It's a ridiculous name, isn't it? But so much fun to say: two phonetically opposed words doing battle as the literal namesake of an exciting and error-prone young footballer. The ill-paired words spill forth with ease during Liverpool games as bursts of approval (JONJO!) and cries of disbelief (F#$%ING JONJO!). They stand for a player who's as easy to get behind as he is to decry; an emblem of the new Liverpool: young, talented, motivated, and in need of work.
Exactly why Jonjo Shelvey is at once so likeable and difficult is best evidenced by his challenge on Johnny Evans during September's clash with Manchester United: a shambling moment of recklessness that sent cries of the young man's name pulsing through living rooms and pubs near and far. Shelvey was sent off (though Evans should probably have gone with him), a disappointing turn made brighter by his exit from the field; glaring and pointing in earnest at Alex Ferguson, who, as ever, had no business saying anything to a player leaving the pitch who isn't his own. Another careless moment from a foolish youngster, perhaps, but endearing nonetheless. Regardless of the silly challenge and subsequent red card, the moment clearly mattered to Jonjo Shelvey.
Since then, and even in the lead up to the United game, Shelvey's performances have been inconsistent. He's a promising player whose game needs refining before the nuance and elegance of more experienced Premiership players begins to show in his own oeuvre. For the moment, Shelvey is an awkward, blunt instrument. Some have well observed that even at close to 21 years of age, he still seems to be growing into his body; his movement on the pitch like the clumsy first steps of a foal on ice.
With Liverpool in the midst of a painful rebuild, restraint and tolerance are not always priorities for fans. As much as Jonjo Shelvey can be a hallmark for a need for patience, and a target as a result, the abuse he received via Twitter after his performance against Stoke City on Boxing Day was shameful. He wasn't at his best at the Britannia, but needless tweets like these led the youngster to close down his Twitter account (temporarily). That the tweets allegedly came from LFC fans, rather than those of rivals, as one might expect, reminds that LFC's support is still peopled by a peasantry of the sort that turned out for the Oldham FA Cup game last January.
One can argue that if professional footballers want Twitter accounts they should be prepared for what comes their way, and that as such Jonjo Shelvey's skin needs to thicken. I say fair enough. Twitter's a free country, so to speak, and I enjoy the ribaldry among fans in chiding players they dislike. However, I'd counter with the idea that professional athletes shouldn't have to endure destructive, nonsensical abuse from their own fans as part of "the conversation." Jonjo Shelvey didn't go to a supporter's home, drink all their beer and have a tinkle in their living room, and yet some of what was aimed at him on Twitter in the hours following the Stoke game was fit for someone who'd done far worse.
All of this brings me back to the idea of "You'll Never Walk Alone," and the power of the song's sentiment as Liverpool Football Club's essential oath. Is it not an offer of community and support? A pledge of loyalty and attachment? Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but I'm sure that the type of people who choose to flay dedicated players like Jonjo Shelvey will fondly sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" the next time they're in the terraces. I worry about the extent to which these people, as human beings, think about what these words mean, and what they represent as an idea on collectivism that goes beyond one person's identity as a supporter on a Saturday afternoon. That is, if these people are even thinking at all.
I remember when I was younger - grade school-ish - and every now and then a song would arrive on the airwaves that would stick to me like hot summer nights (This is back when I was spending hours playing video games on the computer and listening to this. These days I’m packing up my apartment to move house and listening to this. I’m not sure what to make of this other than that it’s possible that I’ve turned into an adult recently). I’d decimate cassettes, sometimes bought with my allowance, sometimes dubbed from the radio, with repeated listens of single songs, pressing play, stop, rewind, play stop rewind, unable and unwilling to tire of the melody, the chord structure, and how these elements existed together.
Until of course, I eventually would tire of the song, which always happened, because I was a 10 year old with the attention span of a newt. Time would pass – weeks, days, hours, depending on the song’s potency – and my interest would fade. A track’s power, usually tied to the circumstances under which I’d first fallen in love with it, would disappear, leaving something merely functional and repetitive, a husk of majesty diminished by familiarity.
