Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grudge Match

As compelling a contest as it was, it shed no light on the title race bar letting City gather a slight bit more pace. Liverpool did themselves proud. Chelsea did themselves no favours. But as the saying goes ‘You can only beat what’s in front of you’ and Liverpool gladly obliged. The match was watched by a travelling contingent who still tenderly felt the pain of loss at watching their former star striker line out in an, up until last week, unthinkable blue strip.

Once the Torres factor was experienced it died down along with his influence on the match. He looked eager but most of his endeavours didn’t come off. Jamie Carragher was a key element in that. The Liverpool stalwart has been the subject of discussion these past two seasons. Is he still capable of providing a reliable defensive option? On his display today he certainly is. Combining passion with inside knowledge on Torres strengths he reduced the Spanish hitman to 29 touches, one of the lowest on the pitch.

The match itself was engulfed in Torres transfer fever, which took the emphasis away from whether Dalglish could joust with the managerial bigtimers. His team set up confounded Chelsea. Marauding wingbacks pushed Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa back, nullifying their threat in the process. Martin Kelly must provide a thrilling sight for any Liverpool fan. Encompassing three words that any fan loves to hear about players coming through the ranks; athletic, skillful, passionate.

A tackle from Lucas Leiva was never far from a Chelsea midfielder in possession. Encouragingly he is now beginning to combine dynamic forward forays with his sterling defensive work. The man is a testament to confidence and dedication. A much maligned figure, he has been pilloried in the press, seemingly just for being himself. In truth he was the fall guy for the brunt of xenophobic fuelled criticism on former manager Rafael Benitez. To see him begin to reap the rewards for his hard work is good for the heart.

To dismiss Chelsea as a force would be supreme folly. An addition of the calibre of Torres would add to any squad. Combining him with Drobga, Malouda, Anelka, Essien and Lampard is mouth watering. Once they gel, many teams will be swept aside, and glimpses of a promising partnership with Drogba were beginning to show today. Perhaps it was eagerness to include the striker that dulled their attack, but for now first blood goes to Liverpool, as the fans will hold on to this grudge for a long time to come.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Most Knowledgeable Fans in the World

‘The Most Knowledgeable Fans in the World duped

for Three and a half seasons’

First and foremost I would like to state that I am a lifelong Liverpool fan. I’m twenty three, live in Western Ireland and support the team constantly. I have been to Anfield eight times. My first match being Fowlers return under Rafa. One of the most emotionl nights of my life was the 2007 semi final second leg of the Champions League. I was in the middle of the Kop and have never experienced such camaradery before.

It hit like a bodyblow to the majority of Liverpool fans. ‘Chelsea bid for Torres’ the all too familiar headline, ‘Torres open to Chelsea move’ was the shocker. Surely the anointed striker, confirmed a footballing superstar by the spiritual power of the Kop, would not deem a club of Chelseas standing and moral fibre a fitting destination for the next step in his stratospheric career in favour of remaining at the hallowed turf of Anfield? Unfortunately he does. Over the last few days everyone who has a passion for Liverpool Football Club has probably been reading countless articles about the strikers transfer. A major issue is the reasoning behind the move. How could he? Why did he say those things? He kissed the badge! He didn’t kiss the badge? A term that has been used to present Fernanado, his agent, his sponsors and his advisors is ‘Brand Torres’. In todays society we’re used to the thought of footballers as a brand and his has helped make replica jerseys with his name adorning the back the most sought after of all the Premier League worldwide. There has been some discussion about how the switch to Chelsea will move brand ‘Torres’ forward. My interest, as a Liverpool supporter, is how his move to Chelsea affects brand ‘Kop’.

That said I have been constantly hearing of ‘The Liverpool Way’ since I’ve developed an actual passion for the club and its culture. Don’t boo Torres on his debut for Chelsea, it’s not the Liverpool Way. Don’t boo Roy Hodgson, it’s not the Liverpool Way. As a fan I’m still in the dark as to what the Liverpool Way is. Is there a concrete description for it? It seems to be a way of thought, a guide to moral football life. Which is why it’s hard to pin down to a concise description. If a club (I use the term club as the organisation behind the team) do something that is seen as crass i.e. Roman Abramovich bankrolling a titanic spending spree then it is ‘not the Liverpool Way’ or the opposite of it. It seems too easy to use it and too hard to define it. Something is good then it’s the Liverpool Way, something is bad then it’s at odds with it.

