Clueless Football Fans (Me included)

“Flanno is shite, carthorse of a player, rash in the challenge, not great defensively and very limited going forward. Not really good enough for a side with hopes of qualifying for the champions league.”

This was my analysis of John Flanagan up until the Merseyside Derby a few weeks ago. Fast forward a couple of weeks and guess who is totally gutted when they see the name ‘Flanagan’ missing from the starting line up against City at the Etihad? Me.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 15, 2013: Liverpool's Jon Flanagan celebrates scoring the third goal against Tottenham Hotspur during the Premiership match at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

During the Cardiff match I was convinced Flanno had been possessed by former French international Bixente Lizarazu. I was fucking furious when Brendan took him off after 60 minutes and took to twitter to vent my rage. What I didn’t know was that he picked up an injury.

So what happened in the space of a couple of weeks that caused such a drastic change in my opinion of the player? Well, he put in some fine performances and as I’ve said before, desplayed all the qualities I thought he lacked. Those performances put him from 4th choice to 1st choice left back for us in my eyes. Fickle eh?

In my defence even our manager took Flanno to one side and basically said “you’re a bit shit, lad”. Actually what he said was “You’re not Cafu, stick to what your good at”. Even Brendan didnt see the hidden Lizarazu in there.

This got me thinking. Shouldn’t we as fans give it a bit more thought when labelling a player as ‘not good enough’? How many players attempt to make it as a pro? Well apparently 10% of Premier league academy graduates sign professional contracts. Even less sign a pro contract for a Premier League club because most have to go to a lower league club to get a contract. And of the amount who sign a pro contract at a PL club how many get multiple appearances in the first team of a top 6 club? A small amount I’d say. So how can anyone who made it that far be shit?

I played football with 3 guys who went on to become pros. Carl Cort, Jason Euell and Shaun Newton. Carl was in my school team and was in the Wimbledon youth team at the time as well. He was light years ahead of everyone else on the pitch whenever we played. Scouts would pester him after a game we lost 6-1 “lad, do you play for a club”, “yeah, Wimbledon”, “oh shit, thats a shame”.
In the Premier League Carl looked like an average player. Heskey looked a superior player and yet most of us think he’s shit.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that most if not all pros have the talent to be top class. Whether they become top class or not depends on a wide variety of things. Health, injury, luck, attitude, dedication, confidence, self esteem, life at home, support network away from the game… etc etc etc.

In the late 90s who thought Carragher would have gone on to be behind only Ian Callaghan in appearances for Liverpool? Certainly not me. I thought he was very limited and would be a stop gap. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 21st, 2004: Liverpool's Jamie Carragher in action against Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premiership match at Molineux. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After the game at Hull about 6 weeks ago everyone had written off Raheem Sterling. According to some idiots the notion was that now he’d signed his lucrative contract his hunger had gone. Others questioned his attitude, said he needed to concentrate more on scoring goals than scoring with women. He was clearly ‘regressing’. Most of us thought he needed to be shipped out on loan. Now if we sent him on loan we’d question the club’s sanity.

Daniel Sturridge is another one. Poor attitude apparently, arrogant, thinks he is better than what he is. That’s what journalists said and no doubt it came from people in the game. Fans lapped this up. So did our manager and skipper. To a degree. You could tell from the tone of their interviews when he first signed.

Gerrard: “He has said he wants to play football for a big club,” “There’ll be no excuses. He’ll be with good players at a great club. He’s at an age now where he should be performing week in week out.”

BR: “We are bringing in a player who knows he has to perform if he wants to be at one of the biggest clubs in the world and this is probably his last chance.”

Last chance saloon for a 23 year old? I don’t get it.

He scored goals immediately but whenever he had a bad game it was due to laziness. Not fitness issues. Laziness. He apparently couldn’t be arsed. I remember someone on the Anfield Wrap saying he needs a slap! Some fans couldn’t help think “ok so thats why Chelsea got rid of him”.

When Chelsea first made a bid for Torres they offered £30m + Sturridge. We rejected the offer. They then offered £35m + Sturridge. Again we said no. I remember how the offer was ridiculed by most of us. Sturridge!? Fuck off! We ended up getting £50m and then spending £35m of it on Andy Carroll who now looks to be an inferior player to Sturridge by some distance.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 5, 2013: Liverpool's goalscorer Daniel Sturridge applauds the supporters after his side's 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’ve been getting quite annoyed these past few weeks with the over analysis, and excessive critique of Coutinho’s game as well as the outright disrespect towards Victor Moses.

Coutinho is a 21 year old lad playing in a foreign continent. He’s had 31 appearances for Liverpool, scored 5 goals, 8 assists and created 48 chances.

He scores a goal every 6.2 games and assists a goal every 3.9 games. Just to compare – Jack Wilshere is 22 and scores every 13.5 games and assists a goal every 7.6 games. Oscar is 22 and scores every 4.5 games with an assist every 6 games.

I looked up Gerrard and Lampard’s stats from when they were 21 years old. Gerrard at that stage of his career scored every 9.3 games and Lampard every 6.3 games. I couldn’t find assists stats going back that far.

So Coutinho’s stats compare well against the Premier League elite at his age. Stats aside Coutinho passes the eyeball test for me. He just looks a class player and is a threat. I can’t think of anyone in the Premier League his age who is better than him. Wilshere is 22 and has over 100 games for Arsenal under his belt. Aaron Ramsey is 23 with over 100 games for Arsenal. Oscar has already played 91 games for Chelsea aged 22.

