Wednesday 21 February 2018

Vincent Hogan: Forgive me father for I have lost all faith in Liverpool

Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

Forgive me Father, for I sin against my children. It has gone too far now, this rotten, dysfunctional attachment to Liverpool FC, this curtsy to madness.

You see terrible things in a child's face when it falls to them to parent a father's grief. Three of my four children have been to Anfield, two without repercussion.

The third, however, inherited the curse. He fell into the condition of being a 'Red', a pained and melancholy predicament that has turned him oddly wistful and old before his time.

On Saturday, I glimpsed the wretchedness of this inheritance. The true crime of a misbegotten love. It reminded me of Ewan McGregor playing Nick Leeson in the movie, Rogue Trader.

Picture it. Fifteen minutes remaining at Britannia Stadium, the beguilingly gifted Sotirios Kyrgiakos having put Liverpool ahead. I am following the game on the club's official website, via what they call 'text commentary' (definition of sadness I know, but the family has a barring order against Sky Sports).

Like Leeson, I find myself talking to the computer screen, willing favours from an inanimate friend. And periodically, my 12-year-old dips his head around the door, counselling calm. Poor boy is a veteran of heartache.


So I'm reading each text, thinking of those late goals conceded to Lyon (twice), Fiorentina and, latterly, Reading. Of the beach-ball comedy at Sunderland. Thinking how everything this season seems somehow tilted against Rafa Benitez, how panic has written itself into the DNA of his team.

And I know what's coming. It's like some kind of extra-sensory awareness. Like lying in bed, hearing someone drive past your house far too quickly. You don't have to actually see the car to anticipate a mishap. That's what I feel now. Stoke WILL score. The texts just become a long-winded introduction.

76 mins: Good chance for Stoke....

79 mins: Stoke corner....

80 mins: Reina does brilliantly....

82 mins: Dogged defending from Liverpool....

85 mins: Great take from Reina....

88 mins: Stoke putting the Reds' defence under pressure....

89 mins: Reina's had a magnificent game today...

90 mins: GOAL. Huth levels for Stoke...

I thump the desk on reflex and swear quietly. But it's empty anger. A bit like cursing when a house of cards topples. Or a kite snags in a bush. Because you're railing against shadow fall here. Against nature.

Trouble is, denial keeps whispering from every corner.

Rafa denies there's a crisis because it'll cost him £20m to resign. The Americans deny there's any reason why some stooge investor might not be inclined to invest £100m for a minority 25pc stake in a hopelessly mis-run club.

Old soldiers like Ian Rush and John Aldridge deny any need for change too, prophesising patience as the sure-fire escape from turmoil because, well, that's just the Liverpool way. And the supporters? The supporters hold their breath.

So the club's season curdles and we're like the three brass monkeys who hear, see and do no evil.

Rafa parrots on about Liverpool "controlling" games until hit by some terrible misfortune. Usually an opposition goal. Then, as he puts it, "everything changed".

I'm not sure I believe in him anymore. I know for sure I don't believe in Lucas. Or Aquilani. Or Degen. Or Kyrgiakos. Or Insua. I don't believe in a tactic that rarely flirts with anything more imaginative than long balls and high tempo. Above all maybe, I don't believe there is a plan.

And I feel guilty for that. Because the Liverpool way is never to forsake hope. To never walk alone. And that still surely must apply, even when a 12-year-old's friend calls to the door, wearing a Reading jersey.

So I tell him to hang tough. That the good days are just around the corner. I remind him that three points against Spurs on Wednesday night could "reignite our season". (Yes, I actually used that expression.)

Forgive me Father, I know not what I do.

Players have means to make a difference

Imagine if every professional footballer in the world donated one day's pay to the relief effort in Haiti.

We're not even talking ancillary earnings here. Just basic wage, football salary. Cristiano Ronaldo alone could write a cheque for £25,000.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kaka? Just under £24,000 each.

Put it this way. If John Terry, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba bought into the idea over morning coffee at Chelsea, together they could deliver a cheque for £71,555 to one of the humanitarian agencies now dealing with unimaginable horror in Port-au-Prince.

That's almost £150,000 from just seven footballers. So imagine every paid footballer on the planet buying into the idea. We're talking billions here, not millions. For just one day.

Sound overly simplistic? You're probably right. What on earth could I have been thinking?

Irish Independent

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