So a truly forgettable season ended on a forgettable note. In many ways the insignificant goalless draw with Hull City was evocative of Liverpool’s season. Lacking in purpose, conviction and creativity. Threatening to find a winner on occasions in the second half but ultimately falling short.
This match was never likely to be memorable. The Hull fans turned up to cheer on their team for one final time before a return to the Championship. But they had little to warm them aside from the prospect of claiming one last scalp, what with there own financial and footballing troubles at present.
Whilst the travelling Liverpool fans arrived at the KC Stadium with only the reality that an end to this dreary season was finally in sight to comfort them. This final Premier League fixture presented the Reds with a chance to end their campaign on some form of a high and provide the fans with some meagre compensation. Yet having been witness to so many disappointments we should have known that was never likely to happen.
Ultimately this match will only be considered noteworthy for the fact left-back Jack Robinson, aged 16 years and 250 days, became the youngest player to make a senior appearance in the clubs 128 year history.
It will undoubtedly have been a proud moment for the young England U-17 international. Hopefully this will be the start of a bright future for Robinson. Although ‘bright’ is one phrase which can not be associated with the future of the club as a whole at present.
There is so much uncertainty shrouding the football club as the current season draws to a lacklustre close. Will Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s devastating tenure as the clubs owners come to an end and much needed investment be secured? Will Rafa Benitez still be presiding over the team come August? Will the likes of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard be running out in front of the Kop come next season? And for that matter just who is certain to remain in the Liverpool squad?
What is certain is that positive changes need to be made as a matter of urgency to give the Reds the opportunity to be prepared for an improved campaign in 2010/11. Otherwise, seasons such as this one will be far more likely to become the norm than a disappointing anomaly. With a World Cup just around the corner, the off-season is likely to be significantly shortened this summer. Giving the club even less time to act and take the necessary decisions.
Some poor and ill-advised decisions, both on and off the field, have got this club, once distinguished for its stability and security, into the mess that is now a reality. But this is a mess which can still be overcome as things stand. And the long term decline which potentially faces the club can still be overcome if the correct decisions are made and investment is secured.
That the future of so many of the Reds top players is a subject of genuine debate is a worry. No more so than captain Steven Gerrard. The World Cup bound midfielder has had a season akin to that of the whole team – underwhelming. But, the fact that he was the only Liverpool player who seemed likely to find a breakthrough against Hull, proves Gerrard’s quality and importance.
Gerrard come closest to netting a Liverpool winner, which would have lifted the Reds into 6th position, avoiding a Europa League qualifier, courtesy of Aston Villa’s home defeat to Blackburn. The midfielder jinked through a less than watertight home defence and beat Matt Duke only to see his shot agonisingly strike the post in the closing minutes. And early shot just the wrong side of Duke’s post.
The first half in particular was reminiscent of many end of season encounters. As ever Liverpool had plenty of possession but, as ever, made too many simple mistakes and failed to find the sort of ingenuity to test Duke regularly. Alberto Aquilani struck the crossbar and Daniel Agger should have scored with the follow up. Mark Cullen also put a good chance for Hull wide.
Substitute Dani Pacheco forced Duke into a save late on. But ultimately the Reds will be forced to start their season early with an unappetising trip to one of European football’s most unglamorous outposts, just weeks after the World Cup final.
In the immediate aftermath of this match Benitez moved to reaffirm his desire to stay in charge at Anfield and finally dismiss recent speculation. The Spaniard seemed to have delayed making such a statement until after all games had been played in order to keep the focus on football.
Many people are likely to disagree as to whether this would be in the long term interest of the club. But more pressing concerns should surely be to secure investment and stable leadership for the long term and also to fund the obviously necessary improvements which are required in the playing squad in the short term.
These are the key things which simply need to happen over the coming months. No team ever achieves success either short or long term without the prerequisite of stability. Something which is completely absent at present. And, unfortunately, in the current climate success is not likely to be forthcoming without significant investment.
Man of the Match
Too often looked like the only man capable of producing the moment of quality and inspiration to win the match. Worked hard throughout and even battled his way through a throng of Hull fans invading the pitch at the final whistle to thank the visiting fans.