Not the greatest of barometers when it comes to assessing the public’s mood, I freely admit, but Twitter was massively entertaining after Liverpool’s 4-0 defeat, at Manchester City.
In one corner, you had blissed-out Reds trying to outdo one another in terms of being “not arsed” about it all, while in the other there was bristling anti-Liverpool ‘sorts’ who were busy trying to feel better about their abject horror, that Jurgen Klopp’s boys really are the Premier League champions.
It was all a bit, well, Punch and Judy.
If anything, the three-month delay in the inevitable being confirmed has possibly made non-Liverpool heads fall off even more spectacularly than had the title been clinched back in March or April, as seemed likely at one point.
Had that happened, then they now would have had the distraction of the European Championship finals, plus a general summer of sport to soothe the troubled soul.
It isn’t the reaction that is most telling, it is the overreaction. For those who desperately didn’t want Liverpool’s now obliterated 30-year title drought to end, all that is left is a genuine sense of grief.
The Five Stages of Grief
There are five acknowledged stages of grief.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
This is by no means applicable to all non-Reds, as many have been hugely congratulatory, or even simply honest enough in their appraisal of what is one of the greatest teams of all time.
Some, however, are much more militant, many of whom are open about their feelings, yet there is another branch, who project an outer image that they are ‘sound’, only for their inner core to be boiling, to the point that the exterior eventually cracks.
When it comes to the latter example of the non-Liverpool supporter, those who put their hands up and can admit to a fine achievement when they see one, they get to skip the first four stages of footballing grief and head straight to acceptance. Whisper it, but some don’t indulge in footballing grief at all and are borderline pleased for us.
For those who can’t do that though, they wallow in denial until all title losing mathematical permutations have been exhausted.
Then anger kicks in and they never really get past that, mixing it with bargaining over just how good their new Premier League overlords are in the wider scheme of things, which just provokes an unnecessary depression.
For these members of the community, acceptance only comes a generation later, when they are either drummed into submission by a procession of success from the rival in question, or by the resurgence of their own team.
I know this, because I have seen it from both sides of the divide.
In the 1980s, this phenomenon was exactly how it is today. If you weren’t around back then and have only previously experienced Liverpool in their Premier League visage, then the way you felt about Manchester United’s now-defunct 1993-2013 domination is how their supporters felt about us back then, which in turn, is a sentiment that has been reawakened now.
There is a transparency to this type of behaviour, that brings with it a ‘selective outrage’.
Those Liverpool fans who took to the streets to celebrate winning the title were filled with joy, but lacked common sense. Some celebrations went too far. I can understand it happening, as football provokes massive spikes in emotion, yet it was regrettable.
Celebrating in a pandemic doesn’t have a blueprint to follow, yet in a country where the beaches are packed on hot days, prominent members of the government make up their own rules as they go along and people queue up to make unnecessary retail purchases at Primark, if you choose to admonish Liverpool fans for their behaviour and implore apologists to ‘own it’, then be consistent and call out all examples of idiocy, rather than one strand that suits your bad mood.
Some of the people I have seen partake in this type of huddled wringing of hands and rubbing of rosary beads have been people I quite respect, that harbour Everton and Manchester United leanings.
Lovers of Serie A, who were noticeably silent when footage was widely splashed across social media of Napoli supporters in massed celebration of their Coppa Italia final victory over Juventus.
It isn’t the reaction that betrays their pain, but the overreaction. Maybe they need to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror, before moving on, because this type of feeling might be here to stay for a while.
Now that Liverpool have broken through to a new dimension, pattern analysis dictates that more successes are likely to follow.
For the likes of Liverpool, success tends to come in clusters, or as dynasties. Liverpool and Manchester United are the only clubs in English football to have built true and lasting dynasties before.
When Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal broke through in 97/98, it was the first of three titles in a relatively short period. When Chelsea ended their own 50-year title drought, in 2004/05, it was the first of three in six seasons. When Manchester City ended their 44-year wait, it sparked a run of four in nine seasons.
In fact, still without a Champions League to call their own, there is a valid argument to suggest that the team from Eastlands have majorly underachieved, given their financial advantages, since the arrival of an Abu Dhabi chequebook, 12 years ago.
In response, at Anfield, Liverpool’s players have a taste for these highs now and will not be satisfied until the next one is obtained. Winning the biggest prizes becomes a drug. More league titles will come, in the seasons ahead.
Roundly beaten on Thursday night, having been very much in the game for the first half hour, Liverpool had their worst hour of their season from the gifting of a penalty for 1-0.
It was a surreal evening.
The guard of honour was an entertaining novelty, but one I generally disapprove of. It’s up there in terms of modern football ugliness for me, alongside pre-kick-off handshakes, squad numbers, names on the back of shirts and drop-balls being politely observed, rather than contested.
Raheem Sterling was momentarily ecstatic at his goal-procuring contributions, before remembering that the title race has long since been completed somewhere over the East Lancs Road horizon.
The damage was done at a capacity Anfield, back in November.
Restricted to watching it via a free NOW TV pass, Martin Tyler was in an eccentric frame of mind, at one point rambling on about some imaginary two-horse race.
By the same rule of thumb, I suppose this must mean that Manchester United are sat on the periphery of the relegation battle.
We should never take defeat lightly and it was reassuring that Klopp was seething about it. I’m sure that he’ll take more long-term benefits from this one than Pep Guardiola will.
It will be interesting to see what Sunday’s reaction will be, against Aston Villa.