The Reds have been so poor in recent years that rival fans barely wasted their breath on them, but this superb season has seen the vitriol and animosity return. It’s one big compliment, it means we’re relevant again, writes Henry Jackson.
Football fans hate other teams doing well. Especially rival teams. As Reds we haven’t enjoyed Manchester United’s success over the years, while we want Everton and Arsenal‘s trophy droughts to go on forever.
Liverpool were hated throughout the country in the 1970s and 1980s because of the way we dominated the English game and triumphed over everyone who stood before us.
Under Gerard Houllier in the early 2000s, in which the Reds won three cups in one season, the hostility that came Liverpool’s way was quite spectacular at times. It was all jealousy more than anything.
The likes of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton loathed Liverpool because of the success and respect they had from many across the continent. The fact a number of the aforementioned English sides were often knocked out of the Champions League by Benitez’s men certainly didn’t help their moods.
In the three years between the Spaniard leaving and the start of the current campaign, Liverpool had dipped so much in terms of success and relevance that many rival supporters almost seemed to stop bothering with their disdain for the club.
Seventh and eighth place finishes in the league, coupled with relatively poor cup runs, saw the Reds struggling under Roy Hodgson in particular, Kenny Dalglish and, for much of his first season in charge, Brendan Rodgers.
Because of this, it almost felt as if Liverpool were irrelevant to those at the top of the table. It’s not necessarily a nice thing to accept, but it’s true. There wasn’t the same hatred coming our way, barring the never-ending bitterness from United fans, and it was an indictment of where the club was at.
Liverpool Are Back
This season, however, things have changed. The resentment is back, and that can only mean one thing: Liverpool are too.
Such has been the success of the side under Rodgers this season- they are top with two games to go, having been sixth favourites to win the Premier League at the start of the campaign- that the jealousy has returned. We have one of Europe’s best young managers, are playing the most exciting football Anfield has seen in decades and it appears that some are finding it hard to take.
The incredible 11-game winning streak the Reds produced has clearly been unbearable for some, and the reaction and joy when they finally lost a game, to Chelsea on Sunday, proved just how relevant Liverpool have become again.
The fact that Luis Suarez has won the PFA Player of the Year award, with Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge also nominated, also seems to have irked many, while the fact that the latter duo, along with Glen Johnson, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling, may all start for England at this summer’s World Cup also seems to be an issue with some.
That in itself proves just how good Liverpool have been in the last year.
Just using myself as an example, the amount of stick I received on Sunday, and have done all season since the Reds saw off Stoke on the opening day, has been far more than any abuse, albeit fairly light-hearted, since 2009/10. Friends almost took pity on me at times between 2010 and 2013.
The amount rival fans interact with one another is always a good gauge of how well your team is doing, and how much of a threat your team is in their eyes. Judging by the amount of hate coming Liverpool’s way this season, I’d say we are one hell of a threat again.