Lack of leadership killing Liverpool
By Ned Doig.
“Blow me, ****face. Go to hell. I’m sick of you,” was the rather blunt message sent from now ex-Liverpool board member Tom Hicks jnr to a fan earlier this week, but given the absolute chaos that has embroiled the club, it could quite easily have been sent from the States to Melwood and back again at various points over the last 2 years.
But as the last realistic chance of domestic silverware disappeared over the horizon, the rather colourful missive may as well have been directed at the team and its manager for the very first time from the real powerbrokers at the club, the fans, given the reaction to the loss to first division strugglers Reading.
As shameful as the booing was that greeted the final whistle, behaviour that would usually be sneered at by the normally ultra-loyal Kopites, it illustrated the growing discontent at the sorry state of affairs following another listless, gutless, insipid, pedestrian display from the men in red.
Despite how it may have appeared to the casual observer, what happened at full time on Wednesday night was not a knee jerk reaction to a result in isolation. For much of the season, a growing tension has been bubbling under the surface. Against Reading, it finally spilled over from a group of fans whose relationship with a club is not just fractured, but extremely close to breaking point.
Poor performances, although frustrating, are a fact of life, but to give up without so much as a fight is unforgivable.
Injuries to key players obviously haven’t helped, but even when fit, none of Carragher, Torres, Gerrard or Mascherano have played anywhere near their potential or with any consistency. Only the goalkeeper, Reina, can take any real pride in his performances over the last 5 months.
Factor in the loss of the calming, intelligent influence of Alonso, then replacing him with a player who is still yet to get anywhere near match fit, not to mention the huge hole left by Sami Hyypia, and you have a recipe for disaster.
But what has been the most disturbing and damaging aspect of the season so far is the clear lack of leadership that is running through the club from top to bottom, and which threatens to tear the club apart.
We have a captain who has played at times this season like he has lost interest, and at others like a petulant teenager.
A manager who has spent so much of his time politicking and fighting fires with his higher uppers that he has seemingly taken his eye off the ball and as a result now has a squad absolutely shorn of confidence, tactically impotent, a shadow of the side that finished so close to the title last year.
A man who, when not spinning tales to the local paper, contradicting himself on transfer budgets or jumping in front of television cameras, spends his time in the inner sanctum of the dressing room or shadowing his manager at press conferences carefully observing his every move.
You have to wonder how he manages to dedicate any time to actually running the club. One can only presume he works every hour God sends, Blackberry permanently charged.
Then you have the two at the very top of the tree, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who get on so well that they can just about stomach each other’s company long enough for the paparazzi to get their quota in.
Not to mention the debt, false promises, stadium within 60 days, fake sheikhs, interest rates and Jurgen Klinsmann.
Between them they’ve managed to engender an acute culture of paranoia right throughout the club, is it any wonder most of the time is spent pointing the finger, shifting the blame and making excuses?
There is a decent team hiding somewhere within the confines of Melwood, as has been proven over the course of last season, and the odd occasion this time around, and in Benitez a world class manager.
Albeit one who’s got a bit of a God complex, who is easily distracted when the mood takes him and has a penchant for holding a grudge.
He is also certainly a winner and has stuck around when maybe it would have been easier to walk away on occasion and deserves more patience to turn it around than he is currently getting from some quarters, especially given the volatile conditions he and his squad are expected to function in.
Regardless of Rafa’s position, great players and managers have come and gone, and of Shankly’s Holy Trinity, there is only one constant, the supporters, with whom there is a bond shared like no other club in the land. For them to be turning on each other, as has been happening, has much more to do with the instability off the pitch as it does matters on it.
Of course, with a club the size of Liverpool, they could lose the supporters and replace them with customers.
Maybe that is the strategy.
But if they continue to run Liverpool FC into the ground in the in which they are doing, further alienating the supporters of the most successful club in the land, they may as well do what they are so fond of in the US and move their franchise to the Lake District, because the club and everything it stands for would be dead.
And at a time when there are a few signs that the Premier League, as a product, maybe reaching saturation point, those that run the club might want to think a little more carefully about how they go about their business before they lose the one constant of the Holy Trinity that the club was built upon.
You’ll Never Walk Alone?
Don’t make me laugh.