If you’re a Liverpool fan, some of this should be starting to sound familiar (and no, I’m not giving voice to the tired Once-Mighty-Now-Fallen narrative flogged by some). The scenario I’m describing, better known as burn out, is fast-approaching for I dunno, someone like, hmmm…,oh, say, maybe… Luis Suarez? And without some reinforcements come the January transfer window, Luis Suarez may be doomed to the fate of a hit song; the footballing equivalent of ‘Call Me Maybe’.
Think about it: Call Me Maybe is an absolute banger of a tune: a coy little verse part, a smart lead-up to a euphoric chorus punctuated by indispensible synth strings, and a middle eight that’s essentially a second chorus (and one that’s arguably better than the first). I mean, this song is talented, and I’m not ashamed to reveal that I’ve relied on it heavily for some time. But lately, and this always happens, Call Me Maybe’s hold over me has started to wane. Look, it’s not that the tune isn’t still effective; the song simply isn’t built to sustain such prolonged attention.
In the case of Mr. Suarez, replace ‘attention’ with ‘production’ and the rest of the analogy makes a truckload of sense (if you’re as literal-minded as some anti-Livvie wags, spend some time with it- I promise you you’ll get it in the end). He’s singlehandedly keeping Liverpool out of the relegation zone. His goal against Newcastle was a masterpiece, and he’s regularly the only LFC player on the pitch worth watching for any length of time. He’s also the only one who tends to score. I don’t care how many crafty teenagers with fast haircuts are out on the field with him, make no mistake; Luis Suarez is doing the heavy lifting for Liverpool Football Club.
I don’t see how he can sustain it. Right or wrong, he’s not well liked in the league, the result being that he’s often rag-dolled all over Liverpool’s attacking third without support from officials, and in some cases his own teammates. Hell, I’d be taking cheeky dives all over the shop to try and make up for some of the more obvious calls that don’t go my way. There’s also the issue of the physical and emotional mileage that Suarez is poised to endure in his current role: the fatigue that sets in when you’re the sole offensive producer for a club with mountainous expectations for a wholesale turnaround in the next five to ten minutes.
Luis Suarez needs help. Returning to my musical analogy, he needs some B-sides and a few solid album tracks. This support structure is in place at Liverpool to an extent, but the supporting songs to Suarez’s hit single are those coming from a debut record like Bleach rather than the irrepressible follow-up Nevermind. Along with a few deep cuts, Luis Suarez needs serious follow up hits to relieve some of the pressure; a few talented Top 20 jams to serve as the ‘Rolling in the Deep’ to his ‘Someone Like You’ (as much as Luis Suarez could or should ever be depicted as a powerfully overwrought love song).
Here’s hoping for some transfer activity in January. It will be expensive, but Liverpool supporters are prepared for that. My hope is that the board and management are as well. This is as much the price of success as it is the price of saving Luis Suarez. As Liverpool’s sole attacking option, Suarez’s long-term prospects at the club are simply untenable. Plus, I don’t want to get tired of his tune. My worry is that he may grow tired of the tune that Liverpool sing before too long.
Has anyone other than Brendan Rodgers gone out on a limb yet and said something like, “Whoa, whoa whoa, don't panic, things will improve?" Has that happened yet? Has he said it to the media? To the board? To the players? Has he been reassured of it himself?
The season’s off to an admittedly grim start, and criticism of all involved has been decidedly acrid, and rightly so. As of this very moment, Liverpool stinks.
1. Third last in the Premiership
2. No goals in the league from open play
3. They’re desperate for a proven striker (see number 2): They signed a young, unproven striker who prefers the wing, then gave away another young striker for whom they overpaid, but who, underperforming and ill-suited to the system though he is (bless), is still a striker. They then failed to sign another striker before the transfer window closed despite several reasonably impactful (and, it should be noted, available) options.
4. They drew at Hearts in Europa League (see number 3. And also, how do you draw at Hearts?)
Somewhere, I’m sure, there exists a much longer and far less generous list on Liverpool’s failings than this. Regardless, it’s easy to see why the LFC faithful have set up an Occupy-style encampment in the main square of Panic City (it looks a lot like George Square in Glasgow, if you’re wondering). Much of the ire seems directed at Fenway Sports Group, the general consensus being that they left the bed rather soiled when it came to deadline day of the transfer window. John Henry’s wobbly open letter vaguely declared a direction, but ultimately did nothing but further aggravate fans with furtive mumblings of fiscal responsibility.
