Saturday’s barren draw with Stoke was encapsulated totally in the fortunes of Robbie Keane. Twice the Liverpool front-man threatened to break his now irritant duck, only to be denied by a combination of bad luck and tentative finishing. To date, this has been a universal theme of his short stint at Anfield. For all the endeavour, which comes in healthy abundance, things simply will not fall for one of the game’s nice guys.
Frustrating though it may be, worrying it is not. Have no fear, our new number 7 will not fall victim to the ghost of the shirt. Unlike too many of its recent incumbents, Robbie Keane is a people’s player and above all else, it is this which will see him through.
Forking-out (or should that be ‘borrowing’?) Â£20 million for the services of Ireland’s leading hit-man was astute business. Rafa Benitez was well aware that in spite of a lack of sell on value he would gain money’s worth in terms of consistency, creativity and mileage. Keane was viewed as a foil to the imperious Torres, playing in and around the Spaniard, a role he excelled in for Tottenham.
He’s an infectious character, spritely in the mould of a Kevin Keegan. Workmanlike with a touch of class to boot. In fact if anything, his recent downturn is due to over-exuberance. Understandable of course. He’s a big-buy and eager to justify the accompanying price tag. A first strike will allay those nerves and pave the way for goals a plenty.
The upcoming Merseyside Derby would obviously be the perfect platform to open that account. A promising start to the season could be rubber-stamped this weekend. That said, a herculean effort will, as always in these hotly contested clashes, be required.
It’s a fixture one Harry Kewell enjoyed, oddly enough. The Australian playmaker, now plying his trade at Galatasaray, scored his first goal for the Reds at Goodison Park and also managed a scorching effort at Anfield in 2006. Those were two rare high points in an otherwise lacklustre spell in the North West.
Before Kewell came Vladimir Smicer, another number 7 incapable of shouldering the burden of expectation. Let us not forget, Vladi redeemed himself in spectacular fashion one night in May ’05, but on that occasion he donned 11!
Though trivial to some the 7 shirt is undoubtedly synonymous with our club. It embodies the legend of King Kenny Dalglish and with it the nostalgia of class and unrivalled success. Expecting our latest recruit to equal that standard bearer is unfair but at least in terms of attitude, he is in-keeping with those traditions.
I label Keane a people’s player because essentially he is a fan living the dream. He certainly plays in that classic all-action style, never better emphasised than against Manchester United where he pressed and harassed until the very death. Providing that intensity is maintained, the fans will back him whatever.
The Kop know a good player when they see one and though yet to sparkle at his scintillating best, Keane is striving for perfection, something predecessors could seldom even comprehend.
And indeed it is this attitude which could blossom in a fixture usually polluted with tough tackling and suffocated by the physical rather than magical. Keane has the passion and temperament for such encounters and can be relied upon to mix-it when needs must.
In time his efforts will be rewarded twofold. Here’s hoping those Bitter Blues are the first to fall victim.
A brief note on current affairs; It was nice to see Robbie Fowler figure in his first competitive game for ten months on Wednesday. Predictably, it was Everton who provided the opposition for ‘God’s comeback and he suggested Blackburn could have a bargain on their hands with an accomplished display in a 1-0 victory.
One of the many highlights of a sweet, sweet victory over those from down the East Lancs was Sammy Lee’s uninhibited celebrations. It is reassuring to see a true Red with a Bootroom heritage back amongst the coaching staff. I’m not expecting Rafa to match Lee’s sense of outward hysteria but some show of emotion would not have gone amiss. I know I needed no encouragement!
Steven Gerrard is now just one strike shy of the magic century. His astonishing goal in Marseille last week was testament to his unrivalled brilliance. When the milestone does arrive it will earn the skipper entry into a rather exclusive club, one in which, for greatness at least, he may soon earn chairmanship.