A lifelong red (admittedly, that is a mere twenty years) I’ve been frantically racking my brains of late. The inquisition surrounds recollection of a better month following our great side.
For us younger brood tales of the magnitude of Rome or St. Etienne don’t flow as lucidly as those of our fathers and grandfathers. That’s not to suggest a gross epidemic.
Indeed, we’ve had a steady flow of our own since the juggernaut that is the ‘Rafalution’ first motioned. They began with that exhilarating semi en route to Istanbul, then multiplied two-fold with the eventual triumph itself. They extend to the likes of the Camp Nou, San Siro and Bernabeau, then quantify with home sequels against Arsenal and the like. For all the elation of the aforementioned however, I struggle to pinpoint a succession of superlative results to match that of March ’09.
Oh March ’09! A month that resuscitated a deceased title charge. A four weeks that completed a double humbling of the world’s ‘biggest team’. A period which, for me, elevated Steven Gerrard to a position of unrivalled greatness. With foresight it could all amount to nothing, God forbid. But for now, those displays (along with that at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday) shine like a beacon across the Mersey, filling you with a pride so great you can’t help but pump your chest out, Hasselhoff style!
That kind of run brings with it more highlights than Fernando Torres’ barber. One positive somewhat overlooked in the midst of adulation though, has been the progress of combative midfielder Jay Spearing. Aside from a hugely impressive bow against Real, the Wirral export has continued with an ensemble of match-winning displays for the reserves and now been offered a contract extension. Such development may have unfolded beneath the radar but fans desperate for local representation rejoice his gradual assent.
This column alone has lamented the dearth of young talent emerging from Rafa’s ranks. If the quality is void, that cannot be helped. Spearing though provides the greatest threat to the draught.
On the books since 1997, Spearing was initially seen as a defensive general. Such a pigeonhole was revised whilst at the academy, where he consistently shone. Involvement in both Youth Cup victories (captaining the latter of them) hastened the inevitable Melwood call. He frequented the side throughout pre-season, with relative success. It was his rasping volley which came closest to downing Villarreal in the Estadio de Madrigal, and his imaginative pass which allowed Andriy Voronin to sink Lazio at Anfield.
Ever the pragmatist, a fast-track into first team proceedings was never likely under Benitez. Nevertheless, a spritely debut away to PSV was followed by that substitute’s appearance against Madrid. And a fine appearance it turned out to be.
A mere 5’6 (that’s shorter than Luis Garcia!) Spearing tore into a bemused and ego-flattened Real. His tenacity was evident from the off, crashing into challenges ala Mascherano. But if such adrenalin was a given, unexpected was the coolness with which he sprayed the ball, ala Alonso.
Joe Fagan used to drum it into protÃ©gÃ©’s that their game should never alter with a first team call. Decent reserve showings earned that call, so why transform at the rate of Michael Jackson?
Conscious of that wisdom or not, Spearing harnessed the mantra. He outplayed the likes of Diarra and Gago with no awe of reputation. They could have been Hull rookies for all he cared. Such raw enthusiasm and obvious skill spurred the Kop choir into a fresh chant, sung with extra gusto for one of their own.
With Europe now over and the top of the table now as tight a duck’s backside, further participation will be hard to come by. Having said that, many supporters would rather Spearing than Lucas in the middle of the park for a crunch game, but that’s another matter.
What has been showcased though offers promise for the coming campaign. Forging a regular berth in a midfield already consisting of Gerrard, Alonso & Mascherano will prove daunting. It will become an even tougher task if Garry Barry finally joins those ranks.
All Spearing can do is knuckle down and continue to put in shifts like that against Southport a fortnight ago and United before that.
Continual graft will raise stock and hopefully convince his manager of undoubted worth.
One thing’s for sure, the Kop are desperate for him to succeed.