A fellow Liverpool supporter agreed with me and said that he always saw it as hard to pin down. But ultimately, in his eyes it was the ‘pass & move’ philosophy that was the staple of the club in more successful eras. To see a club claim pass and move football as an integral part of their dna is great. Describing it as the Liverpool Way seems a bit rich. Pass and move football is what happens when the game is played to a high level therefore combining technical with aesthetic in a blend that gets results as well as plaudits. In this way the Liverpool Way could be described as the Barcelona Way or the Dutch Way. And that dilutes the culture of the club.

In my mind the reaction of Liverpool fans to the departure of Torres has weakened any claim we would have had on the right to being known as any more knowledgeable than other fans, which I think is wildly insulting to other football fans in the first place. Every club has it ‘grades’ of fans. There’s the ones who own the jerseys and don’t know the subs names. There’s the one’s who watch every match and own the jerseys. And then there’s the ones who own the jerseys, watch the matches, watch the analysis, read about football tactics and immerse themselves in the culture of the club. And EVERY club has these.

What I’m getting at here is the effect the Spaniards departure will have on ‘Brand Kop’. Liverpool fans are seen by the media at large as ‘The Most Knowledgable Fans in the World’. By players too. Roy Keane mentions the Anfield crowd as standouts when it came to appreciating good football in his autobiography. John Terry has a quote on the wall at Melwood remarking on the atmosphere felt at Anfield on that fateful night in 2005. Samuel Eto’o said he loved the atmosphere when playing in Anfield and that the team played with their ‘big red heart’. And us Liverpool fans were exposed worldwide at the transfer window twilight as having been duped preposterosuly well by a skillful Spaniard for three and a half seasons.

Where does this leave Brand Kop’s standing now? If the image of Knowledgable was to be reinforced, fans would have been giving interviews and appearing disappointed but ultimately not suprised. What happened was a polar opposite. Are the worlds most knowledgable fans also the worlds most naive?

It is testament to Torres backroom team that they utterly and ruthlessly got us fans to fall for him hook, line and sinker. His time at the club was truly a masterclass in PR. From his armband to his book to the tv advert that showed him walking his dog in Liverpool on a Sunday his image permeated every level of Liverpudlian society. This leads me to examine my feelings and I’ve come to the question; Does this expose the most knowledgeable fans in the world as old fashioned and naive to the ways of modern football? As a collective we seem to impose a story on each player who is successful at the club. In many minds Torres was wedded to the club for his career. It is completely ignored that he left his boyhood idols to move to us. That in itself was ruthless and should of been recognised as a major character trait. And who would want a striker who wasn’t ruthless? It’s his winning mentality that moved him on and that is also what made him so potent for us in the seaons he had with us. We can’t now hate him for being what he was all along.

He has spoken in the last few days and his words have added insult to injury for the majority of Liverpool fans. I believe I am in the minority when I say I find it fascinating. I really do. To watch a figure who is held so close to the hearts of so many systemiatically switch his allegiance from one set of fans to another and in the process upset so many people is very compelling. It provides an instant insight into how a bond is made and maintained between fans and a player that has never met them. Essentially every single headline that was written about Fernando Torres could have been boiled down to three words: Man. Changes. Job.

For all fuss around his move we got 50million pounds from it. While he was a player he got many goals, we got many memories, but no silverware. We spent 20million on him and lost Luis Garcia in the process, which was no big thing even though Luis was a talented player that popped up consistently in big games. And while Torres was at the club he made it alot of money through shirt and merchandise sales. And we got Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Things really are looking up for the club. FSG seem to be measured and sensible as well as ballsy which is what we would have hoped for when praying for new owners. Liverpool as a club are nowhere near as dominant a force as we were in the past but we are on the right path to being there which is a major step. However we are a few years away from being properly threatening to other major teams. Torres saw that and made a winners choice. He chose Chelsea.

And as it stands I’m in favour of a standing ovation for him and singing his song once at Chelsea to thank him for three and a half seasons of pure class. As well as being a noble goodbye it would send Liverpool fans surging upwards in everyones estimation and show that we are the better for his transfer.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

sideways through sligo

Daily Diary - Slippy Old Sunday

Was driving down my driveway today and slid the entire way down, out through the pillars and pulled the handbrake so I'd avoid the main road which I didn't and slid straight out onto it. The place is like an ice rink. This is near Merville Community Centre on the way home from the gym.