January 2003


1st January: I should have known what would happen next when I read Tommy Smith’s wise words. “The draw with Arsenal has put Liverpool back on track – they’ll feel they can go anywhere and get a result”. Shame we didn’t play them two months ago, then. And of course what he meant to say was “anywhere except St James Park”. Add that to Lawrenson’s “a definite 3 points for Liverpool and a real turning point for the Reds” and there we are – well and truly jinxed. Travelling to the North East was the most pointless exercise since Rick Waller’s. NEWCASTLE 1 L 0 was a travesty of a performance. The manager dredged up this “we never get battered” defence before the game. Well, tonight you saw just why. A man down, a goal down, what the hell did it matter if we lost 2 or 3 nil? Well, it matters to Houllier. How else can you explain Diouf being replaced by Vignal in the latter stages? All attacking momentum (and when I say ‘momentum’ think tortoise) evaporated. Diao’s behaviour was completely amateurish. No-one thought you were ‘hard’, they thought you were a prick. We’re already playing twelve v ten (Gallagher’s a cheat and Biscan can’t control a bag of cement with a dead elephant taped to it) and he goes and does that. If Houllier thinks we don’t need any new blood during the transfer window, he’s either an idiot or he’s too scared to ask Parry for more money in case a laughing fit kills his most staunch ally. Probably both. “I am fully confident in this team”. They should be famous last words.

2nd January: But I don’t think 5,000 volts could keep him quiet. “I always knew we would hit a phase like this”. His mystical powers didn’t stretch to formulating a plan to avoid it, obviously. It’s infectious: Rick Parry says “we’re not completely out of the title race yet”. In the same way I haven’t completely given up hope of playing for the Reds one day, either. On yesterday’s evidence, I’d make a great right winger.

2nd January: Welcome to happy hour, with your host Chris Bascombe! “It’s all gone horribly, horribly wrong……one can be forgiven for having a sense of panic ……Liverpool are not good enough. That’s it…… the slide into mid-table mediocrity will be tough to reverse” and so on. Speaking as a “buffoon” who has questioned the manager, I concur completely.

3rd January: At least we’ve got Keegan in our corner on Sunday. “I asked Nicolas if he wanted to miss the Liverpool and he said ‘Non, Non’”. That’s our team talk done, then.

3rd January: The Echo flips with a Rooney “best since Best” headline. Of course, who are we to argue with the assessment of Shrewsbury’s assistant manager? While McNulty slides into insanity with “Houllier has the job for as long as he wants it”. Maybe that’s what has gone wrong? It’s not the original Gerard at the helm, it’s a series of Saddam-like doubles protecting the myth that he’ll last forever. That would explain the poor transfers, the baffling tactics, the contradictory statements ………

4th January: Small point, but did George Best’s United ever lose to a team 80 league places below them? “I just can’t foresee an upset at Gay Meadow and I fully expect a Blues victory”. Cheers, Mark.

4th January: More Team First, with the onus placed squarely on the players. “I am entitled to say that the players can deliver more”. Fair enough, and no-one would disagree. Is it fair to expect Biscan to do well on the right wing? No. Is it fair to expect the manager to fulfil his promise of more “self expression”? Yes. Is it fair to expect a manager to get more than 4 points out of 30? Yes. Is it fair to expect a manager to shut his gob and just do the bloody job? Yes.

5th January: Like that, for instance. MAN CITY 0 L 1 didn’t take much. A change of tactics will always phase Keegan, but today we had width, purpose and good possession. Diao was a hundred times better, Diouf on the right made a difference and Mellor gave a brave unselfish performance. Anelka, as confidently predicted, did little. All that morning paper whinging, and that’s how he expresses his disgust? In fact, City were atrocious. I thought our ‘Last Day of the Kop’ performance was bad, but the last cup tie at Maine Road will be remembered for abou-………sorry, what were we talking about again?

