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December 2002

30th November-1st December: A long time ago, it was getting very difficult for us to win at Old Trafford. Then Paul Ince opened his big fat gob and said “they seem scared of us”. We won the next one 2-1 and totally outplayed them. People think this stuff is unimportant, but I’d rather Danny wasn’t telling the papers that United are going to see “the real Gerrard” or “they are conceding goals and you have to be encouraged by the number of chances we have been creating”. He should take a leaf out of his manager’s book. Informed about Ferguson’s latest mind games, he says “Good, that means they fear us”………erm ………

1st December: Yeah, they looked scared didn’t they? L 1 MANCHESTER UNITED 2 could be put in context, as it’s the first time in 6 attempts that they’ve got anything off us, but that would be far too simplistic. Coming on the back of a significant improvement in their form and a fearful slump in ours, this result has serious repercussions. Dudek’s going to bear the brunt, but any goalkeeper is going to feel huge pressure in our goal. If you let one in, you are virtually handing the other side victory. We’ve known this for 3 years now, and nothing is done to address the problem. We nearly grabbed something at the end, and their time-wasting was atrocious (Silvestre slapped Owen but stayed on – yet another of Fergie’s ‘victims’) but it would take an awful lot of paper to cover those cracks. Houllier says conceding the first goal “in a game like that” is very important – as if all the other Liverpool games were any different! The run had to end sometime, but it’s the manner of the defeat that’s causing the major concern.

2nd December: To be fair to Chris Bascombe, he’s not trying to cover up .Things like “United pass better, get forward quicker and have more variation” are difficult for any Red to say, but it’s the truth. He said we need far more creativity, and he’s spot on. I differ over the need for a new Gary Mac. His final month of the Treble season was amazing, but take a closer look: free kick (Everton), pen (Barca), pen (Spurs), corner and free kick (Coventry), free kick (Bradford), free kick (Arsenal), two free kicks and a pen (Alaves). That to me is not ‘creativity’, but dead-ball expertise. Percentage football. We need more than that at the moment.

3rd December: A certain someone seems to have noticed that some of our players went to the World Cup. I’m surprised he can get any more straws in his hand. Diouf is being told by friends in Senegal that he’s about to be shipped out to Marseilles soon, and seems willing to blame his start on the World Cup as well. And who played more games than anyone? Hamann. And who is our player of the year so far? Quite.

4th December: With 3 weeks to go, derby fever is raging. Amongst blues, of course. We couldn’t care less. They’re worrying if Rooney, Unsworth or Yobo will make it because of possible suspensions. Rhino in particular will be distraught. “Having been here for so long, that is one game I don’t want to miss”. You mean Everton play other teams? When? You never hear them talk about anyone else, do you?

4th December: L 1 IPSWICH 1. Meaningless, and two hours of it. Babbel only lasts 45 minutes (again), and it’s becoming a major worry now. I’ll be honest, Biscan doesn’t look too bad at centre half. It’s another quarter final, away to Villa a week before Christmas – let joy be unconfined. I’ve rarely seen 26,000 people who’d rather be somewhere else. Another Anfield first.

5th December: The big story, of course, was the surprise selection of Jerzy and yes, he did get a great reception – but what did people think we were gonna do? Boo him? Of course, Gerard wants all the accolades. On ITV last night, he started some fable about getting back on bikes and ended up talking about car crashes. It’s becoming just a little disturbing, like watching someone fall apart in front of your eyes.

6th December: It’s too good to be true. Spurs really want to buy Heskey for £12m? Rearrange the words “hands” “their” “off” and “snatch”. Of course, the manager is having none of it. “I will never sell him. You can reverse the figure and I still wouldn’t take it”. You mean £000,000,12? Christ, I would.

