The Pungent Aroma Of Success… and How To Go About Wreaking Of It From Every Pore…

28 February 2012

By Aitch


So if I’m understanding football correctly these days…
Manchester United struggle against Norwich for 90 minutes, requiring a bloke who cheats with a relative’s bird to salvage their dignity with virtually the last kick of the game…
… and it’s the mark of champions…
whereas
Liverpool beat the best teams in England en-route to a final that they win on penalties, despite their best player and bang-on-dead-to-rights penalty taker missing one, as well as the guy who scored 12 pens while his corners were worth 10 million alone at Blackpool hitting a penalty so wildly that it hit Richard Branson in the face… in one of his hot fuckin air balloons…
… And we were lucky!

Fair enough.

We won the Champions League Final in 2005 after having conceded 3 goals before halftime, leveling the score in the 2nd half, dodging certifiable, on-a-plate, Christmas present goalscoring opportunities, then scoring more penalties than the opposition…
…and while many opposition fans will begrudge us that success, it is still widely regarded as the BEST, GREATEST, Champions League final.

We won the UEFA cup in 2003 by a “golden goal” that was also an own goal from a long free kick, after see-sawing to a 4-4 result over 90 minutes…
…and while many opposition fans will begrudge us that success also, it is still widely regarded as the BEST, GREATEST, EUFA Cup final.

These are just two examples of “great victories” that were achieved in, at best description, “marginal” fashion.

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The Carling Cup final against Birmingham, hell even the glory that was Rome” was a penalty win, even if it is to “justify” it as having been against the 2nd best team in Europe.

Is this really any different to winning a CL by scoring 2 goals in extra time??
I mean come on… THAT really is… lucky as fuck!

Many a discussion takes place in the hallowed halls of kopblog about the manner in which players ply their trade, or games are won and lost… and so often, people like to suggest that none of that really matters… 1st is 1st and 7th is nowhere…
To use an American expression… “Scoreboard Baby!”

In the end, does it matter how you won something?
(my own personal caveat being… as long as you kept your dignity, didn’t cheat.)

When we shout loud and proud that “We Won It 5 Times”, we don’t add, “err, but one of those was a lucky 1-0 win against Bruge and one was a lucky win on penalties in Rome.”

If you win the Title on goal difference… it matters for about 3 months… until the next season starts… then all anyone in a history book is gonna remember is how many of the fuckers you’ve won, not how you won them.

I took great pride in chanting “You Lost The League On Merseyside” with the rest of the Kop Faithful back in that final game of 1992 when Ian Rush scored that 2nd goal against the Mancs.
Leeds fans weren’t the least bit concerned how narrowly they had won the league…
… neither were the Arsenal fans on that fateful day when Thomas scored an unexpected goal in the 89th minute.

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Yet we are supposed to feel guilty because we won a fuckin cup… on penalties.

“But it was against Cardiff, not top opposition” I hear the retort.

“FUCK OFF!” says I
The engraving on the Carling Cup reads… “Liverpool 2012”
… not… “Liverpool 2012, but only very luckily, by penalties, err, against lower league opposition.”

We all love to reminisce about the 4-0 drubbing of real Madrid, or the 4-1 thumping of the Mancs…
…the number of times those results get trotted out on various blogs/forums as indicative of how good our team WAS, in comparison to how poor our current team is…
… is frankly a bit embarrassing when you consider that while both results/performances were enjoyed immensely and proudly brandished…
… that team didn’t put a trophy in the Cabinet…
… Sunday’s team DID!

Granted Sunday’s game certainly doesn’t do the heart any good, or the blood pressure, or a world full of poor cats.
But winning such a game is just as entertaining than 4-0 routes… even if it is only because of the silverware awarded at the end.

I won a Cup on penalties as a High School coach of 16year old lads.
The cup didn’t say “won on penalties”… just the cup name.
(Though admittedly, as we celebrated with the cup, I shook the opposition coach’s hand and said “Sorry mate, it’s a great way to win, but a shitty way to lose.”)

We went on to add a League Title to that cup… in an undefeated season.
That trophy didn’t say “undefeated champions”… just our name, and a date, atop a list of names and dates.

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All that mattered at the end of that season was that we had won a league and cup double… the first for any school in the area… how we did it provided a certain euphoria for that season’s end… but that was all forgotten when we went into the subsequent season.

So yes… Cardiff made a game of it.
And while I wasn’t happy about it at the time … instead of complaining about it, I’m simply gonna say …
Congratulations to Cardiff…. for showing themselves to be worthy finalists… and for making the victory that much sweeter for having had to work so hard for it.

Had they won, they would have been worthy winners.
But we did, and were equally worthy.

It was a struggle, but I’m a little dismayed at the general opinion that Liverpool were somehow poor.
We went at them from the off, and in true Liverpool fashion this season… destroyed the fuckin crossbar in the 4th minute.
For the subsequent 20 minutes, Cardiff didn’t get out of their own half, and “were lucky” not to have been shellacked out of the game at that point.
Had that Johnson strike gone in… with the way we started the game… it really would likely have been a very different story…
… but in their first foray forward, Enrique went walkabout, Downing fell asleep and they walked their first effort into the goal.

Of course that was gonna do 2 things…
…the first… give Cardiff a massive boost of confidence (along with the old “fates are with us” mentality)
… and issue a massive body blow to LFC… (again along with the old “fates are against us” mentality)

If I had to chose one complaint about our team this year… it wouldn’t have anything to do with the quality of certain players, their efforts, or the tactics in which they are employed…
… that discussion will go on and on…
… Downing, Henderson, Adam, Carroll will be discussed…
… they’ll be tagged as useless… just as Dirk Kuyt was…
… they’ll be tagged as “not good enough” or “offering nothing going forward” just as Lucas was…
… because some people just can’t differentiate between poor player and poor performance…

I’ve read many a comment about how good or bad this collection of players is.
I find myself often disagreeing with most.