5th January: Gerard’s entitled to a gloat or two, especially as one fat hack’s column says he wants him replaced by Sammy Lee – now, if you’re looking for real buffoons, Mike Parry’s your man. I’d like to know the true meaning of “The FA Cup is a good diversion from the Premier League”, though. For the players, Gerard? Or for us?

6th January: Liverpool have won a game. Jesus, can’t you tell? Everyone’s on the bounce today. “The whingers who can’t even bring themselves to enjoy it when the Reds win” – just doing me job, Chris! “This was the toughest tie of the round for a Premiership side”? Hmm, Middlesbrough went to Chelsea and Spurs got battered at Southampton. Slight exaggeration, if you ask me. But if you want verbal diarrhoea stand well back because here comes the boss. “When I listen to the fans in the stadiums I know they are behind us – it is those fans I listen to, not those on the phone-ins ”. That’s nice. Sing his name and he’ll listen. Criticise him and he won’t. Great. That means you’ve got your own voice coming back at you all the time. No wonder we’re sinking………oh sorry, I forgot. We’re not sinking at all. Get this: “A good team never loses twice in a row, and thanks to the cups we never have”. This might seem like a rude question, but are you a moron? No, seriously, are you? 6 defeats and 4 draws in the last 10 league games, but we’re still a good team because we spaced the defeats out nice and evenly?!?! This is worse than Souness.

7th January: Remember Charlton, and that line “this is no longer a blip it’s a slump”? Well, reporters can say what they like – but Liverpool still think it’s a “blip”. Ask Danny Murphy: “We have come forward quicker than anticipated” ………ah right, that will explain it then. I mean, when have Liverpool FC given a manager less than 5 years to get it right? Apart from Souness………and Evans………

8th January: Here are today’s classics: “Just because we are 6 points short of what I think we should have in the league, people say it’s a crisis”. Yes, Gerard. And now that Stevie has been formally charged over the Naysmith tackle? “I can say that our player had no intention at all of hurting anybody”. Ah ha. And number 3: “Now I sense the players want to take the second half of the season by the scruff of the neck – that is how we’ll go into this tie”.

8th January: And then they’ll just let it go again? SHEFFIELD UNITED 2 L 1 is only half time, but our inability to do the job for 90 minutes is becoming farcical. This is a poor team, basic, confused, relying on physical presence and defensive solidity and the odd bit of creativity – and United are worse. Substitutions were made for the sake of it. We’re back to putting Emile on, no matter how ludicrous the position or how well the original eleven are doing – and we paid for it. It should be easy at Anfield, but the tie should already be over. Still, should be a sell-out eh?

9th January: News just in: South Yorkshire Police are complete and utter scum………shock ………horror. As for United’s retards, the second leg should be interesting. Plenty of ‘afters’ with the coaching staff too. Getting annoyed because a lower league side got “stuck in” seems an exercise in futility, but we’re doing it just the same. The challenge on Kirkland was poor, but if we need an extra man to protect a lead again the Blades that says more about us. “Hopefully, we’ll have a better surface at Anfield”………sure you don’t want to mention the moon’s alignment with Saturn? Or your mouth’s alignment with Uranus? Because you’ve blamed everything else. And everyone else………well, everyone with one exception.

10th January: And the word for January is ‘blip’. ‘Blip’. It’s only the AGM, so Moores had to speak anyway (in those dulcet Cary Grant tones), but it’s often a poor sign when the chairman says “we have a very good manager”. Not for nothing is it known as the DREADED vote of confidence. “Apart from a small blip I don’t think we are doing too badly”. Out of the CL, out of the title race, CL qualification in doubt. Good job it wasn’t a big blip, eh?

11th January a.m.: Wind-ups everywhere. Sheffield reveal what went on the other night – “Wait till we get you at our place” was Thommo’s clever response – and Lee Hendrie fans the flames for today by saying we’re not that great to watch. The only pain that’ll cause Liverpool fans is if we crick our neck through too much nodding, but it will hopefully rev the players up to give us a top notch display today.