7th December: And to pick him when he was clearly unfit is another amazing screw-up. One challenge, and he was limping again. CHARLTON 2 L 0 kept up the sequence – they score first, we lose. Kirkland can’t do anything about that. Sami hasn’t looked right for a while, and even Henchoz is snapping now. Another ref might have shown a red. Murphy was our best player, but before the second he was level with Konchesky on the edge of their box. When the lad scored, Danny was still some 30 yards behind. Fitness? Attitude? I’m not sure, but we look awful. Play like we did from the 45th-60th minutes, and we will waste these teams. But it has to be from the start, not from the moment we are losing. It’s insanity. What a shit month that was.

8th December: Aren’t rats supposed to leave sinking ships? Or is it a bandwagon that Sander Westerveld is climbing on? Getting my clichés mixed up. Any sympathy he may have had for his treatment is quickly evaporating. “I made a mistake at Bolton and that was my last game” – he’d been flawless until then, clearly. Lord knows Houllier didn’t handle Dudek perfectly, but the decision to give Jerzy the jersey (boom tish) in the first place will never be criticised by us. Competition Time (prize is a crate of Dutch wine): who allowed Dennis Wise to balk him at a corner? Who flapped at corner after corner (almost costing us the UEFA Cup in the process)? Who stood and watched trickling shots go into the net instead of, y’know, diving to save them? Answers on a postcard to “It Wasn’t Bloody Houllier Was It?” Competition, PO Box 23 etc.

9th December: As if the man himself isn’t digging his own hole furiously enough. “What I don’t want to see is finger-pointing or blaming in the dressing room because that’s a cancer”. Apart from his tacky choice of simile, it might sound better if he hadn’t just publicly flayed Steven Gerrard. And what’s this: “You look back to the Middlesbrough game that we controlled” (ha!) “then there was the incident which meant we lost and sometimes momentum can be derailed”. He thinks if he calls it ‘the incident’ that’s not actually blaming Dudek for the whole month’s decline! Did you work for the railways in a previous life? “We played on the wrong kind of grass” ………

9th December: And the Echo’s Chris B ain’t a happy bunny. “This is no longer a blip, it’s a slump”. There is still room for a supportive “it was Liverpool’s misfortune they conceded while Heskey was hobbling to the dressing room”. No it wasn’t, it was a managerial error to pick a clearly-unfit player in the first place. “Few Liverpool fans believe this is a side capable of winning the league”. That penny’s taking longer to drop than Aled Jones’ balls.

10th December: Blimey. He’s a lovely bloke and everything, but Chris can change a tune faster than The Ramones. “Reds So-Called Crisis” is tonight’s headline, with some superfine statistical jiggery pokery to back it up. “If Hyypia holding the Premiership trophy is the only barometer of success, many fans are in for further frustration”. That’s after the first week in December, folks. Care to tell us what happened to the last manager who got four years into the job and had to give up the title race before Christmas?

10th December: According to GH, “it will do no harm for Emile to play on the left and learn some other skills”. That’s some Job Creation Scheme, isn’t it? Thirty grand a week, come in a few hours a day, fall over on Saturday, go home. And we’ll pay your previous employer ten million to take you on. It’s gone beyond insulting our intelligence, the boss is telling lies now. “It is a fact that he always produces something for us in that position”. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to speculate on what Heskey really produces on the left wing. Does it involve a bull, 20 Indian takeaways and a ton of baked beans? Hey, what a coincidence – the same as Gerard Houllier’s press conferences.

11th December: But at least we’re still making pots of money – the real reason we exist nowadays. The club’s organising a trip to China for next pre-season, presumably because Serbia and Zimbabwe don’t have any plush hotels. Perhaps we can persuade their students to take up LFC credit cards – either for paying off loans, or to stick them in the caterpillar tracks of oncoming tanks?

12th December: Do you know what the team needs? You’ll never guess. “What we need is a very scrappy, ugly 1-0 win”. Yes, because they’ve been a little bit thin on the ground these last couple of seasons, haven’t they Ged?

12th December: Be careful what you wish for. L 1 VITESSE 0 (2-0) was scrappy and ugly. If they hadn’t missed that sitter early on, it could have turned very ugly. Judging by the crowd, I’m not sure Reds are going to take kindly to this Wooden Spoon tournament. £20 a ticket, for a non-event against nobodies live on the BBC a week before Christmas? Football is a business now, don’t you know? Then why are we so bad at it?

