; he’s also appeared to change on and off the pitch. Now a deep lying midfielder, those beautiful passes to switch the play that will find his target with the perfect ball to their feet. Gerrard now appears the statesman on Camera, and a vocal leader on the pitch; both characteristics he was never renowned for, both assets to his game which maybe we as fans wished we’d seen a few years ago. He also seems to manage the referee in games too, and anyone will tell you that all these things together are the qualities that champions possess in the game.
The captain has seen the rise and fall of Liverpool. But let’s be under no illusion, he’s been a part of it. That may sound harsh for the local boy come captain, but it’s true. This season is huge for Gerrard as it could well represent his last chance at being a Liverpool regular whose name is always first on the team sheet. Gerrard knows this only too well and in recent interviews, he’s been clear he has unfinished business. Here’s hoping for more of the same from Stevie, I for one, am expecting big things from our captain this season.
This Liverpool side has one characteristic running through it and to sum that up in one word, I can choose no other than redemption. The vast majority of our players are looking to put the wrongs of their differing past’s right, and some looking their next big move, some looking to settle old scores and others looking to announce themselves on the world stage – new signings eager to set the record straight, the captain looking to help propel Liverpool back into the Champions League. There’s a passion back in Liverpool now, a passion and a fire that’s been missing for so long.
If Liverpool fans have something to get behind this season, it’s the fact it could all be an incredible adventure. But the core must remain the team and the team alone. With everyone looking for something to prove, the best collective way to achieve this is through building a unified spirit and helping each other out when the going gets tough as it most certainly will. Bill Shankly used to talk about the ‘group’, or the ‘collective’; Bob Paisley carried this through to Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish in his first term as manager.
There are a lot of us who wish we’d landed those marquee players, but second only to already proven talent is the power of being able to prove someone wrong. Just look at Daniel Sturridge!
Of course, this could all change in our next game, but nothing good ever comes without stumbling; we always fall down at times.
If I was Brendan Rodgers, I’d simply start and end my team talk with one phrase.
“Was it you or I who stumbled first? It does not matter. The one of us, who finds the strength to get up first, must help the other.”
No, Rodgers is not Moses (no pun intended) or Abraham receiving the Ten Commandments to impart to God’s faithful throughout the world, but if he can use all of this to his advantage, then I’ll expect great things from this Liverpool side this season.
Redemption is more than just forgiveness after all, it’s setting the record straight too, it’s about fixing what you and others may have broken in the first place.
As the manager said ‘we can only trust each other’. Here’s hoping this season, it’s everyone else casting their eye towards Liverpool; let’s hope the team and the club, don’t let anyone walk alone.