Editorial – Issue 52, Summer 2001
By Steve Kelly
From Issue 52, Summer 2001
Thank God that’s over and done with. That was one of the worst close seasons ever. Since TTW&R started, there have been quiet, almost idyllic summers spent happy in the knowledge that there wasn’t going to be any more football for 3 months. As I stood on County Road, on that memorable Sunday, watching the triumphant Treble Winners disappear into the distance (to be greeted by yet another few hundred thousand jubilant fans) a great emptiness descended. The sheer excitement of the preceding few weeks had produced a staggering high, and the comedown was inevitably going to be painful – but this was horrible. What the hell was I going to do for three months?
Of course there was a fanzine to put together, but even that proved difficult. For the first time since I started doing this, I couldn’t produce a word. Let’s not get all pretentious and call it writer’s block. It could just mean that my own ‘talent’ is limited to being sparked off on a rant by torment, failure and gross underachievement. Without such inspiration (damn that Houllier), I just haven’t been able to get going at all. Hopefully, once the season begins, things will be as bad as ever. I’m joking – honest! I’m immensely grateful to those people who wrote in or sent e-mails during the summer, as without them you wouldn’t be reading this. So many wrote in that half the next fanzine is already written, so apologies to those whose stuff isn’t in here. I can assure you all that your exclusion was not a “quality judgement” of any kind. It helps if you read this issue and number 53 (which I want to bring out as quickly as possible) as two halves of the same enormous ‘Treble special’ fanzine. A season like 2000/2001 simply cannot be dispatched in a mere 48 pages. What a time it was – and what a time we had! I’m so thrilled for the younger fans, who can now listen to old farts waffling on about “when we won this” and “when we won that” with patience and (best of all) understanding. They have their own success to savour, after a decade in which it hasn’t been that easy to keep the faith.
But now we have to go through it all again, and all that success counts for nothing once 2001/2002 gets under way. Nobody has ever accused this particular fanzine editor of being optimistic! Even so, there has been the odd occasion when anyone could understood why Liverpool fans were getting so worked up. 1996 was the last time we really thought they were going to get back on top of the pile, but there is something a little bit different this time. All the doubters from the other clubs may well be right, we may just be witnessing another false dawn – although the light from it has never been as bright as this. What they cannot do is convince any Liverpool fan (including arch-pessimists like me) that there is no justification for our optimism. The purchases of Veron and Van Nistelrooy at the Theatre of Dregs have fair put the wind up some supporters, and have reinforced the most unfair of comparisons; the Liverpool of 2001 with the United of 2001.
The much more realistic comparison is that between Liverpool now and United in 1992. That way, things look a little better. Ferguson was given cash to spend in 1989, and he won the FA Cup, a minor European trophy and the League Cup in three years; Houllier has done it in two. Ferguson was forced to rein in a perception of United as a drinking club, forcing certain players to leave as a result and stamping his own authority on the club; isn’t that exactly what Houllier has done with the ‘Spice Boys’? Ferguson installed a youth policy, in which the strains and stresses of a transfer market out of control could be tempered by talented, young, free players; Houllier already had this at his disposal and the Academy is fully operational. Ferguson came 13th, 6th and then second; Houllier’s first two seasons have produced fourth and third places. We have improved our league position, and (like United between 1990 and 1992) used the cup football to make ourselves extremely difficult to beat. If there were any supporters entitled to be optimistic during the summer, then surely it was us?
Of course, that’s fine as far as it goes. We do have to compete with the United of 2001, like everybody else, but it has taken their manager 15 years to get them into such a prominent position. Houllier stands absolutely no chance of achieving such a dominance in the time most fans want to give him to complete such a turnaround. All he can really do is keep improving Liverpool’s side and Liverpool’s squad, and see where that takes us. United were helped enormously by the virtual surrender, via self-inflicted wounds, of the three clubs that had dominated the league championship before them; Everton, Arsenal and especially Liverpool. Leeds and Blackburn were only one-offs, and Arsenal returned to do battle at the top again. Now it’s time to see if we can rejoin the race, but even if we do we’re hardly likely to be aided by self-destruction at Old Trafford. Not yet, anyway. I couldn’t honestly define “improvement” for us at the moment, but I’ll be more than happy if we can remove the doubts. Despite the cups and despite third place, people still don’t fully rate our team – some of us are Reds. We’ll have had a good season if as many doubts as possible have been erased, even amongst the most cynical fans. Another of those magical cup runs wouldn’t hurt, either.
Although I may be able to make amends in 53, I must apologise for the absence of articles on Billy Liddell and Tom Saunders. With the latter, I will say once again that it is virtually impossible for supporters to write with any insight or detail about back room staff. We can repeat what others have written in more learned works, but that’s not something I like to do. It goes without saying that Tom’s contribution to LFC was considered to be immense by every manager he worked for, and that’s more than good enough for me. With King Billy, the problem is different. I was in the cradle when he retired, so I cannot write with conviction on his career or his importance to Liverpool FC. It would be far better if someone from an earlier generation could write in to let us know how much he meant, but sadly no one has yet. I’d be more than happy to put that right in issue 53.
No really big transfer news to speak of, the ground move debate is curiously quiet (apart from Speke being discounted, which is excellent news) and our CL spot is still not clinched. Maybe all that will change in the few weeks between this issue and the next? Even if it doesn’t, I can still print plenty of crowing about last season. Did I mention we won the treble? Yeah? Ah well, it won’t hurt mentioning it again!
Steven Steven Steven (all Trebled up)