Anfield: a level playing field or a grassy knoll?

Mystery, intrigue, rumours and conspiracy theories. It seems we all like a bit of escapism from the normal and the mundane to spice up our life a little bit and I suppose this sort of thing is a natural by-product of free speech but the amount of rhetoric and comment circling our club currently is amazing, especially bearing in mind that at one time we were renowned for addressing all issues with dignity and behind closed doors. It was called the Liverpool way.

Now I am not going to add to the frenzy by relating stories of UFOs flying overhead and landing in front of the kop but the lines between fantasy and fact in that part of Liverpool 4 have become, shall we say, some what blurred over the last few years.

Like most I get on the internet on the rumours websites to get my daily fix of takeovers and transfers and accept that 99.9% of what is reported is a load of bollocks even though the contributors have impeccable credentials either by walking Rafa’s dog or being related to Tommy Smith or having sat in a hotel lounge and overheard Sammy Lee. Yes, o.k so we all know what we’re getting here and accept it for what it is, unlike the proper journalists who always comment on the facts, right?

Well maybe, but you see that is the ongoing problem here because practically all the information we get is, at best, second hand and potentially tainted with the perspective of the writer. That is unless of course the columnist really does have the ear of our manager, but it seems that those days of the special relationship based on mutual trust between a manager and a journalist are now long gone.

So who and what are we supposed to believe anymore? The national media, as far as I am concerned have another agenda when it comes to us. Ex- footballers who have suffered at our expense in the past both on and off the pitch are seeing this as payback time, while after twenty something years of having to praise our achievements both at home and abroad, those hardened Fleet Street hacks have also enjoyed massive retribution during the last two decades with even the slightest hint of a return to the glory days met with barbed scepticism and attempts at ridicule. While I acknowledge all is not well on and off the pitch currently, a sense of perspective is certainly not being adopted with the world and his wife predicting doom and gloom to such an extent that it looks like only a visit from the grim reaper himself is required now to sate all those looking to vanquish us to mid-table mediocrity or worst still, swallowed up into the lower depths of the league, Leeds United-style, for an eternity.

Of course, Rafa’s old sparring partner Mr Allardyce, bless him, was one of the first to break cover in predicting this doomsday scenario for us, but of course he would wouldn’t he? After all they have “previous” and his best mate had just seen the league title disappear along with Stevie’s defence splitting, slide rule pass to Drogba, so what would you really expect? Likewise, to a man, the United fans watching would have been unsurprised at the turn of events citing collusion with Chelsea and cries of fix, pretty sure in their minds that we would have done anything to avoid title number 19 going to the theatre. Mind you it had the England fans wetting themselves with excitement in anticipation of the world cup now that the bogey has been laid, once and for all, that Stevie and Frank Lampard cannot play together in midfield.

Liverpool vs Chelsea

Seriously though, a piece in the Liverpool Echo excellently outlined the current neurotic state of affairs at our beloved club and was the inspiration to this article. Specifically, references were made to the press conference where Rafa intimated that “senior sources” at boardroom level were undermining his ability to do his job. Initially, the author was at pains to explain away the cancellation of the two fabled meetings with Martin Broughton, courtesy of completely plausible reasons as to why they never occurred. The explanations of course, were and are in stark contrast to the headline making bollocks that we were fed by the media at the time, but nothing new there then. Ultimately and more worryingly for us though was that he postured that the source of the alleged mischievous misinformation, sent to a highly prestigious website, was from a high level employee within the club.

Now if there is any semblance of truth in this you have to ask why destabilising the manager’s position even further when we are in such a state of flux would benefit anyone at all? The rumour mongers would have you believe it would be to get Rafa to walk in order to install a new manager when our new owners take over but in terms of a risky strategy, you have to say that would top the lot. Now as I say, I take what is written in the national newspapers with a pinch of salt but if we cannot rely on our local reporters in the Echo to come up with accurate information, then who can we trust? The C.S.I. team in us all will be looking in great detail at the line of friendly fire from behind with bemusement, but it remains difficult to disseminate truth from fiction. Is Rafa being paranoid or are the senior sources sniping from within from one of American owner’s camps, at board level or perhaps from within the staff? Bizarre, to say the least, is all you can say about it.