Despite all that’s gone (or going) wrong at Liverpool to date, I offer you this appreciably unpopular stance: Liverpool aren’t in as bad as shape as one might think, not on the field, at least.
Results have been dire - losing 3-0 to clubs like West Brom has been Liverpool’s stock in trade in recent years - but there have been flashes of promise. The Man City game, for example, saw LFC’s high pressing system put pressure on Mancini’s three defenders, producing several chances that should have been converted. Finishing aside, this is positive progress, though it was mooted by Martin Skrtel’s dreadful back pass that led to the tying goal. The pass seemed to be an attempt at playing within Rodgers’ possession-at-all-costs construct (though Skrtel should have booted the ball into touch as all defenders are taught). Instead, he looked uncomfortable and made a silly error, as any player might when a new system forces them to play outside of their instincts. These are known as growing pains. They’re difficult lessons to learn, but learn them we must.
Liverpool are unlucky to have drawn some difficult fixtures so early in the year, but it remains that they have to play them- that’s how this works. The rest of September’s schedule means the club will be given no quarter in terms of opposition and fan expectation. The squad must gel quickly to ensure success in the Europa League and favorable results in games away at Sunderland and home to Manchester United. It’s been a difficult six weeks, but good clubs are expected to navigate these difficulties and get results.
And to date, these results have been most obviously lacking in the transfer market. Liverpool did well to sign young talent earlier in the summer, and some of these players have already been pressed into first team service. But the club didn’t deliver the blowout signing that many expected in the transfer window’s closing days. John Henry’s open letter points to responsible spending, and this could explain Rodgers’ failure to secure another striker to help Luis Suarez.
But if that’s the case, it’s doesn’t send a very good message. Watching big money transfer targets go to top clubs points to FSG being much less willing to compete in the boardroom than they claim. Whether or not Dempsey, Walcott or Sturridge were right for the club is up for debate. Fans needed to see a commitment to success in the form of a big name striker and they didn’t get it. Right now the commitment from ownership seems more like a willingness to compete with the best, but only to a point.
Some claim that the season has already been forfeited by incompetence in the transfer market. This sounds more like an alarmist reaction to a disappointing start than anything else, but this is the right of all fans, and the concerns are valid. The silver lining to the transfer window cloud is that younger squad players will be pushed into the first team and expected to perform. The importance of playing time and experience under fire can’t be overstated, but neither can that of winning games and trophies. Sadly, the latter is not a reasonable expectation when playing with untested youngsters.
As it stands, Brendan Rodgers needs time to build his influence and establish a mood at the club, a chance he hasn’t been afforded by many so far. Judging by the actions so far, it seems that this time horizon extends beyond this season. In all honesty, this is a fair expectation. The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be many who are willing to wait that long.
A month ago I stood on the platform at Davisville subway station in Toronto, chatting with a few Liverpool fans. Together we were bound for the SkyDome to watch LFC play Toronto FC. “This is a big day for us,” one man said, shaking my hand. It wasn’t clear if he was talking about his group of friends or the club. It didn’t matter.
And now, the day before the season begins (sorry Brendan), the man on the platform’s sentiments serves as a forecast for the new season: this is big year for Liverpool. In terms of what’s acceptable to fans, there’s no further for the club to fall; last season was the end of the road. Many barely acknowledge the Carling Cup win, and seem resigned to acknowledge that when quality players look for a new club, Liverpool isn’t on the list.
The alarmist’s view is that, should this slide continue, Liverpool are headed down the same road as the likes of Aberdeen and Leeds United: two once great clubs who have settled into an uncomfortable nostalgia, with trophy rooms bare, save for images and hardware tied to players and seasons now long past.
But let’s ignore the alarmist’s view. Realistically, Liverpool aren’t in terrible shape. Brendan Rodgers brings a sense of purpose to the team that goes beyond his ambitions as a manger. Clearly, he wants and needs Liverpool to win. And with a clear system in place, he has instilled an encouraging discipline into his squad’s play. The pressing/possession system he touts favors fit, technical players with intelligence and high work rates. This doesn’t describe every player in the LFC fold, but there are enough in place at the club out of the gate. The transfer market may yet yield a few surprises, but the summer has so far seen the biggest names bypass Liverpool in favor of Champion’s League football and well-heeled ownership.
