Friday 23 February 2018

Reds will win title because they want it more

Liverpool can take major step towards promised land by conquering City on hugely emotional day for the club

Liverpool fans are hoping Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard can deliver that elusive League title for the club after a gap of 24 years
Liverpool fans are hoping Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard can deliver that elusive League title for the club after a gap of 24 years

Rachel Wyse

Liverpool and its people know too much about change. Before their eyes, the passing years have irreversibly altered the face of their city. And not for the better.

Take a train from Liverpool's central station and travel north. Between the city centre and Aintree racecourse, a constant stream of derelict buildings are a bleak reminder of buoyant times of days past. There is something sad when a thing or person of greatness meets with difficulty. The decline never makes for pretty viewing.

For 24 long years fans of Liverpool have dealt with such sentiment. There have been glimmers of light provided by cup success, but the greatness of Liverpool FC was founded long ago on the club's dominance of the English top flight.

So great was their success in the '70s and '80s, the quest to equal their 18 league titles proved a motivational tool for the reign of Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.

The Liverpool of another era set the bar for those who followed, a reality that may well seem like make-believe to the current generation.

DESTINED

Maybe the tide is turning. Maybe Liverpool are destined to once again reign in Britain. And how ironic is the timing. I'm sure the scent of success around Anfield is all the more sweet considering the woes of their bitter rivals in Manchester.

And as they welcome Manchester City to Anfield tomorrow, Liverpool fans are daring to dream.

With just five games remaining, paradise is once again within their reach. I hope they get the job done. I'm not a Liverpool fan, but I have nothing but admiration for the current regime at Anfield.

Liverpool is now a club governed by people with a vision and a definite sense of purpose. From the boardroom to manager Brendan Rodgers, there has been a strong effort put forth to revitalise the club.

They have shown themselves to be men of principle, men with a sense of proper ethical behaviour, men of traits befitting the remarkable history of Liverpool FC.

In their handling of Luis Suarez's tantrum last summer, they not only served their club well but did the entire game a service. In refusing to budge for a disgruntled, contracted player, a trend that caused untold damage to football was halted.

A semblance of perspective was thankfully restored to a world skewed by money. As was a little faith. With the importance of values reinforced, the divide between those in the stands and their idols was narrowed.

Such stances are rare, and Rodgers and John Henry deserve their just rewards.

Tomorrow's game will go a long way in deciding if such rewards come in the shape of a league title.

Arguably the remarkable feats of Suarez these past months have already vindicated their actions; come May 11, should they be crowned champions, the input of the Uruguayan striker will never be forgotten.

Some of his despicable actions of times past were those of a troubled soul; 12 months on, he appears in control of his demons and the acclaim should be as deafening as last season's condemnation.

Reports have suggested Suarez's form is largely attributable to a determination to make a point to Rodgers following the manager's defiant stand when the player wanted away from Merseyside.

With the club on the cusp of a league title, these details are academic. The chemistry between Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge shows no sign of abating and the prospects of success rests considerably more heavily on both men's shoulders than on those of their colleagues.

What a refreshing sight it has been to witness a team confident enough to play with two out-and-out front men. Rodgers' managerial capabilities have provided a timely reminder to those preoccupied with systems and formations that results and entertainment aren't mutually exclusive.

VISION

His vision for the role of Steven Gerrard in the current Liverpool set-up has proved a masterstroke. Gerrard has served under many managers and even when he was at the peak of his powers I wonder if they extracted a contribution as consistent and as complementary to the entire team as those witnessed under Rodgers?

With the winning post in sight, Rodgers' skill-set must not only now deal with the challenge of their nearest rivals, but also the pressure of achievement.

Some of his players will relish such feelings, while some will become twitchy as the consequences of their final league games become real. Earlier in the season Gerrard claimed his manager to be the most accomplished mentor he has known in the area of man-management.

Soon such claims will face the acid test. I suspect the multi-million pound force that is Manchester City will bring out the very best in Liverpool. In front of the adoring Anfield faithful, I expect Liverpool to gain another three points tomorrow.

City's away form has been indifferent on occasion and home advantage tips the balance in favour of Liverpool. Considering the investment made by City, if Pellegrini's men were truly as good as their reputations then the league would be theirs already.

That Liverpool's destiny is within their hands is proof some of City's big names haven't delivered. Statistically the odds are stacked against the visitors. City's recent record on Merseyside reads just one win in their last 20 league visits (drew six, lost 13).

Liverpool know what they have to do – win all five remaining matches and they will end their barren spell of 24 years, and in doing so will surpass Arsenal's 13-game winning streak of the 2001-02 season.

Momentum is with Rodgers' men and once his players cope with the occasion and burden of returning a superpower to the standing of old, I believe they will take another step to glory.

Liverpool's hurt has been great, yet the passion of the people never wavered, and in the end they will want it more. Come tomorrow evening, it will be four games and counting.

Irish Independent

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