14th December: Rooney was made Young Sports Personality of the Year for 3 league goals. He scores again today, to put Everton above us. Sir Bill is no doubt calling the Vatican as we speak. But it’s not all bad news. Biscan may hand in a transfer request because of “a lack of first team opportunities”. Keep the original, Igor, so you can photocopy it at your next club(s). Save you writing it out all again and again.

15th December: Or send them all a video of today’s game. Then you can keep cashing your cheques here ’cos no-one else will be interested. SUNDERLAND 2 L 1. It’s not a misprint, you didn’t swallow hallucinogenic drugs – we really did lose to the country’s worst side. They’d gone eight and a half hours without a goal. Europe’s most defensive side turns up, and they get one after half an hour. Then we started to look as if scoring a goal might be important. Just like last week, in fact. Then, when we finally get one, we make a change that takes our most creative player (Murphy) out of harm’s way. Then we want to know how we lost. Durrrrrrr.

16th December: The manager is at a loss. Well, four losses in a row to be exact. Not counting Vitesse or Ipswich, and who does? “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk to the players individually”. Cover-up job, more like. I will go and ask the players what’s wrong with them, geddit? And who asks what’s wrong with you? He can’t believe the result, despite our team not having any attacking intention for 35 minutes. “Every slice of luck is going against us”. Ah, the song of the truly desperate. Just tell ’em we’re pioneering the winter break.

17th December: In a brave attempt to clutch as many straws as possible, Chris Bascombe trawls through the record books to find similar poor runs in our history. He finds plenty, but two make you sit up and take note: in 1965 and 1983. Small point: if you are two of the greatest servants in Liverpool’s history, you are entitled to a bad run. If you are the reigning champions, and in the FA Cup final, you are entitled to a bad run. If you have already won the championship by April, you are entitled to a bad run. None of that applies here. Hope that’s a help.

18th December: Apart from any of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, there’s no-one I’d like in my corner less than Rob Shepherd, but that’s what Houllier’s got. “Only the stupid would write off Liverpool’s title bid”. Short of getting A+’s right across the board, nothing measures your intelligence more accurately than the distance between your views and Shepherd’s. “Don’t forget, it took Ferguson seven years to win his first championship”. The song of the truly, terribly desperate. Have we ever been allowed to forget it? And, er, name another example………

18th December: Are you feeling alright, boss? “The wolves come out when the flesh is ready to be eaten”…… …and if there’s no flesh going, they make do with sardines, perhaps?

19th December: ASTON VILLA 3 L 4………

18th December: Sorry, my little joke. ASTON VILLA 3 L 4. The final whistle beat Thursday morning by a matter of minutes, thanks to Uncle Doug Ellis and his incredibly efficient ticket system. Good job there wasn’t extra time, they’d have charged rent for the seat. Good performance, and an exciting match when it finally started. Super Dan really has been one of the few shining lights in a dismal season, and Gerrard finally looked back to form. Of course, we had to try and throw it all away late on, but all’s well that (finally) ends.

19th December: Two things not to be forgotten. The journalist who wrote “the buffoons who’ve dared to question the manager”, and Doug Ellis for trying to palm the blame for last night onto the supporters. To claim 4,000 Liverpool supporters were amongst the ‘culprits’ when only 300 applied through the utterly incompetent Ticketmaster is the lowest. “17,000 turned up at 7.40” – urinating on brave cops too, no doubt. New stadiums, same old scapegoats.

20th December: I’d almost forgotten the derby. There seems to have been less wind-ups than in previous seasons………oh, hang about, here’s one. “Moyes to follow United road to Anfield success”. So sit there, do nothing for an hour, hope Kirkland screws up big time. The most astute young coach in the game, so we’re told.

21st December: Liverpool are hoping EC laws will give them even more TV revenue if clubs are allowed to forge individual contracts. “No-one at Anfield was available for comment”. Hard to speak with your mouth full of drool. Hey, great idea everyone, let’s watch United and Arsenal sail away over the horizon. Small point, but who apart from Liverpool fans would pay to watch this dreck? If anything was guaranteed to assist Arsenal’s chase for second biggest team in England, it’s this.

