Reading through various reports of the past few days to find quotes from those involved in the battle for control of Liverpool Football Club has been quite saddening to say the least. Everybody is accused of something they shouldn’t have done, everyone stands by the public version of what they’ve done, and everybody comes out of it low on credit.
Speculation over what could happen next or what couldn’t possibly happen next is mixed with demands over what should happen next or what shouldn’t possibly happen next.
“Going to the papers to discuss these problems is so un-Liverpool-like,” says one name or other, to the papers, discussing these problems.
It’s incredibly depressing.
Jamie Carragher has the right attitude. Liverpool are playing Blackburn today, in that thing we call football, on that thing we call a pitch, inside that place we call Anfield. Remember that? Carragher says the players just try and keep out of it. Maybe we all should. Leave the children to fight, we’ll come and pick up the pieces later.
Carra said: “There’s nothing we can do about what happens off the pitch.” How true that is. Many of those involved desperately want us to think the players have taken sides, fallen into their camp over the others, but players are keeping tight-lipped. In Carra’s case certainly you couldn’t imagine him demanding a transfer based on a change of ownership, but some of the other players might. That might be because they don’t like the new owner. It might be because the owner’s decision with regards the manager didn’t fit in with their hopes.
But if Carra would find it difficult to change clubs, Liverpool fans would consider it impossible. If they don’t like the outcome, they face a decision on whether it’s time to take a break from watching football.
Today’s game against Blackburn is as vital as any other league game in this final furlong. Liverpool need to finish above Everton to qualify for the Champions League. It’s in their own hands – a win today would increase the gap to five points. Liverpool need ten points from their last five games to guarantee finishing fourth, assuming their 10-goal-better goal difference isn’t eaten away, and so can only afford one defeat and one draw in this finale to a season memorable mainly for the wrong reasons.
Part of the reason the season needs to be forgotten is because of a spell starting in December that saw a dreadful run of form. Carra denied at the time that the run could be blamed on the off-field turbulence, but it certainly seemed to be. Eventually the manager started to settle on his 4-2-3-1 system with less in the way of changes and the wins came thick and fast. Nobody was linking what happened off the field to what happened on it: “When we were in a bad run, everyone was talking about the off-the-field stuff but when you are winning, everyone starts to talk about the football again.”
So Carra got the talk back to football, and that magnificent win over Arsenal: “That has to be right up there with the other great Anfield nights for drama. I am sure everyone in Europe was talking about the game for days. It was an end-to-end affair and it will be remembered for a long time.”
Arsenal’s boss Arsene Wenger was described by many as a poor loser after Liverpool came out happiest in each of the three consecutive matches. And when Liverpool fans think of poor loser on face often springs to mind. But Jose Mourinho won’t be there for the third Champions League semi-final in for seasons between the Reds and Chelsea. Two league games to play first, then it’s war. An on-field one thankfully. Carra said: “They will be desperate to turn us over but we hope to keep the run going. This might be different because in the Champions League semis, we have always played them at home in the second leg. They are in top form at the moment, so it is bound to be close again.”
Liverpool’s win over Inter Milan this season was done that way round, and as the 1-1 scoreline going into Tuesday night’s game against Arsenal, home advantage for the second leg doesn’t guarantee easy progression or a nerve-free night.
There’s often criticism from opposition fans at how quiet Anfield is for league games compared to European nights, Carra hints at their being more adrenaline for the big matches: “It is harder to do it over 38 games and the Anfield crowd probably create as big an atmosphere as anywhere in Europe on Champions League nights. You can’t expect that kind of atmosphere for all 19 league games.”
It’s not an excuse for the quieter fixtures at Anfield, but so much of the Liverpool fans’ passion and emotion has gone into dealing with the ownership mess that it’s a wonder there’s anything left.
Nobody comes out of recent events able to say hand-on-heart that they acted for club above everything else. Quite how wide the gap was between their true motives and the sake of the club is open to speculation.