Simon Pearce takes a look back at a busy year in the chronicles of Liverpool FC.
As the year started, and the transfer window opened, we were all dreading the kind of signings Hodgson may bring in. Who was going to be the next Poulsen, or Konchesky? We had league matters to worry about too, and a looming FA Cup tie with Manchester United on the horizon.
Return of The King
The games over the festive period against Blackburn and Wolves proved too much for our new owners though, and to the relief of Liverpool fans worldwide, Roy Hodgson was relieved of his duties less than a week into the new year. The search was on for our new manager. Many names were touted both in the press and from the fans. Jurgen Klinsmann, Andreas Villas Boas, Frank Rijkaard. But the loudest shout was for only one man. And on the 8th January it was announced that Kenneth Maitheson Dalglish had been appointed. For a second time King Kenny was in charge at Liverpool. He was airlifted off his cruise ship holiday (much to the chagrin of his wife Marina I’m sure!) and brought back in time for our FA Cup 3rd round tie against United.
We lost that match to an early Ryan Giggs goal. But nobody cared. The King had returned. We were out of the FA Cup at the 3rd round to our greatest rivals and nobody cared. The King had returned!
The next day it was announced that Steve Clarke had been brought in as Kenny’s assistant manager, and within days, we were hearing the players were all enjoying training once more and press reports from senior members of the team such as Reina, Agger, Carragher and Kuyt all confirmed it. It was a happy camp again!
Results on the pitch reflected this too. We got our revenge against Wolves with a brace from Torres, and a beautifully hit volley from Raul Meireles. Not everything went our way, as we had a bad night against Blackpool, but we carried on regardless, with the indomnitable spirit of Kenny, we were on the crest of a wave!
Transfer Window Drama
Then the end of January came. The last day of the transfer window. Players came and players went. Out went Ryan Babel, and Fernando Torres for a British record transfer fee of £50million. In came an injured Andy Carroll for £35million (a record fee for a British player) and the enigmatic Uragyan from Ajax that we’d been chasing, Luis Suarez. We didn’t get everyone we were after though as there was a drawn out saga with Blackpool for one Charlie Adam, but their chairman kept moving the goalposts, and Adam, for the time being, remained a Tangerine.
We kicked off February with a bang. Torres first match for Chelsea was ironically against us. The Chelsea fans tried to take a leaf out of our book and show support for their new man with their own banner, but ended up with egg on their face. They couldn’t be original, so stole our design. Forgetting to cover up one important feature. The Shankly Gates in Blue? Bill would have turned in his grave! How we laughed! They made a mockery of themselves as fans, and we made a mockery of them on the pitch. Torres was kept quiet, and Meireles got the only goal.
The Dalglish Effect
The season moved on. Our new signings were acquitting themselves quite well. Suarez scored on his debut against Stoke, and really lifted the team. We got the better of Man Utd in the league, with Suarez scoring a sublime goal after dancing through the defence as if they weren’t there. Due to his injury, we had to wait a bit longer to see Andy Carroll, but a nice brace against Man City was well received!
The impact of Dalglish was clear amongst both players and fans. We slowly rose up the table, and finished in May in a respectable 6th place in the table. No European football the following season, but I don’t think too many people were bothered. We finished better than we feared we might if Hodgson was still in charge, and we all know we had a rebuilding season ahead.
Theres two things guaranteed in the summer. The transfer window, and the pre-season tour. We shipped out a number of players, including the mediocrity Hodgson had brought in only a year before. Joe Cole also got thrown out the ranks on a loan deal to Lille. Alberto Aquilani came back from his loan at Juventus, and after a few games was promptly shipped back to his homeland with AC Milan. By the end of the window, Raul Meireles was also on his way. He followed the path Torres made in January and headed to Stamford Bridge, although without the fan fare of his predecessor. Shame really as Meireles and Aquilani had showed signs of a promising midfield partnership in the few games before the window closed.
As for who came in, there were a number of replacements. We finally completed our protracted deal with Blackpool for midfielder Charlie Adam that had started, but could not be completed, back in January. To supplement the midfield, we also brought in Henderson, Downing and Bellamy. Along with Doni, Coates and Jose Enrique to cover the back line. The pre-season tour of Asia went well. Not all great results, but what other team could fill a stadium with 40,000 fans, for a training session?
2011/12 kicks off
The season didn’t exactly kick off with the bang we were hoping for, with a limp 1-1 draw with Sunderland. And it’s pretty much carried on in the same vein. There have been good matches and bad matches. Good moments and not so good moments. We lost to Man United, in a match that has had serious repercussions for our little talisman Suarez, and that is still ongoing thanks to he ineptitude of the English FA taking so long over the case.
There have been good moments too. We had a great match against Arsenal, we’ve progressed in the Carling Cup thanks to wins over Exeter, Brighton and Chelsea. We’ve also beaten Chelsea in the league. Again. And Torres is still struggling to score!
There have been a number of frustrating moments in games throughout the season. We’ve hit the woodwork a record number of times. Carroll, Downing, Henderson, Suarez and more have all struck the post or the crossbar in what is almost becoming an embarrasing number of games now, and our finishing has been so poor we’ve made average keepers from places like Wigan, Swansea, Norwich all look world class. It’s been blatantly obvious that we need a new striker in the new window. Bellamy, Suarez, Maxi have all kept us afloat. Carroll’s only real contribution has been against Everton, so it’s not all bad! He’s not had a lot of game time, but when he has played, he’s struggling to live up to the hype. He’s doing ok, and in this writers opinion will come good, he just needs more time.
With Gerrard finally back from injury maybe that time has come now. Stevie has a habit of making others around him play better. There’s no Lucas now, unfortunately last years player of the season has been ruled out for the rest of this one. So we need someone to fill the hole. It’s been glaringly obvious Adam and Henderson, while doing ok, have both struggled. With Gerrard back, we have that someone.
On the pitch we finished the season on a high, with a 3-1 win over Newcastle. Two Geordie old boys in the line up. The press had a field day, and were expecting Andy Carroll to finally shine against his old club. He didn’t, but Craig Bellamy did. The same Bellamy who played under one legendary manager in Sir Bobby Robson, and alongside one of the countries greatest strikers of recent times in Alan Shearer during his time in the North East, is now showing his worth for another legendary manager in Dalglish in his second spell for us. He put two away before being subbed due to injury. Stevie Gerrard was brought on at half time, and buried the third towards the end.
Off the pitch has not been a great way to end the year though, as the FA finally published their findings in the Suarez v Evra race trial, and we are left looking into 2012 with a decision on whether to appeal the frankly outrageous 8 match ban.
Let’s hope we can carry on results the way we finished against Newcastle, and 4th place is not entirely out of reach. There’s a long way to go.
Happy New Year all!