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Downing has been the worst of the new boys so far this season… his poor performances have far outweighed any glimpses of good.
Yet his performance at Wembley was one of the standouts… and suffice to say, his contribution was instrumental in our win…
Could the exact opposite not be reasonably said about Steven Gerrard?

For all the complaints about Andy Carroll, he has been instrumental in almost all the goals we’ve scored in the last few weeks.
That’s points on the board, and a cup on the shelf…
… is that not AS important as 20 goals to his personal tally?
(with the obvious caveat that were he to be scoring 20 goals, the assumption would be more comfortable scorelines and a better league position.)
Have LFC pulled up stumps this year?
No.
Does that define us as a mid-table team?
I can see why some would say Yes, it could yet be a Yes if that stump-pulling doesn’t start again soon, but after only 2 seasons out of the CL (following being in it for 6 out of the past 7 seasons, which saw us prominently featuring in the finals, semi-finals and at worst quarter-finals) its NO … at least for the time being.

This group of players has been repeatedly described this season as “flattering to deceive”.
Again, I get where that’s coming from…
…but…
Could they not also be “deceiving to flatter”?

I don’t know the answer to that yet… but neither do any of you.
And neither does Kenny (though he probably knows a damn sight better than any of us, working with them in training every day, seeing what their daily attitude, aptitude, and effort is.)

Personally, I’m seeing the potential of a player like Henderson… and not writing him off as useless, but suggesting that there is a real possibility he’ll do what Lucas did… struggle for a bit, then be the player everyone seems to think we can’t compete without?

Personally I watch Dirk Kuyt play and I’m reminded of…
… how many people complained about Didi Hamman being past his sell-by date…
…so we sold him and the “better players” who replaced him struggled or got injured and what we desperately needed that season was an experienced head to put his foot on the ball and yell “achtung, calm down lads,”…
…I’m reminded of…
… how many people thought Sami Hyppia was getting slow and past his sell by date… …until he left, and our back up that year was an even older Greek and a Spanish kid…
…and suddenly people remembered all the “good” Sami brought to the team, and forgot about how many times he got skinned for pace in his last season.

What such players bring to the squad, is not your Xabi Alonso passes, not your Danny Agger strides out of the back, but an experienced head in a dressing room where only 3 or 4 guys have actually competed in a major competition, let alone actually won anything major.

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SG, Carra, Pepe, Dirk and Suarez were the only players out there on Sunday with a major medal in their collection.

Nah…. If I had to chose one complaint about our team this year… it wouldn’t have anything to do with the quality of certain players, their efforts, or the tactics in which they are employed…
… it would be the seeming lack of any mentality that causes a response to an incident such as a goal completely against the run of play, in a game you were dominant in to that point…
…as opposed to a collective dropping of shoulders and widespread “here we go again” sigh.

When that goal went in… it consigned us to going in at half-time a goal down, such was the response in mentality from virtually everyone in the team, bar Pepe, Skrtel and Luis.

Sadly… If anyone put in a “captains performance” at Wembley it wasn’t our Captain, it was Martin “the Ninja” Skrtel.
The lad was there to score the goal, didn’t fuck around celebrating, was so eager to get back and restart the game to get a 2nd goal that he fuckin clotheslined Charlie Adam with his forearm when he tried to celebrate it with him, put his foot through the ball when it was needed, but most importantly… several times… simply put his foot on the ball and stopped… when everyone else around him was PANICKING in their attempts to move the ball forward.

There were moments when we were simply losing our nut…
… moving the ball quickly forward… then panicking with the final delivery.
Skrtel (along with the substitutions) helped put a limiter on this madness, and got us back into the groove of playing footy.

Anyway… like I said… we won the damn thing… FOR THE 8th TIME!
Yet another record for the Anfield History Books

Oh and while you’ve got your editor’s pencil out… go ahead and add Kenny’s name to the short list of Managers who have won every trophy going…
… and that one is not just at Anfield…
…that record would be in the Football History Book.

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The Business of Winning Trophies…. Check!
The Business of Creating History… Check!

… were you watching John and Linda?
…THAT is what you bought!

This current incarnation of LFC might not be as exciting to watch as the 86 or 89 teams…
… but it is a team built for the future, and while we all want a greater present, longer-term thinking is required… its what a lot of people didn’t get about Rafa.

But a present is what we’ve got…
…and okay that present is not the Title Challenge some of us genuinely hoped for at the beginning of the season…
… and its not the easy top 4 finish many genuinely believed should be a walk-in-the-park at the beginning of the season…
… but it has been a Carling Cup…
… it is an automatic place back in Europe, even if it is in the much-maligned Europa League
(a competition remember, in which we are among only 4 teams to have won it as many times… editing record books IS the present for LFC…)
…it is a “still alive” chance at the FA Cup… (and perhaps even another all-Merseyside Final?)
… and yes… it is still very much, at the time of writing this…
… a “still alive” challenge for a 4th place finish…

id 4th good enough for LFC?
Not at all… I have often remarked that 4th is the “minimal acceptable failure”…
… but it is a reality of the new world order of football… that due to the financial considerations of the CL, 4th place is considered a success…
… but winning the Carling Cup is not… really…

… like I said…. “Fuck Off! We’ve Won It 8 Times!”

Aitch


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