Sunday 25 February 2018

Kenny can't swap a Babel for a Barnes

Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

THEIR best days came mostly in an era of black and white when the presence of some of the game's greatest players in their starting line-up gave them the reputation of a sleeping giant for many years to come.

The fans are as passionate as any but much of their support is built on success which came from a time that many aren't old enough to remember and getting back to the heights which they once scaled seems more unlikely with every passing year.

But enough about Blackpool.

Yesterday, there was only one 'Pool at Anfield who had anything to celebrate but for the tens of thousands wearing red, there was a combination of bewilderment, anger and horrible realisation.

After Saturday's games, Liverpool found themselves in the bottom three but with the natural optimism that goes with a club that hasn't won a title for 20 years yet still considers itself a contender, the Reds were determined to look up rather than down.

Had they managed a four-goal victory yesterday, which with Blackpool at 10/1 to win beforehand wasn't beyond the bookies' imagination, Liverpool would have gone ninth, two points behind Arsenal and four behind Manchester United. That was before the drama became a full-blown crisis.

Until yesterday, there had been some extenuating circumstances for the poor start which Liverpool had made under Roy Hodgson, with an opening fixture list could have been dreamed up by the love child of an Evertonian and Mancunian -- Arsenal (h), Man City (a), West Brom (h), Birmingham (a), Man Utd (a); compared to Chelsea's: West Brom (h), Wigan (a), Stoke (h), West Ham (a), Blackpool (a).

Even the defeat to Northampton could be explained away that is was "only" the Carling Cup in which the bunch of never-weres and never-will-bes which make up many Premier League clubs are always susceptible to an upset.

Yet all that sympathy evaporated yesterday with players booed off the pitch at both half-time and full-time by supporters who, having watched their team gradually eroded by poor management off the pitch (which the Rafa-ites will say) and poor management on it (which they won't), finally cracked. Had Ian Holloway's men been in their usual Tangerine jerseys, the Kop would have thought it had been Tangoed.

Hodgson cannot have been blind to the boardroom problems, or indeed the lack of a decent left-back, when he agreed to take over yet, the impostor that seems to have invaded Fernando Torres' body couldn't have been foreseen. Those who want to spin it a certain way believe that the Spaniard is unhappy at the style of play under Hodgson and the lone-furrow he is being asked to plough as though he were somebody like Bobby Zamora.


Yet, for the sort of thoroughbred which Torres is at his best, three years without a break is asking too much. After Liverpool's 2007-2008 campaign, Torres headed straight for the European Championships; after the next one he went to the Confederations Cup and, last summer, he hobbled his way to the World Cup.

If anybody had been in a job for three years with only sickness or injury guaranteeing a rest, their body language wouldn't be great either.

If Hodgson is lucky, which hardly seems likely at the moment, Torres' injury which forced him to limp out of yesterday's game will be one of those eight-to-10-day muscle injuries so beloved by most club managers when an international break is about to start. If not, and he is gone for a few weeks, David Ngog might be listed as one of the reasons for departure on Hodgson's P45.

Yet, while Torres' absence won't thoroughly absolve him of blame for yesterday's defeat, the one man whose name could be heard above the jeers and boos was 'Dalglish', who was involved in several of the 18 league titles that Liverpool fans used to use as a crutch before Manchester United joined them on that figure.

Think of other things that happened in 1990 -- a team called West Germany winning the World Cup for example -- and ask whether an achievement then counts for anything now. Quite simply, it doesn't.

Of all clubs, few revel in the glory days as much as those in the red half of Merseyside and yesterday's desire for a man who last managed a club over 10 years ago underlines their desperation, unless he can bring back a Barnes for a Babel.

Although given the current state of their finances at present, and the immediate future of a trip across Stanley Park for a relegation battle, perhaps the blissful ignorance of living in the past is not such a bad option.

Irish Independent

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