11th January p.m.: Ah ha. L 1 ASTON VILLA 1. That’ll show Lee Hendrie, won’t it? Drab stuff, and we were lucky to get the point. I enjoyed the physical battle between Dublin and the SAS, you don’t often get that nowadays – certainly not at the other end, where judging by Kopites’ groans you’d have thought we had signed a new number 8 called Getupyabigtart. The contrast was stark. Villa are in a terrible mess, and they should have won this. Could things get worse?

12th January: Indeed they could. I’ve finally snapped with the manager. If he’d said “I WILL win the title and the Champions League at Liverpool – that is for sure” in November (when we were still in the hunt for both) I’d have been furious, but saying it during Liverpool’s Worst League Run since We Were Relegated (official!) is a sign of mental instability. We can’t put up with this any longer. By also saying “of course, it’s harder to win these days”, he is diminishing the achievements of truly great managers like Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish. It may be a valid opinion, we’re all entitled to them, but you sense he’s only saying it to save his own neck.

13th January: But we’re going to have to wade through more tripe before the club finally gets the message. Like Thommo’s “Look at Dion on Saturday, look at Shearer at Newcastle and what Gary Mac did for us – players like that offer leadership and experience”. Hence the headline ‘WE ARE MISSING OLD HEAD”. “You have to remember our players are still young”. They are? Sami and Steph are nearly 30, Vlad and Didi are late 20’s, Carragher Owen Heskey and Murphy have 5 or 6 years in the Premiership – how old does this ‘head’ actually have to be? Or am I treating a blatant smoke screen with far too much seriousness? Hmm, a tricky one.
13th January: And here’s that old head – Ian Rush! True, he can’t play but he can pass on his experience and that’s the main thing. Apparently, this all took “six months of negotiations”. Ian, do you wanna work for Liverpool? Of course I do! Great, see you Monday. That took six months?

15th January: Van Horsehead spills the beans about the betting culture going on at Old Trafford. Card schools are common and the amounts won and lost are “obscene”. The Mail’s laughable headline is “Fergie anger as striker reveals betting culture” – this is obviously not the same Fergie that sent Keith Gillespie down to the bookies to place his bets for him.

16th January: Despite Houllier’s constant, artless attempts to blame the World Cup for current difficulties, kudos must go to Hamann and Heskey. Dietmar dismisses the idea out of hand, while Emile says “a lot of players went and not all of them have struggled – I wouldn’t like to just use that as an excuse”. And let’s be honest here, there isn’t a player in England who could use a good excuse more at the moment. May be best to just stick to Thommo’s line about being “young and inexperienced”. Just out of curiosity, Em: how many internationals and cup finals have you played in again?………

17th January: So a betting “furore” starts off at Old Trafford and ends up at Anfield – hey, betcha never saw that one coming? Liverpool being used as a cover-up for Manchester United? I mean, what were the odds? Owen is the ‘unnamed’ player who lost 30 grand in a World Cup card school. Tony Adams also slyly implies that it was Owen who was subbed because he’d lost a lot of money one day and not because he was injured. You could tell just by looking at him, eh? You can’t blame him for gawping at Michael from the stands – since he never used to get a sight of him on the pitch. How’s the garden wall demolition business going, o whiter than white one?

18th January: Gerard stares into his crystal ball, and sounds like he’s seeing a Crystal Nacht. “The weaker ones will disappear ……you need a crisis to sort things out…… the weak will have to go”. Jesus! Bruno, Bernie, Igor, Vlad, Vegard, Emile – if you hear a knock on the door in the middle of the night………

18th January: No doubt Heskey will be spared after his goal and performance today. SOUTHAMPTON 0 L 1 was a resounding success. It’s easy to go overboard if you haven’t won a league game for months, but this was good stuff. Straight into them from the off, trying to get a second goal, keeping the pressure on, never letting the other team settle – one of our better days, no doubt about it. This certainly wasn’t the same team that ripped Spurs apart, but I genuinely believe we should get the credit for that. Steven Gerrard was excellent, and it did show just how much we rely on him. Still, let’s not quibble. Let’s get pissed and celebrate a win. It doesn’t happen too often.

