Editorial – Issue 58, Autumn 2002
By Steve Kelly
From Issue 58, Autumn 2002
You didn’t really believe all that “early Autumn issue” bollocks, did you? Oh dear, so sorry about that. I’m trying to sort out a new flat, and I was waiting for a decent sequence of home matches to sell the fanzine. Those are my excuses, make of them what you will. Numerous people are kind enough or can be bothered to write articles for me, so the least I can do is make sure their thoughts appear marginally closer to the date on which they were written. A kewpie doll goes to the first person who spots the words “shame about that JFK”. Next issue will be out sooner, that’s a promise (yes, the same one I always make – trust me for once!).
On the pitch, it’s been a case of so far so good. The league position is healthy, and the Champions League hopes improved after the 5-goal pounding of an awful Spartak Moscow side. It’s almost ten years to the day they were outplaying us. Whether that’s down to our improvement or their decline, you can’t really tell. Probably both. In fact, that’s the story of our season – good results, but can you really gauge what level we’re at because of the opposition’s weaknesses?
Our ‘performances’ against the only class sides we’ve faced so far (Arsenal and Valencia) were dreadful, and the fixture list’s been kind to us. It’s almost as if we were allowed another crack at the pre-season, only this time we’ve changed the quality of opponents: no Real, no Lazio, just the recently-promoted and the usual relegation fodder. Chelsea are the highest side we’ve faced, and after their Norwegian embarrassment you can hardly say they’re playing at full pelt. No doubt they’re saving that for us on the last day of the season!
One thing than has been good, that Houllier can be praised for (about bloody time – readers) is the change in style. True to his word, Liverpool have often played with more “self expression” as he puts it. We put on a show against Spartak. Yes, they were pitiful, but a year ago we wouldn’t have played that way. The run of games where we conceded late equalisers was unfortunate, but the performances (especially against the Geordies) were usually exciting.
I’ll admit there was one time when I was wary of Houllier’s tendency to meddle and that was at Maine Road. Coming off the back of a 20-shot draw against Basle, he went back to Plan A for City. Having bored everybody shitless, we legged it out of there with a 3-0 win! Gerard would certainly have considered going back to his tried and trusted methods after the end-to-end madness at Bolton, and I await the performance against Leeds with interest and not a little dread. The Owen situation has also been strange. I was convinced that he would revel in a Liverpool side that created chance after chance after chance, but when has he really looked like Europe’s top player? At Maine Road, where we barely created anything! I’m just hoping it was all down to bad luck, and not that Michael relishes our style of the last two seasons. It may suit him, but a lot of Liverpool fans hate watching it.
Reading the diary, one recurring theme is Gerard’s tendency to blow his own trumpet. I’ve got to be honest and say this is really pissing me off at the moment. Maybe it’s his time as the French national coach and his early days here that have made him so defensive, but he talks some shite sometimes. When Diouf got two, “oh no-one could see why I was signing him”. Well, yes we could. None of us saw him before the World Cup perhaps, but once he’d torn the back out of France most of us were excited at the prospect. This contrasted sharply with his attitude after Valencia, when El Hadji was almost disowned. Yes, the Echo did a snidy stitch-up with Gerard’s words, but it was Houllier’s selection that was at fault to begin with.
There’s been a catalogue of similar statements; Henchoz the unsung hero (“I know what he is worth”), “I never doubted Owen” (just dropped him and subbed him on numerous occasions) and the worst was that crap about Baros. ‘Outing’ his staff over their assessment of Milan (which he must have shared at some point if he’d thought about selling him) was uncalled for. Had there been a man as strong as Sir John Smith still at the club, he might have been told in no uncertain terms that this verbal diarrhoea had to stop.
I’ve got a feeling he’ll carry on regardless, though. More difficult challenges lie ahead, but we’ve overcome the first couple of months of the season with just a few jitters – and without Michael Owen on top form. Optimism seems justified, but as ever I’ll keep mine under wraps until we’ve won one or two matches that I didn’t think we would. My face would crack if I smiled, anyhow.
Maine Road was a chilling experience, because of that horrendous ‘ditty’ about Shipman. The club and Echo seem to be playing the “ignore them, they’ll soon get bored” card, which worked so well with Goodison’s bigots of course. In the end, Everton were forced to make a stand anyway as the racism (especially the song about Heskey) got totally out of hand at their away games. I suppose it’s not very likely that the grisly choir who sang about the terrible tragedy in Hyde with such gusto can actually read, so the only thing I can think of is to urge all decent Reds to sing “Liverpool” at the top of their voices whenever this motley crew feels the urge to drag this club down into the gutter with them. Think of our own bereaved families, and the pain they’d feel if anyone ever sang “one David Duckenfield”.