Sunday 18 February 2018

Ronnie Whelan: Liverpool were awful – Fans could have left Anfield before the 77th minute

Read Ronnie Whelan every Monday only in The Herald

Liverpool fans walked out after 77 minutes of their match with Sunderland at Anfield in protest over ticket prices
Liverpool fans walked out after 77 minutes of their match with Sunderland at Anfield in protest over ticket prices

Herald Sport

If Liverpool fans had voted with their feet and offered a judgement on the football they were watching at Anfield on Saturday, the stadium would have been empty by the time the 77th minute rolled around.

They were awful against Sunderland and managed to score twice which said more about the standard of the visiting team than Liverpool.

The protest by fans against a move to raise prices by the owners, Fenway Sports Group, took about 10,000 out of the ground and they missed nothing. In fact, they avoided the worst bits.

Those who stayed behind saw a Liverpool lead evaporate because of the same problems which have afflicted the team for so long and when the players looked to the touchline for comfort, Jurgen Klopp wasn’t there.

Men went into a shell. With Daniel Sturridge sitting rooted to the bench, Lucas was sent on to shore up midfield and suddenly, it was 2-2 and lucky to be that.

The players were like lost young lads looking for their father but Klopp was in hospital with appendicitis and forced to rely on their own character and backbone, they could not defend a 2-0 lead.

I understand why supporters are wary of price rises but I’m sorry, I think that battle was lost a long time ago and there are much more serious things to worry about at this club now.

And if the 77 minutes the protesters did watch didn’t show them in the flesh how much money will be needed to make Liverpool great again, they don’t have a serious grasp of football economics.

The day when Liverpool could stand as an independent intuition against the tide of market forces, populate their senior team with a steady stream of home-produced talent and add the cream on top with well-timed and brilliant signings are gone.

The only way to compete now is with hard cash and when you accept that it is easy to see why Liverpool have ended up in such a weakened state and also why FSG feel the need to test the water with some price rises.

I think they know that they will have to give Klopp an awful lot of money to put things right and there’s the problem.

Without investment, the team will go nowhere but someone has to pay for it all.

To be honest, I don’t think people would mind so much if they were watching stars playing good football.

This team takes you up the hill for a few games but then punches you in the stomach and puts in 90 minutes like they did against Sunderland.

If the supporters were getting honesty and whole-hearted commitment from the players and FSG’s strategy in the transfer market had succeeded in capturing some truly world class performers, the volume of complaint about ticket prices would be a lot lower.

I don’t doubt the protesters are right. I don’t doubt that the only way is up as far as ticket prices are concerned but FSG are men who want to make a profit. That’s the reality.

I respect the point the fans are trying to make but they must realise that for every man who makes a principled protest against price rises, there are many, many others who will snap up the ticket without a second thought.

That’s what happens when you follow a football club which has a big footprint in the world and is committed to expansion.

Fans who travel from China or America or Europe cannot possibly understand the club the way Scousers born and reared on the Kop understand it. But they want to have their own Anfield experience and they will pay well for it.

It’s that kind of economics which has turned Manchester United into a global brand with massive turnover flowing into the club from fans all over the world.

Liverpool cannot hope to compete with Old Trafford without spending the same kind of money and it is inevitable that local fans will suffer as a result.

This is not peculiar to Liverpool. The Green and Gold movement in Manchester gathered some serious momentum to fight against the Glazer’s ownership of Manchester United.

Where is the movement now? Who owns Manchester United?

Herald Sport

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