Regardless of who joins or leaves in the next few weeks, at some point Brendan Rodgers will have to employ the resources at his disposal and start winning. And it’s not a shabby team: a back line helmed by Pepe Reina and anchored by Skrtel, Agger, and the attack-minded Glen Johnson; a midfield cluttered with options, including new signing Joe Allen and the returning Lucas Leiva; and a front-line made up of the talented Luis Suarez and the oft-maligned Andy Carroll. In particular, keep an eye out for Raheem Sterling, a young winger who has impressed this preseason with the pace and confidence to run at defenders and create space, even if it’s for himself.
It’s not a World XI by any stretch, and there’s work to be done to find the right balance, (particularly in midfield), but there’s enough talent to stand up convincingly to every team in the Premiership. A top-six finish has to be the expectation, but more important is that Liverpool reasserts their presence as an imposing side at home and on the road. This won’t be easy.
The squad will always be up for the big games; they’re the easiest to rise to mentally. It’s the mid-season fixtures against lowly sides where the club must begin taking maximum points, especially at home, where too many draws were conceded last season.
Restoring Liverpool’s fearsome reputation means winning games. However these wins come, no one will be particularly bothered.
Friends: today is not a day of hate, for my heart is buried deep in a bed of suspicious optimism. Brendan Rodgers is the new manager at Liverpool Football Club.
Based on what we've heard in the last weeks, this appointment was in the mail. If I'm being honest, I'm optimistic. For a start, I'm glad the whole manager search thing is over. The worst would have been watching the hunt drawn out across the European Championships and into July, although that scenario would have been so Liverpool. And while the wooing of Louis van Gaal to an administrative position at the club isn't quite at an end, Rodgers deftly averted the speculative hysteria around the Dutchman's arrival by handling himself like a total champ.
Of course, there was talk of Andres Villas-Boas and other similarly vaunted Euro-ponies coming aboard, which would have been nice(ish), though it smacked distinctly of sloppy seconds (such an uncomfortable term, but necessary; so, so necessary).
So what do we know about Brendan Rodgers? Not a hell of a lot other than that his 2011/12 Swansea side gave an excellent account of themselves in the Premiership. For example: they beat Liverpool (HA!). What impresses me most about Rodgers, apart from his near unwavering glare of determination, is that he seems bent on doing things his way. He's uncomfortable with van Gaal's proposed role as Liverpool's sporting director (a stance that likely moots LvG's arrival at LFC, though don't rule it out quite yet), and he's brought over his staff as a condition of accepting the post.
Now if he can bring over that super-sounding Icelandic fella, we may have something to help shore up the midfield when Stevie G. and Jordan Henderson return bone-knackered from the Euros. In that vein, my greatest worry is whether or not Brendan Rodgers will be able to attract anyone of quality to the club during the offseason. God knows that the roster's a bit of a mixed bag, just now.
Time will tell. Regardless, it's safe to argue that, for any number of reasons, Mr. Rodgers' hands are now well and truly full. Good luck to you, sir.
I Hate Liverpool
PS. What are the odds that, at some point during Liverpool's summer North American tour, a sign will be held up in the stands, probably in Toronto, that reads, "Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood," or something frightfully similar?
Rather high, I'd say. Oh, the squalor.
You know what stinks? The Premiership’s almost done for another year. You know what else? I’ve hated pretty much all of this season, Liverpool-wise, anyways. The pain points aren’t hard to identify: lots of games lost and drawn at home against crap teams. Detractors need only point to Liverpool’s middling play(ers) and corresponding table position before suggesting the Mighty Reds are not so much mightier as they are slightly less crap than some of the Premiership’s lower-tier teams.
But hang on a second: just as Manchester United will receive a get out of jail free card for a season free of champagne baths in Wembley dressing rooms, cannot Liverpool languish similarly? I don’t want to sound me too-ish about this, but if United can perform poorly relative to their accustomed level, is Liverpool not entitled to a down period of their own? Sub-question: what is Liverpool’s accustomed level?