22nd December: “Wayne’s World, Wayne’s World, Derby Time, Overkill, Woo woo woo woo woo woo woo” and, er, so on. The latest story says Everton are struggling to keep him on the straight and narrow. “The 17 year old striker is succumbing to the temptations of a normal adolescence” – stop sniggering at the back! That’s not as funny as Moyes’ idiotic suggestion that “when I first came to Everton I didn’t even think about Liverpool”. Riiiiiiiight. Soon made up for it though, didn’t you? A blue who never thought about Liverpool? There must be one. Somewhere.

22nd December: There really is a conspiracy against Everton, I know that now. Once again, they win a derby and only 1 one point for it. L 0 EVERTON 0 may seem to you, me and the sane world like a draw, but to the denizens of the Pit that’s more than enough to claim three points. What’s more important is how we played, or rather how we didn’t. How Traore and Diao stayed on for 50 minutes is less baffling than how they got out there in the first place. Surely an ability to pass a ball in a team-mate’s general direction is a prerequisite? Heskey and Smicer came on in their place – like watching your house burn down and calling 999 for an oil tanker. And why try to wind Rooney up, when he was clearly lapping it up?

23rd December: A few words on derby relations. The dwindling respect one side has for the other might be resuscitated by a priority check. A bit of paint on a statue is not “a disgusting and disgraceful act” – calling another team’s manager a paedophile, on the other hand, quite clearly is. When the latter receives the lion’s share of the shock horror headlines in the local press, Reds may feel inclined to join in with the perennial “what’s gone wrong with the derby?” crocodile tear-fest.

24th December: It’s taken 6 weeks for Steven Gerrard to respond to the manager’s attack on him after Basle, so forgive me for not taking it at face value. Could be that Stevie needs all the friends he can get after the “horror tackle” on Naysmith. This is now getting all the headlines, and while it was ugly we’re not taking Everton’s whinging all that seriously, surely? Especially Kevin ‘credit to his Profession’ Campbell. Is this the first “horror tackle” where the victim got up and carried on unharmed? And while some ex-pro’s might have a moral superiority that gives them a right to criticise, Johnny Giles isn’t one of them. Was Naysmith’s career ruined? No, unlike one of your victim’s. The Daily Mail hack who suggested Stevie use Roy Keane as a fitting example of how to behave takes the prize, though. Sunday was certainly a good start!

24th December: Financial news. We’re in good shape, but second place and reaching the Champions League last eight was largely responsible for it. Despite this, they ‘only’ gave the manager £20m for Diouf, Cheyrou and Diao. Next summer should be a laugh. If this poor run carries on much longer, we’ll be shopping at a lower level and Rysman League gates will be rising by two a week (one if GH can get McNulty out of his arse).

26th December: Hardly a shock, but still irritating. L 1 BLACKBURN 1 keeps the unbeaten run going………sorry, been listening to all the Anfield Spin. If we’d gone for them in the first half, when they showed us too much respect and couldn’t get going, maybe this game would have been all over before Cole started missing chances. Typically, with the kind of run we’re in, he put away the difficult one. There was an inevitability about it. Sit back and ask someone to hit you, they’ll hit you. It’s not rocket science.

27th December: It’s still too hard for the manager to work out, though. “Maybe the boys thought they could hold onto the result”……and wherever would they get such an idea? From the manager who took off Smicer and brought on Biscan to counter a threat from Duff that Carra already had under control? From the manager who has been drumming that into them season after season? Oh tish pish, you cynical knaves! Verily, ‘tis minnions like you that dost not appreciate the genius we hath in our midth (shall we stop talking in this medieval way? – Alan Partridge). “I thought this was going to be the scruffy 1-0 win I was looking for”. Two things: one, that he’s actually looking for that is bad enough, but didn’t we get one of those against Arnhem? Fat lot of good it did us.

