Liverpudlian pens his thoughts on the Reds’ turnaround in fortunes and looks to the future that this side can continue it’s development.
Ok so it’s not as spectacular as the fireworks we saw in the second half of last season, but at least this time round, the display might last a bit longer than just into one summer. Hindsight shows a dental malfunction by a genius and a series of muscle injuries to his partner in crime robbed us of any real chance of going into 2014/15 with any aspirations of being Premier League champions.
The subsequent void created was manfully filled, almost single handed, by young Raheem, but with the Sturridge’s injury problems (hopefully) now a thing of the past, at long last we can look forward with some semblance of optimism.
It has been a chastening experience for us all. We were beginning to think that run of wins and the cavalier attacking style was just in our dreams and we would never see the like again. The pundits were happily airbrushing it from discussion and mid table gloom and doom was widely forecasted. The world and his wife had their say and picked the bones from the carcass like vultures.
From the demise of our goalkeeper, to the imminent departure of our captain, to the quality of our transfer policy, we were fair game. My articles requested some measure of calmness in the face of overwhelming adversity but what we were witnessing on the pitch was difficult to defend (just like our back four) until Brendan decided on a back three at a point when it had all reached rock bottom.
I had made the point that I felt things would improve with the return of our striker, along with the time when a host of expensive imports came to terms with the meaning of wearing the famous red shirts they had been given. In the main, that is the case and it is all starting to come together now.
Our manager had both the balls and the expertise to change the formation to suit the players at his disposal and the nice little run we are on now, is a testament to his acumen. The new found ability to grind out results and shock, horror, even keep some clean sheets has left our critics in the media floundering and the phone in experts muttering to themselves as their powder dries.
Along with Raheem, only Philippe Coutinho, and to a lesser extent Jordan Henderson came out of the back end (and I use the phrase wisely) of 2014 with any credit. Even Stevie was struggling to have any impact on proceedings and the painfully public humiliation of Simon Mignolet was hard to take.
The subsequent injury to Brad Jones amazingly brought about a phoenix like rise in form from the Belgian – unparalleled in my experience of watching football, as he is now a man transformed from the nervous wreck we saw then. A career changing renaissance then and roughly in line with that of the rest of a squad where everyone is stepping up to the plate and names that had been rendered useless are now the subject of reflective second thoughts and reassessments.
Having seen more than our fair share of false dawns in the last twenty five years, there is no way I am going to start waxing lyrical about our prospects going forward but the raft of young players in our squad who are raising their game, certainly gives us a genuine reason for optimism.
It is difficult to remember a time when we had so many players who are confident on the ball and can readily beat not just their man, but others too. Obviously this was the blue print in our transfer policy and it is paying dividends as the core of this team can now potentially improve and thrive for the next ten years with the average of the squad plummeting all the time.
In my view, along with another goalkeeper to offer real competition to a rejuvenated Mignolet, a top top class dynamic commanding presence in the centre of the park is all that is required now that Gerrard will not be here next year. Fabio Borini looks surplus to requirements but the addition of Divock Origi supplementing Sturridge and Balotelli, with Lambert as fourth striker may be enough to take us to the next level – form and injury permitting.
A Champions League berth remains the priority but a piece of silverware would keep the critics at bay. We seemed to have turned a very long corner and things are looking good. The champagne went flat at the end of season 2014 and the hangover was a sobering ordeal. We had to take a step back to move on but it may be that we can drink to success, after all, at the end of the season.
Optimistic times (yet again?) to be a red.