And here’s another question still: just how terrible a season is Liverpool actually having? League-wise, we’ve been dire, true, but we did manage the Carling Cup. Fine, the trophy’s a joke - a reserves competition with nice tits - but still, it’s one more than all but three teams placed seventh or higher stand a chance to win. And should Liverpool win the FA Cup against Chelsea on Saturday, you can count it as a tidy little domestic double - a sneaky one, even.
Looking forward to Saturday’s clash, Chelsea find themselves in a similar situation. For a club seemingly glory-bound in August, Chelsea’s season was also coloured by mismanagement and unmet expectations. Like Liverpool, Chelsea were never in the title hunt in a meaningful way, and let’s be honest, no one expected them to beat Barcelona last week.
For Liverpool, Saturday afternoon is about salvaging a season’s worth of lost respect. The FA Cup winner gets a spot in the Europa League, which was already guaranteed to the club with their Carling Cup win. Maybe two berths in Europe’s second tier club competition will be enough to lure some quality players to Anfield this summer.
Chelsea’s potential access points to the Champion’s League aren’t much better. They get in by winning this year’s final against Bayern Munich, but given that it’s being played at the Allianz Arena in, ahem, Munich, that game will prove very tough to win indeed. Pair that with a 2-0 midweek loss to Newcastle, which put Chelsea four points behind the Magpies in the race for fourth, and they’re all but out of that last play-in spot. Either way, the FA Cup is the most realistic chance for silverware and European football (even if it is the Europa League) at Stamford Bridge.
With all of this in mind, the match should be a total blinder. Liverpool took both meetings with Chelsea this season, but each came before Christmas, when Liverpool still resembled a Premiership side. Conversely, Chelsea are, like a salesman with a new car, on the up, and have the greater momentum of the two sides. Both teams should be close to full strength, and there’s enough big game performers and experience on both rosters, especially with Suarez and Torres are on fire, to make this match a classic.
A domestic trophy double for Liverpool may numb the shores of the Mersey just enough for Kenny Dalglish to sneak in another sub-par summer on the transfer market. But part of me thinks that even an FA Cup win will ring rather hollow among the faithful. Sure, we’ll sing in the streets and drink our fill, but one can’t help but feel that Liverpool is this year’s Premiership laughing stock. And that says a lot when taking into account a number of clubs with much less to be proud of.
One bright note for Livvie: the game won’t be played at home. Our two wins against Chelsea in London also bode well. The dark notes, well, there are many. Oh god, it’s so hard to be angry anymore. I hate Liverpool.
No direct hatred this week, just an unsettling, simmering anger.
Before we go any further, please, spare me the teasing and mockery. I’ve been wading through goading texts and emails since last Saturday, all related to handshakegate and Liverpool’s 2-1 loss to United. Remember my buddy Darren from IHL #2? He was a man without mercy for most of the day (sample text read: Did you turn the game off yet? I would have punched my monitor by now!). Yes, Liverpool lost last weekend to United, and yes, anything would have been better than Luis Suarez’s behaviour during the handshakes (Note: if Suarez shakes Evra’s hand this whole situation pretty much goes away and I write this column about the Leafs losing 5-0 to the Canadiens on Saturday night instead). And yes, it was poor decision-making by Kenny Dalglish to respond with belligerence when asked about Suarez after the match. It seems as though of late, you’re only allowed through the doors at Anfield if you’re simultaneously good at football and bad at life.
Quite honestly I’m not that upset about Saturday’s loss, not in the context of the league, anyway. Liverpool bested United a few weeks ago in the FA Cup, a competition we clearly stand a better chance of winning. I’d have included the Carling Cup final in that last sentence, but I’m not totally sure we’re up to it. Call me a cynic; so far this season I’ve been burned repeatedly by Liverpool’s ability to overwhelmingly underwhelm. We’ve been consistent only in our ability to surprise, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Liverpool engage Cardiff City the way it did Bolton a few weeks ago. The bulk of the squad play like teenagers on Ketamine when faced with inferior opposition, and I’m not convinced that a Wembley cup final atmosphere is enough to stir some of them from their befuddled reverie.
