A Game of Two Halves (and One Man)

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Stevie_napoliAs I sit here typing, the Napoli game has just ended about 15 minutes ago. The post game highlights are playing in the background and I’m finding myself quietly punching the air constantly every few seconds. That is now three victories in a row and the manner in which we finished the game tonight we are going into Sundays big clash with Chelsea full of momentum. I’m not going to get carried away right now and start making stupid predictions, however I am really looking forward to the game now and feel that we are quite capable of doing the business if we are as positive as I think we will (and should) be.

Just a week ago we were in the relegation zone in the Premier League and we were all struggling to stay positive, especially about Roy Hodgson. We pulled out a fantastic victory at Bolton on Sunday which we got despite not playing that well. This to me was a sign that we might just have turned a big corner on the season. Then tonight in the second half we saw more signs that the players are feeling happier and playing with a lot more hunger and positivity.

I thought we started the game quite well tonight, but after about ten minutes we started making mistakes and the poor misplaced passing that has characterized this season came into effect. Therefore it wasn’t a big shock to me when Napoli took the lead courtesy of some sloppy positioning from Glen Johnson. For the remainder of the half I wasn’t impressed at all as Spearing and Poulson were both pretty awful in the middle and not getting anything on the game at all. I am getting sick to the back teeth of how many times Poulson passes back to Reina and struggles to make any impact at all on games. Jamie Carragher had one of his better 45 minutes of the season as he anticipated things and read the majority of danger really well, which helped keep the scoreline down.

Then at half time Roy made an outstanding substitution and brought on Gerrard for Jovanovic, who had struggled to get into the game. Stevie made an instant impact on the team and were far more positive and dynamic throughout the second half, leaving Pepe Reina to be a bit of a spectator for long periods. Jon Jo Shelvey was superb I thought, his range of passing was excellent and he made some really positive and intelligent runs that created space for others.

Clearly the man of the match was our captain fantastic who stood out head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch. Once again Stevie proved that how vital he is and I’ve lost count of how many times he has saved us almost single handed. He will be on top of the world tonight after that hat-trick which he took with his usual aplomb. Credit should also go to Lucas, on as a late sub, for his tackle that led to Stevie’s third goal. Stevie now has thirty eight European goals for Liverpool and assuming we now go on to get the one point we need from the last two games, he has a great chance of reaching the magic forty mark before the end of the season.

A lot has changed at Liverpool since the summer, we have a new manager and  new owners, but what doesn’t change is that we have one of the best players in the world as our captain and that is something I hope never changes.

Support the Red Men

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roy-hodgson_1670858cI recently received an e-mail by an influential member of the Liverpool support, Graham Agg, containing a link to the Liverpool Echo in which he was quoted before the Blackpool debacle as saying that Liverpool FC should immediately rectify their monumental mistake in appointing Roy Hodgson and replace him with Kenny Dalglish – this after seven games of the season. The fact that he said this before the game gave great credibility to his quotes after.

I was surprised to read this from Graham having met him in Liverpool a few years ago with Alan Jackson and the BBC Radio Merseyside team and being always impressed by his efforts to establish and grow the link between LFC and Borussia Moenchengladbach. He is a regular member of the football phone in show in Liverpool, chairman of the German reds branch, is well respected and is often quoted in the local and national press in England about all matters LFC – as a voice of the fans.

This comes on the back of the turbulent few weeks that have seen Liverpool plummet into the relegation zone, after a series of woeful league displays together with the calamitous exit of the League cup to Northampton Town of the old 4th Division – this cup being widely seen as our greatest chance of success this season. After the Blackpool result and the chants of ‘Dalglish’ by the Kop towards the end of the game, we now have fans of LFC openly calling for immediate and direct action.

The question as to why LFC fans have arrived so soon at the point of changing the manager and why we have seemingly shed the unique make up of what it means to be a red is not immediately easy to answer. You could say the answer is obvious and is that we are in the bottom three and out the cup which is difficult to argue against. You could also add that Roy Hodgson’s biggest achievement was finishing mid table and getting to a Europa league final with a modest team, forgetting the season before when he escaped relegation on the last day, but it may go deeper than that in the fans psyche. It is entirely plausible that the current distaste stems from the departure of the former manager, a man still revered by a large contingent of the reds fans – Rafa Benitez.

