With the new season on the horizon, Jeff Goulding looks for signs of how the forthcoming season may play out for Liverpool FC.
Pre-season usually arrives like a junkie’s fix for me. After the cold turkey of late May and June those friendlies are a clear sign that, once again, life has meaning. Football is back.
Of course this summer we lost a talisman, so the issue of whether we could crush teams without him was at the forefront of my mind also. Earlier games had offered little comfort and the United game in Miami, regardless of the ‘it’s only preseason’ mantra I subscribe to, left me feeling a bit strung out.
Last Sunday though I saw some of the signs I was looking for. Liverpool demolished a, admittedly under-strength, Borussia Dortmund side at Anfield. It was our last pre-season game before the real battle commences and at times the football was sumptuous.
In fact, it was so pleasing on the eye that it prompted one fan to tell the excellent ‘Redmen TV’ that “we are going to win the treble.” Unsurprisingly, he got a bit of an online kicking for this.
Football forums and social media are just virtual school playgrounds at times. They are full of point scoring and hilarious banter, mixed with a sprinkling of humiliation and abuse. Step out of line once, or appear different in any way, and you’re done. On Sunday, this lad was a bit like that kid who turned up for P.E. in September wearing Adidas four-stripe. It did not go well.
A lot of the stick that came his way was entirely predictable. He had given the enemy an opportunity to trot out the old “this time it’s going to be their year” line. So what! I expect no less from rival fans. These are, after all, the same fans who routinely fall back on outdated stereotypes cooked up in the eighties, in order to mock us. They say we live in the past. I couldn’t care less what opposing fans say about us. In fact their abuse only makes our success that bit sweeter when it arrives.
To be honest, I was more disappointed in the reaction to his comments from some of our own. As far as I could tell, people were worried that he had handed ammunition to United, Chelsea, or Arsenal fans. Do people seriously believe that, had he presented a sober assessment of our chances of success, based on a detailed analysis of the relative strength of premier league squads, our enemies would have left us alone? Of course not.
In the playground your rivals will always find some weakness to exploit. It’s just a question of when and how often. You’re far better just being yourself and letting the chips or the quips fall where they may.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want the manager or the captain to come out with such bold claims on the eve of the premier league campaign. That would place a huge amount of pressure on them and the rest of the team. As Brendan said last year, it’s great for the fans to dream, but we’ll stay humble.
It is different for the supporters. We have a crucial job to perform and that is to make every player in a red shirt feel ten feet tall. When they know we believe in them they don’t hurry their passes or rush their shots. In short, they perform better. You could say it’s our sacred duty to be optimistic. To support and believe, as a famous banner proclaims.
Winning the treble this season may be unlikely, a pipe dream or even delusional, but no matter how improbable, it’s not impossible. This time last year I went into the season firmly believing in the doctrine that you can’t go from 7th to 1st in one season. Well, alright that’s a bad example because we didn’t, but we came damn close. At half time in Istanbul you’d have been placed in a padded room if you dared suggest the miracle that actually happened that night.
For me, this is the one time in a season where I believe blind optimism is essential. I couldn’t bear going into a new campaign without feeling that this is finally going to be our year. I always have. I don’t shout it from the rooftops or post it online (until now), but sod it; my name is Jeff Goulding and I am an optimist. I am a Liverpool fan, brought up on a steady diet of success and trophies. I refuse to surrender to pessimism.
In fact, I have often managed my expectancy in the face of far more inferior squads than the one we have now. Yes, I have had that dewy-eyed idealism beaten out of me on more than one occasion. I remember it disappearing around November quite a few times. You know what, I survived and life went on.
Anyway, this year is different, honest. Look what we achieved last time out with a much smaller group. We have strengthened. The players have new belief. The likes of Sterling, Coutinho, Henderson and Ibe will all grow this season. I’m genuinely excited. You may say I’m a dreamer, but that lad on ‘Redmen TV’ proves that I’m not the only one.
Sit on the Kop on a European night and you’ll see that banner exhorting you to ‘Support And Believe.” Last year there was one that said ‘Make Us Dream’. Brendan, Stevie and the lads have done their bit and, well, now I’m dreaming.
If you’re not, then why not? You may not like it when fans get carried away after a great victory, but, when all is said and done, they get their education from the Kop.