Editorial – Issue 60, Spring 2003
By Steve Kelly
From Issue 60, Spring 2003
You don’t get rid of me that easily. It was part of my new strategy – to produce a new issue every time Liverpool produce a free-flowing, free scoring game. I got tired of waiting, so here’s #60 anyway.
It’s not been great, has it? I’ve had a few personal problems (nothing major, thanks for asking) but mostly I’m just so utterly depressed by the state of the Reds. That “blip” really got me down. The fanzine is supposed to deal with this stuff head on, but sometimes it gets a bit much. People think I get a buzz out of whinging, but I can assure you I don’t.
The football used to be my escape. Friday nights used to be sleepless, such was the anticipation of seeing the Reds. They’re still sleepless, but for other reasons. Now it’s a chore, a bind and a grind. People (not me, of course) have their 9 to 5 rat race routine from Monday to Friday – do they really want it at the weekend as well? For all the fine words about broadening our style and getting more “self expression”, that’s all they ever were – words. Full of sound, empty of meaning.
Gerard Houllier’s never really had any intention of making us good to watch. His philosophy, such as it is, does not stretch beyond the result and whatever it takes to get it. That’s what makes the Winter “blip” inexcusable, because it came from a manager whose SOLE raison d’etre is The Win. Nothing else matters. Certainly not our reputation, which now lies in tatters at home and abroad. We’re hated. It isn’t going to change either, apart from a certain ‘refinement’ of the style, under the current regime. And it really does need to change.
I’ve remarked before about the similarities between this season and 1997/98. Like then, the manager needed to alter things. Like then, he hasn’t. Like then, we’ve got further away from the championship and not closer. Like then, there’s been an excruciating, embarrassing result at least once a month. Everton, Strasbourg, Barnsley, Coventry, Middlesbrough, Chelsea? Well, try Middlesbrough, Fulham, Sunderland, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Palace, Birmingham, Celtic – and hardly any good football to compensate for it, either. So it’s worse than 1998. The Worthington Cup isn’t going to cut much ice with anyone, I’m afraid.
Look at this way. You don’t replace a manager when you reach a point where even the one-eyed acolytes think he’s taken it as far as he can. To listen to some Reds, we’d have to be in the Unibond before they’ll ever have a bad word said about Gerard. The example to follow is Arsenal’s in 1996. Bruce Rioch had done okay, but “okay” is not okay for certain clubs and we’re one of them.
This isn’t about the “blip” – and sorry if the quotation marks are annoying you, but unlike the manager and the chief executive I can’t use the word to describe our worst run of league results FOR FIFTY YEARS, not with a straight face anyway – and it isn’t even about whether we’ll qualify for the Champions League or not. We’ve still got a chance, although every Red knows we need to be four points clear on the last day of the season in order to do it.
No, it’s about the future and what can reasonably be expected. Faith can move mountains, but we’re asking Gerard Houllier: NOT to have a major “blip” in the middle of the season, NOT to send a team out to bore the living daylights out of people, NOT to put Emile Heskey’s considerations before the good of the club (Camara, Fowler, Litmanen, Anelka – Baros and Mellor to follow?), NOT to squander yet more transfer money on cheap, useless imports, NOT to continue the deterioration of the squad since the Treble, NOT to talk incessant bullshit that makes the club and its fans a national laughing stock.
Well, I’m sorry, but that’s more faith than I’ve got at the moment. An awful lot more. I’m not saying that Gerard isn’t a good manager, because that would clearly be stupid beyond belief. If we didn’t finish fourth this season and he stayed, I’d have every confidence in him getting into the top four next season. But what good would that do?
Liverpool FC are defined by the championship. If that’s not the case any more, then the club has to say that to the fans. The exploitation (obscene ticket prices, obscene wages, hugely inconvenient kick-off times, the impending destruction of our spiritual home) would all have to come to an end. If coming top 4 every season was the sum total of our ambitions, then we should never have got rid of Roy Evans. At least we could have been watching some good, passing, attacking football.
Of course, all this could change. I’m not sure if this intransigence crept into society after Thatcher or whether it’s always been there, but people don’t seem to have opinions any more – they take a stance and stand in concrete when they take it. No matter what happens, no matter what changes, they will never ever shift from their original viewpoint. I’m happy to say that I’ve never been afflicted by this bonehead mentality. If what I’ve written here starts to look foolish when a passing attacking Liverpool side makes a real challenge in the near future it won’t bother me in the slightest if I was wrong. I’ll be ecstatic! Who gives a shit what I think? I don’t even give a toss what I think. The above is simply how I feel at the moment.
I’d be a liar if I said I’ve always doubted Houllier. There have been times when I’ve been convinced of his power to end our post-1990 ‘woes’. I’ve never been 100% committed to him though, and right now I’d say that was about 10% if that. He has brought qualities to the club that we all knew were desperately needed, but you got the feeling that he’d thrown out everything of his predecessor’s – whether it was good or bad. That’s why you get the revisionists shitting all over Roy, because they have to convince everybody (mostly themselves, I think) that there was nothing of any discernible worth here before Gerard Houllier. That simply isn’t the case.
A change of manager isn’t certain to end our problems, and the chances are we could end up with someone far worse. Is it this club’s intention to win the title? If so, then it isn’t a question of whether we change the man in charge. It’s a question of ‘when’. Because I don’t think Gerard Houllier is ever going to get anywhere but ‘close’. If we’re to be champions again, the risk has to be taken.
Have a good summer, everybody. See you in August.