Last season a divide was created in the fan base and is one that still simmers. It was the fans for and against Rafa and for anyone who cared to read the letters from the Liverpool Echo and other fan sites and for those with an ear in the City it was impossible to miss. Pick your side and nail your colours to the mast. This is not the time to debate the reign of Rafa but the fact that he departed (and Purslow’s and Benitez both gave their versions last week as to how it was handled) caused a lot of upset to a lot of people.

Roy Hodgson, the current Premier Manager of the year was the early and obvious replacement. The club is to be sold and was (and is) in a state of civil war with the fan base divided. A ‘steady pair of hands’ as chairman Broughton put it was required to sail the good ship Liverpool through the stormy waters – certainly until new owners are found. Kenny Dalglish – charged with assisting Christian Purslow (the man who was recently labelled by Benitez as knowing nothing about the game along with Broughton) looked at the shortlist and left unimpressed, advised the board to appoint himself instead. The fans loved this idea, steeped in nostalgia, thinking back to the heady days of the late eighties and our last championship (won by Kenny) in 1990. The board however has other ideas for Kenny, ideas which involve him being an integral part of the club for years to come and not as a day to day manager in the short term. This together with the fact that he has not been in a managerial role since he replaced John Barnes at Celtic in 2000 meant he was ruled out.

So Hodgson got the job and LFC fans either agreed under the circumstances (Deschamps, Redknapp and Rijkaard were either uninterested or unavailable), or remained silent at least. Now to the present day.

To have the fans questioning the appointment of the manager so openly after seven games together with the recent insults from certain sections of the fans and so called fan websites to members of the Liverpool board is distasteful and unwelcome – very un-Liverpool like.

Liverpool’s fans have long been known as ‘the most knowledgeable’ and fair, with traditions developed over the last 50 years still evident today. At every game you will see the Kop applaud the opposition goalkeeper as he run’s to guard the Kop goal – every keeper. I remember being part of the crowd that stayed to a man to applaud Blackburn and Arsenal off the pitch after they had secured the league title at Anfield. For anyone who witnessed the Arsenal triumph in 89 and what had preceded it that year that gesture was breathtaking. You can also go back to ovations given to the great Leeds side and the famous Benfica after securing impressive victories at Anfield and even as recently as last Saturday the Kop afforded an ovation to Blackpool followed by Holloway talking warmly of Liverpool afterwards.

Liverpool fans are known and respected throughout the world for their sportsmanship and often sing about being “the famous kopites”.  We should remember that and pass it on.

There was a man called Bobby Wilcox who travelled everywhere to watch the reds with his plastic bag. Not much else, but he went to watch and support his team – anywhere and everywhere – never missed a game until he died last year of cancer. Carragher said that if Shankly was the best manager, Kenny the best player then Bobby was the best supporter. He upheld and pushed the meaning of what it meant to be a red and to support your team – not just with mindless noise, but in the unique Liverpool way. He led the way with the lads in the Albert pub behind the Kop and on the road, even arranging his own tours to away games to make sure that groups stayed together. Some Liverpool fans have forgotten what it means to be a true red and to back the team – no matter what – and as Bobby said if you can’t manage that then stay away until you can. We did it last season, we did it during the Souness years and we must do it now.

Whether Roy Hodgson is the best man for the job remains to be seen. Giving opinions in the pub is one thing but having a platform and then going public is entirely different be it as a respected voice like Graham Agg in the press or the Kop on match-day. Now is not the time for open warfare on the manager and players. Now is the time to stand behind the team and give it all we’ve got as standing together is the only way we’ll move forwards.

Liverpool V Blackburn Rovers

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LFC_v_BlackburnWe will be meeting at the G Sport to watch this game on Sunday 24th October.

 

Due to other games being shown on television at the same time, this game is not being shown live on any station in North America.

 

So instead the G Sport will be showing the delayed broadcast at 1pm on Setanta Canada.