On a daily basis we are drip fed an endless stream of angles and perspectives on our manager’s position, the club itself, the debt, the owners, the takeover and who might and might not be leaving during the summer. O.K I suppose if United were in our position it would be no different, but unlike United, we don’t help ourselves, do we? In asking for nothing more than a level playing field, it has hardly been that from the minute the charm offensive and charade with our new owners was shown to be nothing more than bluff and bluster. Infighting at every level, recriminations, acidic press conferences, Parry departing acrimoniously, we have hand fed the media with their headlines on a plate and they have gorged on it. Now I am not naïve enough to believe that every article (and I include mine here) does not add, even in some miniscule way, to the ongoing frenzied media circus, but I can put my hand on my heart and say that I believe that everything I have ever had printed is said from the heart and for the good of the club without either financial gain or another agenda. Ex-players conversely, who are only in that media position to voice their opinion in the first place by virtue of their former employment, have had a field day and I remain totally unconvinced that most of them are speaking in the club’s best interests. Sitting on the fence, apparently, is not an option if you want to remain in front of the cameras, on the airwaves or in the written press and neither is toeing the LFC party line.

Football - Stoke City v Liverpool Barclays Premier League

All I would reasonably expect is rational comment from a former professionals but quite how some of them can have the gall to go as far as telling our manager how to manage is beyond me. Yes we all think we know what is best for the club and have our opinions but there is a difference in expressing your point of view and headline making on the strength of your name. The classic example of course was the display by Xabi Alonso at Old Trafford in the 4-1 defeat of United which happened, of course, only in the mind of Jamie Redknapp, when he was pontificating how Rafa can best utilise Steven Gerrard.

Of course Rafa himself is no stranger to boardroom gazumping, having famously been underwhelmed by transfer funds allotted by the president of Valencia and there seems to be a sense of deja vu here if comments attributed to him are to be believed regarding the terms of his new contract signing. Back stabbing from within the club has taken its toll on Rafa and there have been occasions when he has appeared world weary. Of course he has not always helped himself and only he knows whether the various spats that he has chosen to instigate at press conferences have been wise choices or not. Certainly those of us who cringed that it was not the Liverpool way, at the same time admired him for at least having the balls to speak his mind and you have to say that if there are indeed shady characters behind the grassy knoll then he has earned the right to do so. If he can never forgive or trust his employers again, purely on the basis of the Klinsman meetings alone, then you could understand those sentiments and we can only speculate what else has gone on behind the scenes based on that acknowledged example of the man management style of Hicks and Gillet.

Depending on your perspective then, you can say he has either done a good job under “trying” circumstances or be critical of our under achievements. Ordinarily it would be easy to decide which camp you sit in but these are indeed muddy waters and absolutely no-one other than the inner sanctum at the club knows all the facts in order to be able to make a considered judgement. A sample poll in my office alone for example, throws up a spectrum of opinions regarding the current state of affairs.

General Election - Documents Stock

Another spate of misinformation surrounds the level of debt at the club. While most of us were at least comfortable in the knowledge that the amount was being reduced, a recent article in a national daily reported to the contrary with his estimate being put at an incredible £473million pounds i.e. more than twice the figure we had previously believed to be accurate. Given that the author was a former Echo correspondent, the piece was given more than a semblance of credibility, despite disbelief and gut reaction regarding what we were being told. Given that this figure is now being widely reported, the purchase price of the club would indeed need to be something like the £800 million pounds allegedly being touted by our wonderful owners in order to make them the sort of profit they have been quoted as looking for. No retractions were made, as far as I am concerned regarding the validity of this astronomical amount, so you kinda start to believe the figures after all and the doomsday scenario starts to loom large again. That is until you then read an in-depth article in another website lately which appeared to completely destroy the credibility of the piece in quoting directly from the clubs accounts. Quite how you can get two pieces so much at odds with each other defies belief but the figures are so wide apart that you either cite bad / lazy journalism or some other ulterior motive but either way it only adds to the mishmash that we are enduring currently.

So what are we to make of all this? Are we all just putting two and two together and regularly getting five or are there politics at work here and are there really divisive forces at work to destabilise the club? Our manager signed a new contract barely 12 months ago and he has stated that promises were broken since that time and we can probably guess that this would be in relation to his transfer budget. All of us are hoping and praying for new owners to get us on an even keel, provide money in the transfer market and at last get this stadium built. The amount of suitors speculated over the last few years is quite ridiculous and again it has been so difficult to distinguish fantasy from fact and I thought I had heard it all with the latest article from a reputable source speculating that Yossi was moving to Roma to avoid the prospect of being an employee of incoming Muslim owners. That was until I read the report about the Chinese consortium that intends to install Diego Maradona as our next manager when they take over!

The truth is out there?

Mystifying times to be a red.


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