27th December: It’s official: two-footed tackles are okay after all. It just depends which player does it. Liverpool player? Baaaaaaad. Everton player? Goooooood. And if it’s Wayne Rooney, brilliaaaaaant! Leeds’ James Milner is now the youngest goal scorer in the Premiership, but hopefully Wayne will be consoled by this Youngest Player to Get A Red Card accolade.

28th December: Despite persistent denials, the O’Neill For Anfield rumours continue to surface. And you can’t say the man isn’t interested. He’s done his homework. Knowing that he has to be fluent in several languages (one of which is Bullshit), he comes up with the astonishing assertion that a goal John Hartson scored was just like the ones Denis Law and Jimmy Greaves used to get. Did they ever take someone’s head off in training, I wonder?

29th December: Well, he’s rattled them that’s for sure. Phil Thompson hears the Hartson-Law comparison and thinks “I can do better than that”, and sure enough he plays a blinder. “As far as I’m concerned he is right up there with the likes of Shankly and Paisley”. Quiz time: who is Phil talking about? Is it (a) Alex Ferguson (b) Arsene Wenger (c) Gerard Houllier? Answers on a postcard to “Try Winning The Championship First, You Dipshit” Competition, PO Box 23 etc.

29th December: It’s not all bad news. If there’s one area where we have improved, it’s in the “producing mind-numbing tedium on a Sunday afternoon at Highbury” department. The first half of ARSENAL 1 L 1 was everything that a football team ought not to stand for, worse than last season even, and if we weren’t hated before we will be now. What makes it worse still is that we played some good football in the second half and made them look distinctly ordinary. I suppose some idiot is going to say that we couldn’t have had one without the other (two idiots in particular seem likely candidates), but if Arsenal had been as “lucky” as Boro, Fulham, United, Charlton or Sunderland we’d have been chasing the game again. Simple lessons don’t sink in. We were unlucky with the Jeffers dive, but lucky with Silva’s awful finish at the end. Luck balances out. In the end, you get what you deserve. Think of that 20 minutes in the second half where we kept the ball, created chances and deservedly went in front – and think of a reason why it can’t be like that all the time.

29th December: A L B, E RT – Albert Stubbins was the man for me. And for all of us. If you’re in the same team as Liddell, and fans speak your name with the same awe, that proves what a true great you were. Rest in peace.

30th December: There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with what Houllier’s saying about Francis Jeffers. He’s spot on, in fact. It’s all just a bit excessive, don’t you think? It’s not as if he’d stopped a goal-bound shot with his hand after ten minutes, but didn’t give a pen away and didn’t get sent off, is it? It comes back to what I say about these things evening themselves out. How come we’re the only team that is totally destabilised by such incidents?

31st December: Not that I’m declaring an end to the hunting season on that cheating jug-eared twat or his complete fraud of a manager. “I think he was caught on his left leg and had no choice but to go down”. He sees things that no-one else does (not even Jelly Belly Winter saw that) but doesn’t see the blatantly obvious ‘indiscretions’ of his blue-eyed boys. Did you get laser eye surgery from Luke Skywalker or something?

31st December: But there’s being annoyed and there’s milking it for all it’s worth. “Thommo Calls For Video Evidence”. Is this going to be retroactive, then? Are we giving the 2001 FA Cup back for the Henchoz incident – and what about Andy Johnson in the Worthington Cup? Ever thought it was a bit weird that no-one’s ever called for TV evidence when they’ve benefited from a referee’s incompetence? Or, like me, do you just find it unbelievably pathetic? Grow up the lot of you.

31st December: Great stuff in the Echo. Everton v City tomorrow will be seen by “up to 360 million fans” in the Far East. Intriguing words, “up to”. I could earn “up to” 360 million quid this year. Everton appoint Mei Zhang as their ‘International’ Liaison Officer. That’ll be China and Wales, then. “The Chinese think it’s the most professional league and has the highest quality”. Well, Everton v City will soon put that right. “Wayne Rooney is famous in China now”. They say you can see The Great Wall from space ……………what?