Your Time Is Gonna Come
By Colin McCabe
From Issue 45, Winter 2000
The Premiership is a strange thing. Three straight
home wins against poor opposition put us fifth.
Since the long-awaited Henchoz/Hyypia partnership
was born, we've looked decidedly more solid. We
went into 2000 with the unlikely accolade of "best
defence in the top flight". West Ham away
was our only real disappointment, which reminds
me of a quote from Andy Gray wannabee Alan Brazil
about Graham Barber (from another game): "His
right hand is going to be aching tonight".
And every other night, if you ask me!
We managed to beat Wednesday next game, which
was good, but there was alas the sad spectacle
of the Atomic Kitten publicity stunt. Whoever
was supposed to benefit from this is unclear.
The club certainly didn't. I'm not sure the squealing
bints did, either. When they spilled onto the
pitch, I saw a peculiar sight - 40,000 mouths
all going "what the fuck?" I never realised
you could dance in an overcoat. Anfield is not
a suitable arena for such exhibitions. Unfortunately,
no one at the club could speak fluent Bimbo and
the brazen strumpets yeowled on regardless. I
prefer Atomic Rooster myself.
By now, we'd reached the first anniversary of
Houllier taking sole charge of the good ship LFC.
Make no mistake, this time last year we were floundering.
Roy's first three years appeared to be quite successful;
a trophy, another cup final, a European semi,
a crack at the championship. He showed an iron
hand by dumping Hutchison and Dicks while disciplining
Mark Wright until he got his attitude right. The
iron fist soon turned into a limp wrist. Rumours
that Barnes (then Ince) were picking the team,
the Spice Boy tag that never really went away,
the ill-fated partnership with Houllier, the McManaman
saga, good youngsters never getting a chance,
exclusives from the 'mole' undermining morale,
ex players queuing up to take a pop. Bad buys,
goodbye's and passed-by's.
In short, we needed a French Revolution. Something
like Sourness tried, but failed, to do. Instead
of replacing class with shite (Piechnik for Gillespie,
Saunders for Beardsley), we needed to replace
the shite with class. Houllier was criticised
for his track record, or lack of it. He was remembered
most for losing the French national job after
they failed to qualify for USA 94, but Jacquet
had a special World Cup medal struck for him after
his contribution to France's 98 success.
A lot has been said about his "foreign legion",
almost all of it bad. Before a ball was kicked
in anger, Houllier was being verbally kicked in
anger. If you take into account the fact that
a Liverpool manager's purse strings are being
tied for the first time since Shankly arrived
and the inordinate amount of pressure the poor
sod was under (which never once took into account
a savage injury list) I think he's done a decent
job so far. Now is a good time to compare and
IN, Sander Westerveld. OUT, David James. I know
which one I prefer. Westerveld can be criticised
for the bizarre goal at Hull, full stop. He seemed
reluctant to come off his line in the early games,
but that part of his game has improved. It needed
to. During October and November, Liverpool had
five clean sheets out of 8 games - we only got
seven in all competitions last season! That figure
had been passed by Christmas. Some of this is
down to Sander, but he has had a much steadier
defence than James ever had the pleasure of panicking
with. Westerveld is four years younger, and we
actually made a profit on James. He was getting
the obligatory ex-Red rave reviews early on, and
there was talk of an England cap. This talk seems
to have gone on a long trip away, with Villa's
title hopes and Gregory's John job security. Verdict:
IN, Rigobert Song. OUT, Jason McAteer. Jay arrived
as an exciting central midfield option, and left
as a second-rate full back. A good engine, a great
World Cup, a great tackler and he loved the Reds.
It's a great pity he wasn't good enough. His few
forays into central midfield for us were an embarrassment.
One outing against the blueslime was particularly
poor. He hit a blue shirt more often than any
of the Everton players. He came as a good attacking
force, but he scored 6 in four and a half years.
Two against lower league fodder, two against West
Ham, a semi final salt-in-the-wound against Villa
and a penalty rebound at Highbury. His crossing
started off well, but got progressively worse.
We got our money back from Blackburn, and he helped
them into Nation-wide oblivion.
Rigo is a crowd favourite who has edged out Heggem
because he's a better defender. His cross for
the goal against West Ham proves he's no better
or worse than McAteer and he can make a contribution
going forward. I wouldn't have thought full back
was his best position, but as a centre half he
occasionally does a bit of ball watching and loses
his man. But he is only 23, and defends well.
Verdict: Houllier +.
IN, Djimi Traore. OUT, Rob Jones. Rob could have
been the best full back we've ever had. That's
no exaggeration. True, he ended up about 60 goals
shy of Chris Lawler - Christ, he even ended up
4 goals shy of Bjornebye - but he had everything
else. As he got older (all of 22!) the injuries
were coming thick and fast and the convalescences
were getting longer. Evans offered him a four-year
deal and it was declined. He went to West Ham
and broke down in his first game.
As a free agent, Jones could go where he pleased
and Houllier had no choice. Traore is "the
best French defender of his generation" (GH).
