The old man and Liverpool’s backs against the wall mentality

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The very voice of the old man made me shiver. I instinctively turned around to turn the TV off, but I couldn’t help but witness this historic moment.

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It sent shivers down my spine.  It wasn’t anything in-particular, but everything  collectively. The noise. The ‘so noisy the camera shakes’ atmosphere ran out of my TV and poured into my room like a furious stream of water left to flow into a small cup. The togetherness. The emotion. It was an occasion.

And when my ears had just adjusted to the unrelenting commotion, an old man lifted a microphone and the atmosphere grew from electric to cataclysmic.

Writers love to use techniques like personification in their writing; the act of creating a person/being whose personality or appearance wholly embodies or captures the essence and spirit of a thing.

However, although personification is the stuff of literature and it is limited to the realms of our imaginations, my eyes were fixed intently on a real life example.

As the old man spoke, it was not his words I heard- it was the loud, booming and resounding words of a club. And not just any club- Manchester United.

You see, this old man was Manchester United. He perfectly epitomises Manchester United.

Self-important.  Intimidating. Scary. Working class. Battered. Aged. Stubborn. Always-got-an-answer. Determined. Never-say-die. Thick skinned. Gets-what-he-wants. Winner.

As he spoke, he addressed his family. He spoke as a father, to his children.

He said a lot of things, most of which I cannot remember, but one thing he said I will never forget:

“I’d also like to remind you that when we had bad times here, the club stood by me, all my staff stood by me, the players stood by me. Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important.”

I did not write this in order to shower praise and adoration on Alex Ferguson. Like you, that’s the last thing I want to do- for obvious reasons.

However, what I did not want to do was to shy away from the reality. Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United for 26 years- and during that time consistently kept them as a world super power. Their rise to the top just happened to collide with Liverpool’s decline from it- which makes it all the more painful. But the point is, as he openly states, it wasn’t easy starting off. He very nearly got sacked, and ultimately it took one of the greatest managers of all time 6 years to win his first league title at Manchester United.

So, as Ferguson reminded the Manchester United fans about his slow start, and encouraged them to give their support to their new manager, ironically and without knowing it, he gave his most bitter of rivals, Liverpool Football Club a golden nugget- a piece of advice that he would not have shared if he had not seen it good enough for his great club, his great family, his great legacy to benefit from.

Here’s the thing- we’ve watched our great club go through really hard times in during the past few years, and through that, there’s been a massive shift away from the legendary Liverpool supporters of old, and an alarming stride towards the new age, plastic, impatient fans of today.

I don’t know whether the rise of social media and key-board warriors have contributed to that, but it’s there for all to see.

People yearn for success, it’s natural. Everyone wants to see their club at the top. If you claimed you didn’t, you’re mad.

Look at what the ‘instant’ success trend does to a club- Manchester City have just sacked Roberto Mancini..a year TO THE DAY since he won the Premier League Title. That kind of instability is damaging and frankly, unsustainable. You don’t believe me? Look at Chelsea. If it wasn’t for Jose Mourinho becoming bored of his post in Madrid and willing to come back to save them, who would they turn to? They’ve literally went through every successful manager available to them- to the point where managers of the calibre of Guardiola would rather run away from them than take a sip from the poisoned chalice.

Now, what do we want? Success? Of course! Trophies? Of course! World class players? Of course!
Ok, do we have a multi-billionaire willing to bankroll 70m-a-summer spending sprees? Do we have a ‘whatever you want, we’ll give you’ wage structure? We all know the answer is simple: no.

So what do we expect? A magician who can take an average squad full of over-paid and underwhelming players in summer 2012 and make them into Champions by summer 2013?

It’s easy to see- the road to success comes in two ways: one which is damaging and unsustainable and one which is a slower, but lasting.

Right now, as we have just discovered, there only is one way for Liverpool Football Club to climb back to the top, and it’s by crawling.

It is going to be slow. It’s going to take baby steps before it takes strides before it bursts into a run. But there’s no doubt there are baby-steps being taken.

‘Progress’ is a word that is thrown about too much these days, and there is a lot of debate about whether there is any actual progress evident or not. There are statistics comparing this season and last season- which is all well and good until you realise you can find statistics to support anything you want.

But the thing is, people do not realise that there are two different types of progress- they are quite similar, but very distinctive. Each one feeds off the other, but their separate. Both can tell their own story, but they are both equally as important. And the goal of any football club is to get both on a par with each other.

Footballing Progress on the Field, and Footballing progress in the League.

No-body can doubt that there has been footballing progress on the field this year. We’ve generally played very well. There’s not many teams who can boast a comfortable win over us, and for the second half of the season the free-flowing, free-scoring football Liverpool have played with Suarez, Sturridge, Coutinho and Gerrard has been spell-bounding. We really are a good footballing team, and individual errors (decreasing greatly as the season went on) aside, we’re a very hard team to beat.

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The problem is our performances have not always been merited with the points they deserve. It’s so clichéd these days, but it really has been our Achilles heel over the past 5 years.

However, if we get this problem solved, this is when footballing progress on the pitch flows and overlaps into footballing progress in the League. You see the two go hand in hand, and we aren’t far from achieving the pair.

So- we’ve got one of the most dynamic and fluid system of attackers we’ve had in years, a solid midfield in Gerrard and Lucas with an ever improving Henderson and exciting Shelvey strengthening it further, a defence which has the 2nd most clean sheets in the Premier League this year, and a world class keeper finally coming back to find form. Add to that a youth academy that is churning out players that are the cream of the crop, and all that, with an ever improving performance on the pitch, a young, hungry manager who is growing in experience and knowledge every day. We’re about to enter into one of the most defining summers in the club’s history as a result. It’s essential that it’s conducted right- that Carra is replaced, that Suarez is kept hold of, that strength is added elsewhere, and that the winning mentality is reinforced. There’s no doubt there’s always a risk it will fail- but a risk Brendan Rodgers devotes his life to, and will be done only in the absolute best interest of the club going forward.
But the fact is- We’re on the verge.

Can’t you see the words of the old man, Sir Alex, heartfelt and spoken to the stadium full of Manchester united fans, scream truth? Support our club- through the bad times, and then through the good times. Let’s take our most icy rival’s best advice and use it against him.

How can the club move forward if there are still those sulking over the loss of Dalglish or crying that we never gave Rafa a second chance?

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I hate to harp on, I really do- but this is something I am sure of- we’re moving into an exciting time of Liverpool Football’s life. The transitional period is over- the base has been laid, and everyone knows it. Don’t kid yourself- everyone knows it’s soon time to deliver, Brendan Rodgers most of all. But let us enjoy it. Let us allow it unfold in front of our eyes. Of course there’ll be blips along the way- we’re still climbing up hill.

But that’s when Liverpool are at their best- written off, ‘in the back-ground’, backs against the wall.

Istanbul.

The AC Milan players strolled off the pitch laughing- they were up against a team who were so average it was actually funny. Educated journalists were scribbling down their stories for the back page the next day about how Liverpool were way below the class of AC Milan.

You’re just not good enough Liverpool, everyone said.

YNWA.

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