Friday 24 November 2017

'The once optimistic Mersey Beat is slowing to an alarming plod as Liverpool trophy drought set to continue'

In 12 months since title challenge, Gerrard has slipped, Suarez slipped-out and laughing boy and media star Raheem Sterling has slipped-up

Steven Gerrard can't hide his disappointment at the end of the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium
Steven Gerrard can't hide his disappointment at the end of the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium
Ian Mallon

Ian Mallon

The mood music has changed at Liverpool Football Club, and the first strains of what could be a very bitter symphony are being played out behind the scenes.

I am standing with a former Liverpool player inside Wembley stadium and we are discussing what now for the once ‘Mighty Reds’, as the club faces into a period of great unknowns.

“I think a big problem is that we are seen as a selling club, and some of our better players also see this,” he explained.

“They’re the guys that signed up to the great Liverpool Football Club, but now, they are wondering where they can go next.”

This pessimistic view was in absolute evidence all around Wembley on Sunday, a day which appears, even days later as the beginning of the end.

The optimism that was so much in evidence this time last year, as Liverpool hurtled towards an almost certain championship title, has been replaced with a gloom that will take some lifting.

Manager Brendan Rodgers is even cutting an isolated and desperate figure, and yes, he is the one who the American shareholders will ultimately hold responsible for such a dramatic failure on the back of one year ago.

Perhaps surprisingly Liverpool owner John W Henry didn’t make it to Wembley on Sunday, nor was he due to travel.

A number of senior players questioned quietly what sort of message it sent out that the Fenway Sports chief principal was not there. Henry was represented by Liverpool’s chief commercial officer and fellow Bostonian Billy Hogan.

Another senior player expressed that the mood amongst the more traditional ranks was that Liverpool were in danger of gaining a reputation as being a “selling club” after the Suarez departure, and the now almost imminent exit of Raheem Sterling.

Even before the match the mood was low, and all but one year after things looked like they were shooting towards a first league title in a generation and with a brand of football unrivalled in the Premier League in many years.

Since then Gerrard slipped, Suarez slipped-out and laughing boy and media star Raheem Sterling slipped-up as the Rodgers revolution unravelled quicker than a Lovern-Toure defensive partnership.

Fabio Borini, Tiago Ilori, Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, Dejan Lovern and Mario Balotelli have cost the club almost £70m, and the current transfer Moneyball policy is not working.

Rodgers has recently expressed what might amount to frustration at the Fenway model of buying up the best young, but still unproven talent, on the hope of unearthing a gem.

He admitted recently that the policy was there to stay, “whether I like it or not”.

Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho are two prodigious young players who have worked out for Rodgers, and Sterling who signed before the Irishman arrived at the club is proving to be a diamond, albeit one who is twinkling brightly in the direction of richer suitors.

Back up in the stands on Sunday and the Liverpool supporters were also dazzled by the occasion or about how the way things have worked out.

They were simply ‘out-passioned’ by their Brummie rivals, who had arrived in their droves along the Wembley streets long before the match and long before their rivals got to town.

Liverpool fans are a pale shadow these days, and with good reason.

Rising ticket prices have simply out-priced many of the city’s youth, and Anfield has become a fairly prosaic middle-aged environment, a subject covered many times by the brilliant TAW (The Anfield Wrap) podcast.

TAW blames – but not without any resentment of the international following – the large numbers of ‘bucket list fans’ who arrive at John Lennon airport on match day from around the world.

This situation will not change either, with a massive £260m redevelopment all set for Anfield to increase capacity to just under 60,000 seats.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League and now a three year run without a trophy will only increase the actual cost of such plans, and with each emerging star player eyeing the door, the once optimistic Mersey Beat is slowing to an alarming plod.

Online Editors

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