You want to know who I’m rooting for on February 26th? Glenn Johnson. He had a good attacking game on Saturday, nearly scoring a goal similar to the one he nabbed at Chelsea late last year. He’ll be needed at the back to carry the increasingly worrisome defensive pairing of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger, and looks to be one of few in the squad capable of scoring in the run of play.
On a related note, it was interesting to hear Fenway Sports Group and sponsors Standard Chartered (finally) express concern over Liverpool’s reputation in light of recent events. You’d think that at this stage both parties would be more concerned with Liverpool’s chances of salvaging a trophy from this season’s wreckage than selling shirts in foreign markets. My point is that Liverpool plays in the Carling Cup final on February 26th and has a shot at an FA Cup final appearance in a few months’ time. A cup win, even if it is the League Cup, would at least paper over the recent blundering at Anfield, particularly for Kenny Dalglish, who, let’s be honest, needs this more than anyone. There’d be nothing more helpful in forgetting all this nonsense than some silverware in the cabinet and a ticket back to Europe.
Cup success for Liverpool in the next few weeks demands a serious bunker mentality. They need to hole up, plain and simple. Have the reserves kidnap the first team, Old School style, and detain everyone at Melwood, feeding them only pasta and Lucozade behind a freshly installed electric fence. No one enters, no one leaves. They train and play as usual, but with the addition of extended video sessions dissecting every single Michael Jordan NBA playoff appearance. Someone, or something needs to teach this team how to win.
For the next two weeks, the team should be our hostages, not the other way around. It’s our turn. Give us greatness for a change. We want a cup.
Go on, then.
I Hate Liverpool.
I Love Liverpool. I Hate Liverpool.
This past Saturday was tough. To start with, I was working with the kind of hangover you get from just slightly over consuming the night before. Nothing crippling, just enough to slow you down and question how safely you’re driving. With a sharp burr behind my eyes established, my only other problem that day arose from Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of feeble Bolton.
Lost in the hype of another embarrassing Liverpool league loss was that Bolton played well and deserved to win. That Liverpool’s squad, through much of the match, looked at best nonplussed goes without saying. They deserve to be shot into space after that performance, but you can’t have everything in life. You also can’t support a club without your friends gleefully pointing out its every failure, no matter the scale. To this end, I endured two separate indignities related to the Bolton loss on Saturday afternoon. Each encounter would burn the ignominy of the defeat deep into my skin like a rancher’s brand.
The first came at my parent’s house, where I’d committed to help my mother with her blog for the afternoon. Seated at the family computer with a fresh coffee, I checked the final scores for Saturday’s game: 3-1 to Bolton. 3-1? How?
I yelled out, low and desperate, -Come onnnnnnnnnnnnn.
- What’s the matter? my mom asked, - did Liverpool lose?
I slumped into my chair and pointed at the screen, my groaning nearly inaudible.
- Three to one? she said, - Liverpool aren’t very good this year, are they?
- No ma, they’re not, I replied.
She started to smile.
- You could always pick a different team, she mocked. -Do you still wear your old jersey?
- Not really, ma.
- What about that Hotten-ham team? They have a nice one. Why don’t you try them out?
For a soul darkening thirty seconds I considered the ease with which I might defect to the desolate embrace of Spurs. The ‘I Hate Liverpool’ column would take on a fresh new scope; it would be easier to write if I actually hated the club, I thought. I came around just then and shook my gaze clear. My mother’s voice was raised and she was insisting that the mouse wouldn’t right-click properly.
-Why won’t this work? she howled.
Why indeed, I thought to myself.
After my parent’s place I was due at a Laser Quest in the east end of Toronto for my buddy Darren’s birthday party. At 4:30 in the afternoon, rattled by fantasies of Spurs fandom, I entered the facility. The place teemed with screaming eleven-year olds, all of them sprinting about the place in fullback caps, skinny jeans and skate shoes. I’m certain I saw one of them pee in a corner. The smell was unbearable: vomit mixed with stale underwear and farts. I spotted a defeated father huddled furtively in a corner, attempting to read a Stieg Larrson novel out of sight from his son and his friends.
And then Darren walked in, a grin spread across his face. Darren likes soccer too, and by the look on his face he’d seen the day’s results. Darren’s from North Bay, Ontario, about four hours north of Toronto. It isn’t exactly a soccer hotbed, so naturally Darren supports United.