I think the expectation on Coutinho from Liverpool fans is set way too high. Not even the media can be blamed for this one because I don’t’ see any criticism of Coutinho anywhere but on Liverpool fans forums. I don’t know if we’re expecting him to be (Brazilian) Ronaldo or Messi at this stage but it baffles me. I’m really not interested in his shot to goal ratio. The boy is a class player and when he’s able to play a high number of games without picking up niggly injuries I have no doubt he will be a top top player for us.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 1, 2014: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Hull City during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

At the moment Moses is being ridiculed big time by LFC fans. “Send him back to Chelsea” is one of the more polite suggestions being made by the majority. He is clearly struggling but he has shown in his career that he has talent to make an impact. Why you would want to write him and send him away half way through the season makes no sense to me. It’s not as if he is keeping a better player out of the side. If we were to sign a class winger which meant Moses wouldn’t get a chance then fair enough. But why weaken the squad by turfing out a player that has talent that could possibly make a difference in the latter half of the season?

I’ve read fans calling him lazy and disinterested. This is a player that at 16 made his pro debut at and has over 200 senior club appearances not to mention 17 caps for Nigeria. He just turned 23 years of age. I don’t’ see how you get to this level by being lazy. I think it’s a lazy thing to say, calling a professional football player lazy. (See what I did there?) Lacking in confidence, self belief a bit low, maybe feeling disillusioned? Most probably. I doubt Moses left Chelsea to come to Liverpool on loan to half arse it. He could have easily stayed at Chelsea and chill out in their reserves. His contract is lucrative and water tight. He didn’t have to go anywhere but did so to get more football. I respect that.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 5, 2013: Liverpool's Victor Moses in action against Crystal Palace during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Players lose form, especially young players and when they do it can often appear that they are lazy or lack energy, especially if they are flair players slight in frame. The likes of Moses and Sterling won’t be flying around the pitch launching into tackles and pumping their fist to the crowd. That’s not their game. I think very few players take the field with a don’t care attitude. People who don’t care don’t make it as top level professionals. Again I go back to the percentage of players who make it as a pro. It’s minute, I can’t see anyone without an excellent attitude and level of dedication making it as far as Moses has in his career. 200 club appearances, 17 international caps. Goals in the Premier League and Champions League. I think it’s too easy and slightly ironic for fans, a lot of whom are over weight (that’s me) and not at the pinnacle of their profession (also me) to sit on their arse and call a top level professional athlete lazy.

That’s not to say we as fans can’t criticise. Of course we can – it’s all a part of being a football fan. However I think a little more thought should go into it before calling out someone as shit or lazy. Maybe we should think a bit more about why a player’s form has gone or why a player looks poor yet the manager keeps picking him.

Glen Johnson’s form is a concern. My mate texted me the other day asking “Is Glen Johnson done?”. I don’t see how he can be ‘done’ so suddenly but he’s not been at a high level that’s for sure. The trouble is we do not have competition for his place. A 5 out of 10 Glen Johnson for me is better than our other right back options. I have heard and read that the club isn’t in a rush to renew Johnson’s contract and if they do renew it he’ll have to take a significant drop in pay. A new right back is high on the wish list.

I don’t think the contract issue has anything to do with Johnson’s performances but something isn’t quite right.

I don’t know if any of you have read the Anfield Wrap’s interview with former red Howard Gayle. There was a bit of the interview I found fascinating and it was about Ian Rush and his initial lack of confidence when he first signed for Liverpool.

‘The rigour of the banter was relentless and it hindered some of the lads’ progress,’ Gayle admits. ‘Maybe they took it to heart. Rush was one of them. People question why he didn’t score a goal for Liverpool in 12 to 18 months when he first signed, but a lot of it was down to confidence off the field. He let the banter get to him and nearly went down because of it.

‘He’d get slaughtered because of his clothes and his hair. I remember speaking to him one day and he was really down. Because he was from Flint in Wales, he’d never mucked about with a group of lads who had generally grown up in the inner city. Everybody thought they were style icons, wearing the best gear and being quick about the tongue.

‘I wore whatever I wanted and turned up at Melwood with flared bottoms. I come in one day and Evo said, “What the fuck are they?” I didn’t give a damn. I had an Afro comb that I used to keep in my hair on the drive into training and the lads would rib me about it. Souey would say, “Ere comes the satellite dish.” Again, I could take it because I could give it. Rushy, for a time, couldn’t.’

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 6, 1996: Liverpool's Ian Rush celebrates scoring the fifth goal against Rochdale during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. Rush set a new cup record by scoring his 42nd FA Cup goal, beating the record held by Dennis Law. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Maybe Aspas is being slaughtered in the dressing room for his tight kit? I jest.

I see in the comments section there is debate on what position we should strengthen this month. Well according to my sources we are looking at both full back areas, defensive midfield and winger/wide forward. I think the club are treating each position with equal importance and we’ll bring in who we are able to bring in. So we could think we need a DM badly, if the wide player the club wants is easier to get than the DM we’ll end up with a winger and no DM. I don’t think the club see that we are desperate in any one position where we simply HAVE to get a player for the position. The summer was different where we just had to get a centre back and so splurged £17m on Sakho. Not the case this window. There will be no last minute £20m bid on player X, well not in my opinion.

For what it’s worth I think our defence needs better protection but defensive midfield players who are better than what we currently have aren’t cheap or easy to attract. Neither are right backs better than Glen Johnson. In the left back area we are sorted as we have the new Lizarazu. We are alright, not elite in the wide forward area of the field but I won’t be gutted if we don’t’ strengthen there this month.

Aston Villa up next at Anfield. I am expecting a comfortable home victory. That might not turn out to be what happens but it’s what I expect which is a clear indication of the progress made this season. You all know I am a half empty kinda guy when assessing LFC so if I predict an easy home win, you know things are rosy. We should give Villa a damn good hiding.