A Town Closed Down for Winter

Summers used to be painful.

In a bygone era, when football stopped in mid-to-late May, there would often be a dull and thudding void, a void that could only begin to be shifted by the emergence of the fixture lists in late June. Life would then lighten a little bit more when the pre-season friendlies kicked in. It wasn’t really football, but it was a step in the right direction. Then, in early August, we’d win the Charity Shield and all was well once again with the world.

It’s a decade since we last contested the Charity Shield.

It used to feel odd if we weren’t contesting the Charity Shield. It still feels odd to hear it being called the Community Shield. I’ll never yield to calling it the Community Shield. I’m too temporal.

I lost a few years’ worth of my memory due to a blunt force trauma to my head in 1994. Part of me always thinks it’s still 1992. There are some long term difficulties I’ve had to put up with due to this. For a start, my short term memory is pretty abysmal really. I remember very little of life between the autumn of 1992 and the summer of 1996. On the upside, I’ve totally lost the concept of Julian Dicks being a Liverpool player. Swings and roundabouts eh?

Maybe it was the brain damage talking, or maybe it was the deteriorating condition of the football club I love, but summer eventually stopped being my enemy. I began to embrace its arrival like a long lost friend.

That’s not meant to sound anti-football, or anti-Liverpool FC. I love and appreciate both of those entities, but I breath a huge sigh of relief when the last ball has been kicked in anger in a football season. I do the same however when the first ball is kicked in anger in a football season.

I’ve paid very little notice of what we’ve been doing this summer. I know we’ve beaten AC Milan and Barcelona, and I know that we’ve been beaten by Chelsea and AS Roma. I know there were varying degrees of ABH during the Chelsea game. I know we beat Barcelona 4-0 and lost to Mainz 0-4 within the space of 24 hours. I know we’ve signed a few players, and I know we’ve moved a few on.

I haven’t watched one live action minute of the pre-season games though. I’ve lifted my head from my metaphorical hammock to nod in agreement or conversely roll my eyes occasionally, but this summer has all been about regeneration. It has all been about resting up and recharging the batteries for the nine months ahead.

Now, I’m ready for it. As soon as the last pre-season game was dealt with and our next game became a league game, a game where points will be awarded, actual points, very real league points, then my entire body and mind lurched on to a war footing. Now, it can’t come quickly enough. Now, I’m all of a sudden, getting a little impatient for it to start.

Over the course of the last three months I might have had all the footballing interest of a town closed down for winter, but the shutters are shuddering their way open now.

We live in a world where Leicester City are the reigning champions of England. Leicester. City.

There is a thread of thought which says if Leicester City can do it, then anyone can do it. I’m not so certain myself.

Leicester City found the perfect storm. They created something incredible, something which kept on rolling onwards, something which took them all the way to the Premier League title. We all expected someone to step in and restore the natural order of things, but no one did. Once Tottenham Hotspur became the last team who could deny Leicester City the title, it became startlingly apparent that the impossible was actually going to become possible.

A perfect storm will not be a yearly event.

The disarray at Chelsea and Manchester United from last season will not be revisited this time around. I mean, it might, but you can’t bet on it. Arsenal seem to be growing in strength and Manchester City have employed Pep Guardiola. It has all the hallmarks of being a more familiar closed shop this season.

These are more volatile times however. Crystal Palace are throwing out transfer shapes to the tune of £30m plus bids for really average footballers. Quite possibly our really average footballers. Manchester United are buying players back for astronomical fees that they gave away just three years ago.

I’m really looking forward to us buying back Joao Teixeira in 2019 for around £100m, and then trying to extol the virtues of a job well done.

Football, at the elevated Premier League level at least, seems to be littered with lottery winners.

All clubs have become bloated versions of themselves. I can picture 20 multi-coloured hot air balloons drifting into the sky.

Liverpool FC have in essence become that much loved family member who has unfortunately turned into a bit of a knob-head on the sly. Vegas style Elvis, at the all you can eat buffet. When they ‘invited’ me to Wembley for the Barcelona friendly, I felt no pangs of regret in clicking delete at the bottom of the email.

I wasn’t ‘invited’ to Basel.

Not many of us were.

We are still Liverpool though. We keep coming back for more. Yet, for quite some time now my sight-line of the club has been from a position of one step back and with a slight diagonal trajectory. Abraham Zapruda and the ‘second shooter’ rolled into one. I watch events unfold from the grassy knoll.

I’ve made the ‘this is my last season’ threat many, many times over. I never quite believe myself when I do it, but maybe one year I finally will.

I could throttle Liverpool Football Club sometimes, but at other times I could kiss it. It is the nature of this particular beast. It will be a pendulum which will once again swing one way and then the other during 2016-17.

What happens on the pitch is often incidental? I walked on 77 against Sunderland. I now have a better seat for a cheaper price. We have every right to fight among ourselves at times. Collectively however, we can move mountains. We can mow down governments and upset the footballing authorities. Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits. Raised on a diet of broken biscuits.

Some people are anti-FSG. I’m not anti-FSG, but I watch them through a gimlet eyed stare. They arrived with a number of Boston based warnings, and everything they’ve so far done ties in with what many Boston Red Sox fans said at the time of acquisition. They aren’t perfect, but they listened, or at least pretended to listen. We are in better condition structurally now than we were in late 2010. I still think they’re ‘upcycling’ us for a big sell off before too long though. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were gone a year from now. DIC were meant to have a 7-year exit strategy when they came close to purchasing the club, so why not the same with FSG?

Again, it’s all incidentals. Liverpool FC will still be here long after FSG have gone, long after we’re all gone. The more some things change, the more other things remain the same. We are strong and we are divisive, we are united and we are divided. We are over a quarter of a century beyond our last league title, but we’ve won bigger prizes in other arenas during that time.

We are a crimson blizzard and we are capable of being as big an enemy to ourselves as we are to our rivals. Which Liverpool we get this time around is anyone’s guess. At some point though, we are going to get it very, very right. The perfect storm will blow. I’m just not sure when.

It’s time to lock and load.

Steven Scragg

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