As he approached, Darren’s grin turned to mocking laughter. He held up his hands, one showing three fingers, the other a solitary digit, and waved them back and forth in front of his face like a kind of bizarre gang sign.
I couldn’t bear to hear him speak. –Just don’t even start, I blurted.
- You lost to Bolton! Bolton are terrible!
- Whatever dude.
- Whatever! You guys are the worst! Why don’t you go support Spurs! At least you’d still be supporting a big four club!
The truth was terrible, but the mocking was worse, and it wouldn’t stop. Laser Quest suddenly grew incredibly noisy. An alarm went off indicating that it was time for our group to enter the darkened, black-lit gauntlet. A swarm of rancid Rob Dyrdek clones charged towards the entrance where we stood. It was as though Darren had recruited every child at the facility to mock my team’s characterless results in unison and I was now about to die at their hands.
As I succumbed to their blows I thought, -Why can’t we just be consistent? Why can’t we just be good?
I hate Liverpool.
This week Brendan (editor-in-chief) and I were talking about story ideas for the ‘Banter in 2012. One of my concepts was for a recurring piece entitled “I Hate Liverpool.” I pitched the column as a lighthearted account of the difficulties in supporting a club terminally on the verge of returned glory or mediocre decline. The column would be a serial, something I could go back to when other ideas and stories were in short supply.
I Hate Liverpool was meant to launch on the heels of a positive result that would spark some kind of optimism for the team. I expected Friday’s FA Cup win over Oldham to be that spark, and as a result that helped Liverpool to advance in the competition, it was just that. Everything went as expected: Liverpool’s Premiership juggernaut dismantled Oldham’s inferior League One squad. But then the rumours surfaced of a Liverpool fan racially abusing Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi. I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with Liverpool?”
What’s wrong with Liverpool fans who assume that they have the right to act with genuine hate toward the athletes they’ve paid to watch play? Visiting team or not, these players aren’t the gladiators of Roman times, they’re talented, high-level athletes who can hear the fans in the stands. Assuming for a moment that racist abuse were even vaguely tolerated (and let’s be fair, it is), what’s wrong with Liverpool fans that they can’t even think, especially in the wake of the Luis Suarez scandal, to keep their casual vitriol to themselves? What’s wrong with Liverpool fans, especially in the year of London’s Olympic Games, that they can’t see that racism these days is, at best, extremely tacky? Sure, we know that if you’re a Liverpool fan you’ll never walk alone, but hurling racist invective at the opposing team’s players is about as divisive as it gets.
Clearly Liverpool is under fire for their handling of the Luis Suarez situation. In an article on the subject a few weeks ago, I was critical not of the club, but of Suarez and what I saw as his selfish handling of the situation. In retrospect, I was misguided. In all that’s been said and written since the Evra incident, not once did we hear from the Liverpool’s new majority owners, Fenway Sports Group, or surprise minority owner, LeBron James.
It took zero conscience and a half decent PR professional for Liverpool to rattle off platitudes related to the club’s pride in their ethnically diverse fan base and to express regret over the actions of an isolated fan. Those are absolute must-do actions. What the club’s ownership- not its board, or its communications staff, or Kenny Dalglish- must do right now is show leadership in front of its fans, the Football League and the world of football. Show us that you’re outraged over Suarez’s treatment at his FA tribunal. And show your supporters some respect, not by telling us that the fan that abused a visiting player is banned for life, or how you plan to control this type of behaviour in future, but by acknowledging the reality that this type of behaviour is impossible to control.
Instead of hiding in the quiet of the cozy New England winter, speak up and call out the club’s front office for acting defensively rather than proactively in recent weeks. The same goes for you, LeBron. It’s fine to hand out headphones after training to try to connect with the team, but don’t forget that a fan of your new investment was so wrapped up in a runaway win that he decided it was fine to call an opposing player a black bastard. If you’re at all interested, and I suspect that you aren’t, he was effectively calling you the same.
The fan in question was arrested, which is as it should be, and that’s fine. But that’s not the end of it. Fenway and LeBron, you need to do better. Your new club needs you. Liverpool is in a different kind of trouble than a relegation battle. Its reputation is falling apart rather quickly, and no one seems to be doing much to stop it other than calling other people names.