As the roar of the crowd dulls, the tedious moan of the fans rises to an incessant drone that somewhat echoes the past. Things have changed at Anfield in the last thirty years so drastically that it has become chilling. These things are by no means for the better.
Celebratory confetti, fireworks, league titles and European cups were almost a norm in the ages that spanned the pre-Premier League years, but now that has faintly diminishing into a chasm of uncertainty as Liverpool spiral into a wilderness of ambiguity. Fans were getting used to winning and the mentality that came with it. Liverpool were a force to be reckoned with, both overseas and within their own sovereignty. They repelled criticism and soared to the heights of everything they endeavored. Managers would be exude supremacy and project stardom.
Anfield was a place to be feared, a cauldron of bubbling enthusiasm ready to spit out its next victim. It was a production line with the Shankly Gates being the intimidating portal to inevitable death by football. Teams would enter anxiously and unwillingly, knowing that they would be butchered and beaten to within an inch of their lives. The Roman Colosseum atmosphere that greeted them would roar at opposition sides relentlessly, destroying all hopes they had of returning home with a result. In particular, The Kop would annihilate the esteem of rivals; with egos broken, confidence blown and buoyancy sunk. Chants would be bellowed and approval would be screamed. Once defeated, the beaten challenger would then be expected to parade away in an orderly fashion, truly deflated and with jeers still ringing in their ears.
Most importantly, players played for the red jersey. To wear the Liverbird upon your chest was always a thing of pride and collectiveness. To play with it on, in the grandest of stages, was a privilege and something that wasn’t given to any Tom, Dick or Harry. You earned the shirt. You represented the club by giving your all in every minute you played.
That is how it used to be.
I feel most of this, if not all of it, has faded into a covering haze. It’s certainly still in people’s minds, but no longer is it a reality. No longer is European prosperity expected, instead it’s willed for. No longer are league titles customary but are now substances of dreams. Fortress Anfield has been breached more often than not in recent years and managers have come and gone with little more than a whisper. No longer is there an optimistic outlook on arrival at the Shankly Gates vibrating around the home fans, instead they watch teams roll up ready to win, fear no longer in their approaching eyes.
Opposition teams aren’t the only predators with blood in their eyes when it comes to criticising Liverpool. The media seem to be on something of a witch-hunt. Or, again, that’s the fans perspective. Perhaps Liverpool don’t help themselves. Suarez-gate (the racism one – it’s bad I have to even establish which ‘gate’ I’m talking about) was fuelled no more so than Liverpool’s poor media handling. The t-shirts were never going to be popular, nor were they going to help. General media attention has been that of a negative persuasion and seldom positive. Quotes being misconstrued and photos expressing misunderstandings being published are being issued too much for it to a coincidence or just misfortune. Perhaps the club brings it upon itself, but that’s just a statement that will face a perplexing roundabout and continue to coil until the tension is broken. The fan cries against a ‘media agenda’ are that of naivety and stupidity.
Even the greats have become laughing stocks. Hansen and Lawrenson make fools of themselves on a weekly basis with odious shirt choices and basic, undeveloped insight on Match Of The Day. They are no longer icons but clowns in a misguided BBC circus act. Jamie Redknapp isn’t helping himself either. Beside Gary Neville on Sky Sport’s coverage of the football, the well-dressed Redknapp looks lost in an unknown world of analysis where he was before excused to just point out the bleedin’ obvious. In fact, Gary Neville has shone a light on all pundits. No longer are there justifications for shoddy insight and tasteless analysis – he is a pioneer. This harms the righteous Anfield legacy. Liverpool players and fans are living in the past. We are pulling out ex-players in the media to represent the club in how it used to be. They stick by their old traditions. They don’t move with the times and perhaps this best epitomizes Liverpool Football Club at the moment. The only remnant of hope that lies on the sofa of punditry is Dietmar Hamann who consistently talks sense on shows like Football Focus, but has yet to be given a full go on Match of the Day. Saying that, though, Goals on Sunday the other week presented Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister in a very positive light with them freely expressing opinion and giving them time to reflect. But my analysis on TV highlight shows is a completely different article, altogether…
Perhaps recent transfer dealings (not mentioning specifics) have also brushed negativity toward the Anfield club. The public nature of these deals and their eventual failings has again tarnished the successful legacy that comes with the Liverpool brand. A flushing dark cloud has swept over individual players that have been subject to multi-million pound deals they weren’t deserved of. This dark cloud, evidently, can spread quickly across a whole squad. Comolli certainly came, saw and conquered the media interest that surrounds Liverpool in an adverse way. I’m sure there will be connotations of his that Liverpool won’t be able to shake for a few years yet.
Lacklustre and generally tired performances have also tarnished the legacy over contemporary years. The disinterested nature of the certain players that have branded themselves ‘Liverpool players’ is, unquestionably, wrong. If you pull on that red jersey you are expected to give everything for every fan in the stadium tat has paid £40+ of their hard-earned money to come and watch you. Players have adopted jogging instead of sprinting for every ball. Commitment is clearly questionable and so is the dwindling hope of consistent European football, let alone Champions League.
Everything seems in the past. Fans are stuck in the past and need to live in the present and wipe clean their rose-tinted spectacles to view the all too frightening future. Things aren’t the same as they used to be. We’re not backed by a sugar daddy but we do have one of the largest fan bases in the world. If you are someone who is slating Rodgers for his role in Liverpool’s fall from the top, take a look at yourself. He, if anything, has plateaued the ever-present drop from the principal of the game. However, that’s not to disregard his role. He is responsible of changing everything for the club; to revolutionise the image, the results and to strive for long-term success.
Saying that, I think Brendan Rodgers realises the huge job in front of him. He is much more intelligent and media savvy than a lot make out. He understands, along with FSG, that image is important for such a historical club. They must also realise, however, that a club’s image comes with results as well as cleverly phrased press conferences and fly on the wall documentaries. The aura of the club must be a winning one – “success breeds success” as they say. When this balance is met, Liverpool will begin their assent to the summit of Mount Barclays Premier League.
“We can get there again”, people say. Can we? Be realistic. The legacy needs to be fixed, as well as our results, before it wanes away under a carpet of laughter. We cry out for a firm-hold on the club and I think we have it, to some degree. Consistency is something we haven’t hugged for years. Brendan is the man for the future. Brendan will embrace the future whilst serenading the past – I’m confident.
Side note: Get Hansen and Lawro off the TV.