By Steve Kelly
From Issue 54, Winter 2001
Sorry this issue's late. I don't honestly know
what's being going on in my head of late, but
it's time to get more professional about this
'job' of mine. Let's be honest, taking money off
people to bore them soft with what you think about
Liverpool isn't one of the worst jobs in the world.
Too many days are spent staring into space, and
not getting off my arse and doing some work. Insert
your own Scouser joke here! I admire John Pearman
and Dave Usher very much, for the way they keep
at it and keep on bringing out issues. I'll hopefully
find a good balance between doing more to keep
people happy but not so many that you get sick
of it. More letters would be a help of course,
and it's not as if you're not responding to my
pitiful pleas. In fact, there's about 15 pages
or so that didn't make this issue. I must apologise
to the Fatman, G Mason, Graham S, Paul Bretherton,
Kev M, David Nicholas and others for not putting
their stuff in. It's just that three main themes
have emerged in this issue and they've been dealt
with in depth, and I've also got my act together
on the writing front. Since I've been skiving
off for the last few issues I thought I'd better
get my stuff in before anyone started to think
I was superfluous! See what you think, anyway
- and keep the articles coming in, everybody.
The first main theme was obviously the manager.
Events since October 13th have calmed everybody
down somewhat. Bearing in mind what most (if not
all) clubs would have been like if they'd lost
their manager, we have to be incredibly grateful
to Phil and the lads for not letting the almost-tragic
events surrounding the Leeds game get to them.
There was certainly a guilty feeling when I got
back home and reread issue 53. Yes, in the scheme
of things - three trophies, European football,
a championship challenge - some of the remarks
seemed way over the top, but I glance through
numerous football magazines and newspapers and
very little is ever expressed about the negative
side of football. It's all hype, everything's
wonderful. I don't think it hurts to have a couple
of little magazines stirring it up and actually
discussing the issues now and again. I've said
on many occasions that I felt sorry for Houllier.
He has a massive job on his hands, one that can
seem completely unfair and far too demanding for
one person to endure. My attitude up to now has
always been "tough - you want the job, you
have to take on everything that's involved".
I certainly never thought that would include a
major operation on his heart, though! I've discussed
this more in the article on page 32, but in short,
we go on. That means that if you're Red and you
care about this club, what it's doing and where
it's going, you're entitled to say exactly what
you like about them.
Which conveniently brings me to the second main
theme - how we play. This was a big part of the
last editorial, and the subject isn't going away.
I'm writing after the Middlesbrough game, in which
the Reds actually managed to play some good football.
I won't put that down entirely to Jari's presence,
but when Heskey isn't there the players know there's
no point in hoofing it. Emile seems to have the
same effect on us that Ferguson has at Goodison
- it's too easy to play to that part of his game.
So wouldn't it be great if they realised how much
more he's got to offer, and kept it down and kept
the ball more? What was pleasing today was the
way we kept possession second half, a rarity these
days. Those of us who were forced to sit through
the second half at Pride Park were proved right
- that this team CAN do it, but consciously and
deliberately give the ball away. It's tactically
unsound, gives the opposition a chance to improve
its passing and shooting, makes no allowance for
bad luck, gives them the impetus, makes our players
work harder - it's wrong on so many levels.
"Yes, but we won". That's all I've heard
in the last few months. We won, so that makes
it okay. Sorry, but it doesn't. You have to work
out the difference between winning despite our
tactics and winning because of them. This debate
has gone national, with neutrals and media gimps
sending the boot in. Your natural inclination
is to defend LFC from outside attacks, especially
when it's the usual suspects who slag us off simply
because they're too gutless to take on United.
Sometimes, you have to stand back from it and
wonder if they may have a point. There is a high
level of defensiveness now surrounding Liverpool
(oh the irony). When the words "Who's Boring
Now?" appear on the front of the Echo after
the hardly exciting Roma game, we're getting into
a frame of mind like that of the Arsenal fans
under Graham and Millwall fans all the time. No-one
likes us, we don't care. Absolute loyalty has
its admirable side, but that shouldn't blind us
to any deficiencies we have. And I'm afraid the
words "we're top of the league" aren't
a magic wand that will make all criticism disappear.
The third main theme is, of course, the sale of
Fowler. It hasn't even been exhausted in this
issue, not by a long way. There will be plenty
more to say in the next one, and I'd also like
to include a brief (ish!) look over his whole
career. One of the great Liverpool players has
left, and not in the best of circumstances either.
When Phil McNulty, talking about how Gerard dealt
with Sander, said "he makes Alex Ferguson
look like Sooty" I was one of the people
who felt that this was nothing to be proud of.
That Dudek has since proven to be exceptional
isn't the whole point. There's a way you do things,
and pride in my club has never centred on winning
trophies. This links up with the sentiments above
about the way we play. There's a whole range of
related episodes that make my heart swell when
I think about how lucky I am to be a Liverpool
fan: the applause for Barthez, Beckham, Overmars'
goal and Barca at the final whistle, to name a
few examples. The way some fans gave up prized
possessions for an auction in aid of the New York
firemen. There's loads more. The ruthless nature
of the Westerveld and Fowler 'manoeuvres' may
well impress dim-witted journalists, but they
did not impress me. Anyway, as one regular writer
says, maybe a pause for reflection is the best
thing here? By issue 55, we'll have a greater
sense of what Robbie's going to do at Leeds and
how the team he left behind fares. It just makes
me sad when I think of a player who shone throughout
the 'difficult' 90's, only to be discarded when
it looked as if we were going to get back on top.
If there is any Liverpool player in history who
deserves a Championship medal, and didn't get
one (with us at least), it was Robbie Fowler.
You can't even wish him any luck either, because
of where he is.
Anyway, it's all in the rest of the fanzine so
get reading. Happy 2002, everybody - if it's half
as good as the last one, we're in for a good'un!