Second game of the season.
Knee-jerk reactions and all that.
Days like these tend to be filed under the title of ‘banging your head against a brick wall’. How long do we keep doing that for though?
My relationship with Liverpool FC has changed throughout the years. When I was younger, when I was in my teens, I looked up to them, I idolised them. They were perfect, they were immortal. They might have had an off day here and there, two or three times a year maybe, but by and large they never let you down.
As I advanced into my twenties Liverpool became mortal, they became vulnerable. It was like watching your once youthful and exuberant parents suddenly age and slow down. Painful to see and it made you question everything you ever knew. It made you worry about them in a way you never had before. The sands shifted and all the old certainties eroded.
Once my thirties tipped up Liverpool continued to alter in a paternal manner. You accepted they’d never repeat the effortless days of old, yet they were still more than capable of new but different glory days. You learned and garnered a new appreciation of them.
Rafa Benitez brought that Indian Summer effect on for me. Istanbul 2005, Cardiff 2006, Athens, or at least the run to Athens in 2007, and then that near miss on the title in 2009.
Liverpool were capable of greatness once again, but they’d have to stop and catch their breath sometimes. Those new glory days took a little longer to stretch out of the bones. Those new glory days came with aches and pains. You embraced those days when the club managed to roll back the years, but they came in clusters. Little conurbations of good times, neighboured by increasingly greying down time.
Now I’ve broken through the 40-something barrier and the game has changed. Now I’m the parent and Liverpool FC are the precocious childlike entity.
It doesn’t feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall on days like these any more.
Breathing in deeply through the nose, counting to 10 and then blowing the air out through your mouth. A rueful smile as a final flourish.
You see signs of rose-tinted greatness to come, but then in the blink of an eye you are faced with a moment where all the laws of common-sense are suspended. One minute you’re smiling proudly, the next you roll your eyes in disbelief.
On days like this the Liverpool FC which takes to, and labours exaggeratedly out on the pitch, doesn’t look to me like it has the oomph required to be able to bang its head against a brick wall. Yes, they might be able to lean against a wall with their head resting gently upon it, blinking, breathing shallowly, moody, reflective, like the cover for a new Chris de Burgh album perhaps, but they don’t have the winners’ violence of intent to be able to admonish itself for losing at Burnley.
Underneath the surface Liverpool FC have been like this for a generation now.
Losing at Burnley was all ‘too’ Liverpool.
Winning at Arsenal, then losing at a newly promoted side six days later used to be the preserve of clubs like Manchester United.
It’s hard to shake your initial vibe for a football club.
Your viewpoint of Manchester United will very much depend upon how old you are. Same rule when it comes to any other football club for that matter.
For me, Burnley will forever be that football club who narrowly survived dropping out of the Football League in 1987.
For me, Manchester United will always be that late 1970s to late 1980s version of themselves. No matter what they’ve done since then, the very essence of them feels the same now as it did in 1981.
If you only remember Manchester United as a Premier League juggernaut, then they’ll feel to you like the Liverpool of the 1970s and 80s did to them.
It’s hardly an earth shattering exposure I know, but Liverpool FC, on days like this, continue the process of the Manchester Unitedisation of themselves.
We are blessed with an opportunity this season. We are blessed with the opportunity of a clear run in the Premier League.
I’d love more European nights at Anfield like the ones we enjoyed last season, but they aren’t on the menu.
We play Burton Albion on Tuesday night in the League Cup and in January the FA Cup will commence. Both of those tournaments should be embraced, but they should also be side-lined. The domestic cups should be seen in a transparent manner. Liverpool FC have always preached the mantra of ‘one game at a time’ but those games should be league games only this time around. 38 highly motivated and highly personal missions.
We didn’t look like we were taking it personally at Turf Moor. We didn’t look motivated enough. We hustled, we moved the ball around, but I didn’t see the anger, I didn’t see the violent intent. Not violence against opponents, but violence against football as a sport.
Winning a league title is akin to wrestling a lion.
Winning a league title is akin to Barbara Woodhouse asserting total control of a dangerous dog.
Liverpool FC have rarely looked like controlling a dangerous dog or wrestling a lion during the last quarter of a century. We always look like we’re trying to reason with dangerous dogs and lions. It’s why we end up getting bitten like this.
It used to be the Manchester United way, but it is now very much the real Liverpool way.
We’ll never take those extra steps to a league title without finding that missing ingredient of violent intent. Jürgen Klopp certainly has that violent intent, but he’s still struggling to transmit it to his players, to his football club. It’s needs to be embedded within our DNA. It used to be there.
Liverpool FC; the eternal work in progress.