He's played against Sunderland last May and in
both legs against Hull. He looked comfortable,
but was responsible for a goal (academic I know,
but still). When you take into account that we
had no choice in the matter, Jones was finished
within two months of leaving the Melwood treatment
room while Djimi looks quite promising. There's
no other choice. Verdict: Houllier +.
IN, Sami Hyypia. OUT, Bjorn Tore Kvarme. I'm not
even going to waste my time or yours. Verdict:
IN, Stephane Henchoz. OUT, Steve Harkness. Harky
was another unfortunate, another 100%-er, another
who has found himself in the Godforsaken hellhole
that is Blackburn. Coincidentally, that's where
Henchoz was before. Go and ask the cap rollers
who they'd prefer in their defence, clearing up
after Darren Peacock. We've looked a lot more
solid since Henchoz's long-awaited debut at Villa.
He's played 10 league games, 8 wins 1 draw and
1 defeat. Another coincidence. Missed Newcastle,
we conceded two for the first time in 3 months.
It's not coincidence, is it? Verdict: Houllier
IN, Frode Kippe. OUT, Oyvind Leonhardsen. A lame
Norwegian connection, obviously, as Leo was a
right-sided midfielder (though he mostly played
on the left) and Frode is a defender (who, er,
made his debut in midfield). Leo made a contribution
last Spring, in stark contrast to the rest of
his stay when he was fucking awful. Evans made
things worse by persisting with him - in an unfamiliar
position. Evans came out of that with no credit
at all, and Leo's position became untenable. Leo,
by contrast, comes out rather well. No complaints,
persistence etc. but whatever he did there was
too much ground to make up with most Reds. Houllier
said he could stay as part of the squad, though
most fans would have bitten George Graham's hands
off. Since then, he has been dignified and professional.
We wish him well, but he wanted to go so it's
Verdict: Houllier +.
IN, Dietmar Hamann. OUT, Paul Ince. We have only
just started to get a glimpse of the real Didi
Hamann after his injury lay-off. We saw the best
and worst of Ince in his two years here. Fifteen
goals and some driving performances (though not
as frequent as we'd hoped) were the best - the
worst was very bad indeed. The senseless red card
in Valencia that robbed us of his presence in
the already-difficult Vigo tie, needless bookings,
anonymous performances, apparently undermining
both managers. Yet another coincidence; the leaks
that plagued Anfield last year have dried up since
his departure. Find me a Red who doesn't think
we're well rid of him. Verdict: Houllier +.
IN, Vladimir Smicer. OUT, Steve McManaman. We've
yet to see the best of Smicer. A few little tasters,
sure, but it's all been interrupted by injury.
I'm still hopeful that he will do the business.
The manager had no choice with McManaman, and
whose fault was it that the contract negotiations
went on for far too long? Not Gerard's. Since
there was nothing he could do about Macca, Verdict:
IN, Erik Meijer. OUT, Sean Dundee. Meijer came
as a squad player, he knew he wouldn't start many
games. He provides another option on the bench,
one we haven't really had since Toshack left.
His attitude is faultless, showing up his more
talented predecessors - and Sean Dundee. When
we lost Fowler and Owen, we wondered why Dundee
didn't start. Then we saw him and knew. We spent
two million on him and it was damn good business
by GH to get a million back. Verdict: Houllier
IN, Titi Camara. OUT, Karl Heinz Riedle. A message
to Barry Davies. Shut the fuck up, you insignificant
twat. Titi has taken Anfield by storm this season
and put in some marvellous performances. Riedle
saw how far down the pecking order he was and
decided to drop down a division. He went with
an untarnished reputation, like the complete professional
he is. What a terrible shame we didn't get him
earlier, when he was pissing about at Lazio for
instance. Titi is a great buy, and it was in Karl
Heinz's contract that he could leave, so Verdict:
Ferri was bought as cover for Ince and Redknapp,
but Steven Gerrard's emergence put paid to that.
All Ferri did was fall on his arse and win a pen
in a non-event at Sunderland. Babb should have
gone a long time ago but keeps turning down moves
because of the money. If he's holding out for
a freebie (to Racing Santander?), that just sums
him up. Houllier doesn't even want him near the
Reserves, and why should he? They're top of the
league, back to the 70's/80's heyday. The stigma
of the 'Stiffs' has been eroded. Nearly all the
first team turned out at Knowsley Road one night
to wipe out the Mackems.
We're seeing the first fruits of the Academy.
Traore, Kippe, Newby and Maxwell have all been
blooded this season. Injuries have wrecked our
hopes. If it wasn't bad enough that SEVEN new
players (all foreign) had to bed in, three key
players (Henchoz, Hamann, Smicer) all had long
spells out. Several spells, in Smicer's case.
We have consistently fielded teams with an average
age of 23, containing as many Scousers as we've
picked since the editor was in short pants (i.e.
It would be nice to think that Gerard will get
the same time as Evans or even Souness, but considering
the amount of pressure that was put on him in
August and then October I doubt that he will.
Hopefully, he can turn it around quickly. It may
or may not be another false dawn, but those frigging
birds are making a hell of a racket.