Liverpool could now wait years for title – Ronnie Whelan
Ronnie Whelan stood on Home Farm's pitch at the club's Whitehall headquarters yesterday and took a moment for the memories to flicker across his consciousness.
This was where it all began when his dad, Ronnie Snr, brought him down to the Farm, aged six, for his first taste of organised football.
"It's always nice coming back here. On that pitch out there, I started playing at six in the mini leagues when my dad brought me here. I had great years with the club," he said.
"Home Farm were brilliant for kids when I was growing up and I'm sure they still are now.
"It wasn't just football they taught you, they tried to teach you manners, the right way of behaving, shirt always tucked in, good values on and off the pitch."
Thirty-five years have passed since Ronnie Jnr left Dublin and Home Farm as a teenager to join Liverpool.
He departed for Anfield in 1979 with hopes and ambitions, but could hardly have foreseen just how successful a career he would enjoy.
Whelan's place as an Anfield and Republic of Ireland legend is secure, and he brought that wealth of knowledge to bear on his analysis of Liverpool's season in uncompromising fashion.
On the positive side, he considered it a great campaign which ended in a totally unexpected runners-up spot.
Against that, he had big regrets that opportunity knocked for Brendan Rodgers' team and they didn't open the door to a first league title in 24 years.
It was a big miss and Whelan warned fans that the Reds may have to wait years before they capture the Premier League title.
"It was an anti-climax and I was never so down as a Liverpool supporter as after the Chelsea game. I did not like the way Mourinho went about the whole thing – the time-wasting and all that – but he did a job completely," he said.
"That result (2-0) basically killed it off for me, but I don't think it's failure. That's very harsh. Liverpool have had a great season.
"I feel the players overachieved to finish second and to be in there on the last day with a chance of winning it.
"The problem is that it's going to take years to get the players in and build the team, because we have fallen behind over the last 10 years.
"You are finishing fifth and sixth and then getting close every once in a while, but City and Chelsea keep spending money and Liverpool don't seem to be able to get close and live with the money these clubs are spending.
"It's a case of playing catch-up all the time and this is when you need to win it, when you are so close."
Money issues aside, there are no guarantees that the best parts of Liverpool's 2013-14 form will be replicated next season and Whelan reckons that Rodgers faces major challenges.
"I would bet that Daniel Sturridge will never score 21 league goals again and (Luis) Suarez is not going to score that many goals (31 in the league, plus nine in other competitions) in every season.
"Brendan Rodgers said they need six players to go into the team. If he gets six good players going into that team and six coming out of it who are on your bench, then you have a half-decent chance with that sort of squad.
"But they have to find those very, very good six players."
Rodgers also has to find a way to deal with packed defences and the fact that Liverpool won't be a surprise package in 2014-15.
"We could see the difference from Liverpool blowing away Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham, from destroying those teams, and then teams more and more sat back, Chelsea especially. And then we ran out of ideas when we could not break teams down," Whelan added.
Ronnie Whelan's views on:
"He's a good manager. If you look at how Brendan Rodgers set his team out against Arsenal, Man United, Tottenham, Everton, they bombarded them. He's also a good man-manager. He asks Suarez to play on the right – your top goal scorer – and he goes and does it."
"Is that still going on? I thought that was finished. He's not been brilliant this year. He's not someone you'd say that 'Oh we want him in the squad.' He might be more problems than he's worth. I'd just let the Stephen Ireland one rumble on, and whatever happens, happens."
His Player of the Year
"Suarez, although he's looking tired. If I was his manager at the World Cup I'd be resting him a little bit, let him recharge his batteries. But for me, he's been the outstanding player of the season – the goals he's scored, the amount of goals he's scored and the way he's scored them."
World Cup winners
"I'm going to say Argentina with Belgium as an outside bet. I know Brazil won the Confederations Cup, but I've just got a sneaky feeling for Argentina. England will probably get out of the group and go home. You're not getting the same expectation any more in England."
Liverpool players who surprised you
"You've got to give credit to Rodgers for bringing on Lucas and Henderson. For me, they shouldn't have been at the club. Henderson, especially has been a revelation this season and he was brilliant. The question is: will he have another great season?"
The goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet
"Hit and miss, but I remember a similar situation with Bruce Grobbelaar who stayed there for 12 years. He has had his moments, but he's only 26. He has kept them in a few games. I wouldn't think about getting rid of him at all. He's only a young lad, and I think he will get better."