19th January: Owen’s losses have miraculously risen to TWO MILLION! Van Shergar opens his ugly long mouth, and now we’re taking all this shit? I can’t say I’m not bothered. Yes, it’s Michael’s money to do what he likes with, but we think it’s going on houses, family gifts, future investments – and not being pissed down a bookie’s drain. It does matter, because we’re the poor saps paying £30 a ticket in order for this indulgence to take place. I doubt it is two million (it’s in the Sunday Mirror, so I know it isn’t) but it will be a hell of a lot and Owen should think about what he’s doing. If the thrill of risking such amounts wears off and he bets even larger sums, does he then start messing the club about for more money or, worse yet, a transfer? This isn’t just press scare-mongering. It does matter. And if he’d bet on Heskey to score yesterday, he could have got most of his money back.

20th January: Jeff Powell’s still as potty ‘n’ snotty as ever. “If Houllier made a mistake it was trying to satisfy the call for more attractive football…… thus a team he built for counter-attack went charging forward”. It did?!? When, exactly? But as we know, Jeff’s not interested in Liverpool or Houllier or football for that matter – he just wants to shit on Liverpudlians. “The very crowds he attempted to please turned on him for risking too many defeats in the course of entertainment”. Hey, that’s us – two-faced and fickle, murdering Italians and carrying bananas by the ton. Sit down man, you’re a bloody tragedy.

20th January: But if it’s rewritten history you’re after, then Powell’s an amateur compared to Le Boss. “I was happy to deflect blame onto me and away from my players” – WHEN???? Go on, name a single solitary game when you accepted the blame for a defeat. I really don’t know what’s worse – the fact that he’s saying it or the fact that he’s expecting us to believe it.

21st January: How to encourage the opposition: list all your grievances about the first leg, then say after every single one “I don’t give a damn about that” or “I’m not bothered about Sheffield United” or “The football will be our answer”. “We will stay humble”………and we will win the league and the Champions League under you, too?

21st January: The football was our answer, eventually. L 2 SHEFFIELD UNITED 0 (3-2) sees us back at Cardiff, but it was a long hard slog and a very nervous second half. Owen shone throughout, a deserved match winner the highlight of a committed display. I was lucky to see it at all, because by extra time I’d become entranced by Michael Brown. Every single exchange with a Liverpool player saw a late tackle, a flailing arm, a bit of verbals, constantly failing to retreat 10 yards at set pieces. If he’d worn a sign saying “SEND ME OFF” he couldn’t have been more blatant. I don’t think he was even booked! Managers always look for a player that personifies their philosophy out on the pitch. Warnock’s obviously found his long lost identical twin.

22nd January: And he wasn’t going to go down gracefully, was he? All this spitting nonsense with Steph, it may well be true – but if Neil Warnock told me 2 o’clock came after 1 o’clock I’d change my watch. And that shit about Henchoz not being English (can’t pull the wool over your eyes eh?) should be investigated, shouldn’t it? Don’t hold your breath. Someone who so obviously wants to be hated has serious issues to confront. The thought of these bastards in the Premiership fills me with dread.

22nd January: Tommy Smith is the latest to use the ‘b’ word. “You can’t pick one Premiership manager who hasn’t had a blip in his career”. No, but you can name two Liverpool managers who went 11 league games without a win. Don Welsh – and Gerard Houllier.

24th January: Abel Xavier to leave? Sorry, I forgot he was still here. It doesn’t matter, as we have so much cover for the right back spot like, er, the bloke who’s been ill and hasn’t really recovered, or……… er, the bloke we sold to Sunderland………

25th January: Sami promises to deliver the title before his contract expires – in 2006. Riiiiight, so this 5-year plan of the manager’s has suddenly become an eight-year plan? Didn’t they used to do that sort of thing in Russia? Or George Orwell’s 1984? Still, at least he didn’t mention the blip! Gerrard could miss the cup final if we lose tomorrow. He’ll probably be banned for the derby tackle, so the next round game or a replay will be part of any ban. At least we’ll be fully focused on the match.

