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”.