What a wayward beginning to 2007. It is well known that most New Year’s resolutions are thrown-out come the end of January. Sadly, two of Liverpool’s, League and FA Cup glory, failed the customary three week trial period.
Nevertheless, unlike Jade Goody, Rafa Benitez’ side have left themselves a slight hope of resurrecting a season littered with foul-ups. Sandwiched between the nightmare that was Arsenal and its sequel ‘“ Arsenal Reserves, came spirited displays against Bolton, Watford and most recently a beleaguered Chelsea. Providing the backdrop to this run has been the frustrating occurrences of a newly-opened transfer window. While FIFA do what FIFA do best, undermining the game with ludicrous legislation, West Ham‘s Javier Mascherano has been left in limbo.
Desperate to join the Reds, previous appearances for Corinthians and the Hammers seem to have put paid to such ambitions.
If the Argentine’s predicament irritates, at least Kopites can be safe in the knowledge that Lucas Neil will never wear the club’s strip. Unlike the aforementioned midfielder, Australian right-back Neil has shown absolutely no desire to don one of the sport’s most famous shirts. Indeed, the former Blackburn ace snubbed Benitez’ overtures in favour of 18th place West Ham ‘“ ambitious hey?
Neil is a complex character. Admittedly, he boasts talent, but his judgement aligns smartly with his ratchet temperament.
Aside from bewildering decision-making, the Â£1.5 million defender is no stranger to controversy. Back in 2003 he inexcusably broke Jamie Carragher’s leg with a disgusting challenge at Ewood Park. His lack of remorse that day hardly endeared him to Liverpool supporters.
Certain quarters may suggest he embarked upon a campaign here though. Seemingly hell-bent on equaling the hate stored for Gary Neville, Neil then felled Florent Sinama-Pongolle in a Worthington Cup tie barely a month later. Danny Murphy converted the resulting penalty and Neil saw red for a second time against the Merseysiders.
In spite of his best efforts, Neil was never going to match the disdain directed at chief irritant Neville. For one, he holds no resemblance to a weedy head-boy, while his celebrations lack that canny-link to a perverted and hugely embarrassing uncle.
However, he had ensured a level of contempt. Therefore, it was somewhat of a shock when Benitez signaled his intent to sign the Australian in December.
Neil has since claimed that the Spaniard’s rotation policy convinced him to opt for the relegation-battlers. Strange, seeing as this would surely mean frequent involvement for himself.
Liverpool only have one recognized right full-back in Steve Finnan. The Irish international has seldom missed a game this term. As a result, Neil could be expected to feature prominently between now and the end of the season.
This raises a puzzling question. Dear Lucas has either attained and enjoyed some of Pete Doherty’s favorite substance or simply fancied a big pay-day. It doesn’t take Einstein to work-out which carries greater likelihood.
Finnan though is the perfect example of what Neil is not ‘“ class. Reliable, consistent and effective, the former Fulham man is the model team-player. Week in week out he delivers, caring not for the limelight and glitz lesser players crave. His performances are of huge benefit to the side, particularly at Anfield where overlapping runs evoke crossing of the highest order. A la Phil Neal, the Limerick born full-back oozes professionalism, while his dedication can never be questioned.
The vast majority of supporters would rather see the Premiership’s best right-back lining-up on at Anfield Road, as oppose to an average equivalent. The vast majority of supporters would also enjoy the emergence of Lee Peltier as an understudy.
It is an issue continuously debated, but the truth is the first team populace is desperately short of graduates from Steve Heighway’s youth set-up.
Admittedly, Peltier was one of those who failed to cut the mustard when pitted against Arsenal‘s frighteningly good youngsters, but this does not mean he should be starved of game-time altogether.
As highlighted above, Finnan is the benchmark, but let’s allow one of our own to provide the necessary cover, not some overrated, money-grabbing Aussie, void of any heart for England’s greatest team.
So good riddance to Lucas Neil, and here’s to a successful 2007, accompanied with appearances from Peltier, Guthrie, Lindfield, Darby, Anderson and Hammil along the line ‘“ those who know what it means to play for LFC.