26th January: Apart from the boss, of course. He’s more concerned about the luck Arsenal have had (!!!!!!!) and Sky Sports’ criticism in the build-up to the Southampton game. He complains of a lack of balance (never stopped him picking Em), but his complaints would carry more force if he himself wasn’t twisting the facts. “Who apart from Man United has won a European competition in the last 10 years?” – apart from Arsenal and Chelsea, you mean? “The team that plays against Arsenal won’t include anyone over 30” – but Sami Jerzy and Didi will be 30 by the Autumn, Steph will be 29. The actual game, CRYSTAL PALACE 0 L 0, was pretty diabolical. There we are, on a Nationwide ground, playing for a draw. For someone who has been moaning constantly about World Cup tiredness (he was at it again in this morning’s papers), you’d think an extra game would be the last thing he wanted. And seven players in this side didn’t even go to Japan. Our game followed United putting six past a Premiership side: Heskey was our best defender, the Palace constantly shouted “HOOF!” at us and we used a late substitution to wind down the clock. Is anyone else even a tiny bit ashamed of all this?

27th January: As we expected Chris Kirkland is going to be out for a long while, for the rest of the season at least. Not a major blow, given that Jerzy’s there to come straight in, but for the lad it must be dreadful. Get well soon, mate.

29th January: He’s become tired of blaming the World Cup, although I was actually coming round to the theory. Just the words “World Cup tiredness” are enough to send me into a coma, so imagine how the players feel. No, we’ve got a new scapegoat today. Francis Jeffers, esq. “That was the day our championship hopes disappeared”. Losing to Boro, Fulham, MU, Charlton and Sunderland didn’t help either, though. “The players have probably overcome the bitter disappointment and frustration more than I have”. Yes, that was the word I was looking for. Bitter.

29th January: So can we count the goal kick turned corner as rough justice and move on? I doubt it. L 2 ARSENAL 2, though initially uplifting, led to a lot of Red soul-searching afterwards. They weren’t just better than us, they were miles better. Their own cockiness was their undoing in the end, but they were so good before that. Henry was fantastic, and all credit to Carra for even getting anywhere near him. We did fight hard and we deserved something in the end, but for 20 minutes of the first half we weren’t on the same planet. That “HOOF” thing is gonna become a national curse isn’t it? Like the Pinocchio chant, but it has a certain truth. Thommo has got a big nose, and we do welly it. A lot, although I noticed they weren’t too proud to do it at 1-1.

30th January: This being modern football, no-one can let it lie of course. Wenger goes mad because “the ball clearly came off the Liverpool player”. Your view on events is a thing to behold, it really is. Would you be interested in donating your eyes to medical science? Not when you’re dead, right now. And didn’t Lauren score in 2000, from a corner that should have been a goal kick? No complaints then, of course. I think I dislike him more than Ferguson now.

31st January: But anything you can do etc etc. Thommo says “we have matched Arsenal”……… yerrrrrrsssss. And Houllier’s all over Heskey: “I’ve always maintained his future was as the spearhead of our attack”. Apart from the 30-40 times he’s been on the left, of course. That was somebody else who did that. The pixies at the bottom of his garden, perhaps.

31st January: How to buy players, Keegan-style. “Insult the player’s home town, that’s always a good one”. I suppose it keeps him well in with his current employers (never too observant when it comes to crime in their own city, of course) but why anyone should get worked up by anything Keegan says has usually been beyond me. Kevin Keegan is an arsehole, he always has been. Trouble is, he was also a childhood hero – and when the giants of your youth turn into pathetic clowns a small part of you dies inside. Good luck anyway, Robbie.