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November 2002

1st November: Oh God. Houllier manager of the month? I can only remember two: Dec 1999, followed by defeat to Spurs, FA Cup defeat to Blackburn and home draw with Boro’. And March 2002: out of the CL and that dreadful game at Spurs. There’s countless other examples, the thing is just jinxed. Give it to Wenger again, so the Unbeatables can go another four without a win. You must be stupid if David Beckham can’t teach you anything. He said they’d remain unbeaten last season, and look what happened. Thank God our man never says anything stupid………

2nd November: We must be doing something right. Ferguson blesses us with one of those ‘psychology’ dealies: “We have to look at Liverpool now, not Arsenal”. That’s Wenger’s team talk done and dusted, then. L 2 WEST HAM 0 saw off the GH award jinx, though I doubt if the Hammers would have threatened us if they had another 5 players out there. Easily the poorest team I’ve seen since, oooo, Spartak. It’s going well, but it’s turned on Owen’s form and you know there’s bigger challenges ahead. They couldn’t be less taxing than today. Nice ovation for Titi – shame it was 20 months too late. He should have got that when he first came back. I used to like West Ham, but that witless song about stereos (digs about crime from East Enders!) has worn it away. Singing about Di Canio on an away ground. Shame he’s never there to hear it.

3rd November: “Hallo? Happy Hols? Yes, I really need somewhere quiet, secluded, no TV, no phones, no radio. Well, you see, it’s happened again”…… ……the greatest thing in football has got another one. You thought it was bad first time around, this is going to be far worse.

3rd November: Seven points clear this morning, but we’re hit by two bits of bad news. Arsenal won, despite a series of illegal lunges in the box by Campbell which the referee and (who’d have thought it?) Wenger didn’t see. Then we’re tipped to win the title by………Andy Gray. He’s been having a pop at United lately – Beckham’s foul in Slovakia and Keane’s ‘punishment’. So is the horn-ed one really trying to sidle over to us? “Liverpool deserve credit for a fine run of results”. Yeah, I noticed how much ‘credit’ you gave us after Chelsea. Do one, you scabrous bluenose shitehawk. And take that furball Keys with you.

4th November: Sharing a cave with Osama looks pretty good right now. Prentice is on the happy pills, and now thinks he’s got a sense of humour. “To paraphrase Monty Python, he’s not the Messiah but he’s a very saucy boy”. What in God’s name is that supposed to mean? Stick to the unintentional stuff, Dave – like boasting about taking 5,000 to Blackburn, or how Everton are so vibrant now they want another 400 tickets for Newcastle. That’s much funnier.

5th November: It’s the first sighting of the Incredible Sulk for ages. Anelka wanted to play in a charity match in France, but Keegan made him stay for City’s Worthington Cup fiasco at Wigan. “It’s quite rare that footballers show they don’t just do things for themselves”. I think this is what passes for irony in France.

6th November: The teacher in Gerard comes to the fore, as he’s ready with more bon mots. “Success only comes before work in the dictionary”. Yeah? Interestingly enough, so does “entertainment”, “flair”, “skill”, “passing” and “trite mottoes plucked from fortune cookies”. L 3 SOUTHAMPTON 1 saw the second string get a chance, and it was one of the better games this season. Smicer, Cheyrou, Diouf, Baros – nice to see the ball on the deck most of the time. Great to see Markus back in a meaningful game (well, sort of) and even Igor at centre back didn’t look ridiculous. The story of the night, though, was Kirkland. A superb performance, but one that may alert the rest of the country. Here is a top-class keeper kicking his heels on our bench 90% of the time, and he’s far too good for that.

6th November: Numbers provide the laughs today. It turns out that Everton can break another record tonight. If they win, it’ll be four victories on the trot – the first time in ELEVEN years they’ve done it. And we’ve still got fans moaning about Roy Evans! Brian Clough emerges from his afternoon nap to declare that Owen can’t be considered a goal scorer “until he’s scored a lot for three years”. Would this be the same Owen who was the league’s top scorer in 1998 and 1999? Just because they’re your missing years doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

7th November: We’re really cynical bastards nowadays. Last night we sat there, wondering just how long it’ll be before Kirkland would announce his unhappiness at playing 2nd fiddle and before this rumour about Arsenal or that rumour about United would appear in the press. And yet the lad is saying all the right things: “all I can do is work hard and take my chance”. Who knows? We may have the one selfless player in the Premiership, who talks about loyalty and means it.

8th November: Anything you can do etc. Chris B follows the bluenoses’ lead about records. While they’re creaming their kecks over a lousy 4-win ‘streak’ (albeit aided by a penalty shoot-out), we could nab the record for an unbeaten start to a Premiership season. Yes, I know that makes us sound like Mancs, and football existed before 1992, but it’ll be nice to boast about it come 5 o’clock tomorrow.

9th November: Bollocks. 10th November: It’s okay, I’ve calmed down. A bit. It all started so well, watching Gary Neville screw up big time in the Manchester derby. MIDDLESBROUGH 1 L 0 soon wiped the smiles away. It would have been a bad enough day in the late 90’s. For a side with genuine title credentials, already 4 points clear at the top, it was cowardly and unforgivable. To go out against this nondescript team with one up front ………well, I was going to say it defied belief, but it is only too believable. He can’t help himself, can he? We’ve all got to see him pull the strings. Does he not know a successful puppetmaster keeps out of sight? And you shouldn’t see the strings either. A truly great manager just picks his best side and tells them “these should be no problem, go out and play”. This was mind-numbing, tedious stuff – and if we actually had won the point we went out to get from the first whistle, it would still have been deeply unsatisfactory. Don’t blame Dudek, he was the one who kept us in it.

10th November: And the papers do not make very good reading. One statistics column gave us 11 shots. Sorry, did I fall asleep and miss them? I certainly can’t remember Schwarzwer making a save. I must have missed loads of the game because Houllier claims “we were in control most of the time” and “ we probably made more chances than them”. If he were as clever as he thinks he is, and we were as stupid as he thinks we are, then he might get away with that. But guess what?………

11th November: Instead of leaving it alone and concentrating on the next game, we’ve got to get the Spin. “I don’t think we’re a cautious side……the statistics say only United have had more shots on goal this season”. Whooooweeee. The stats said we had 11 shots on Saturday, but if he genuinely believes we weren’t cautious then he’s just insulting our intelligence. Get a grip, man.

11th November: Another trip to Europe, another ambush – this time in a McDonald’s in Zurich. “Would sir like a Molotov cocktail with his fries?”. Now there’s a difference at McDonald’s you won’t enjoy. How come these cowardly twats keep getting away with these sneaky attacks without ever once coming under UEFA scrutiny? Or are English fans in general, and Liverpool fans in particular, now fair game?

12th November: And their teams are even worse. Sly bastards, they are. All they need is a draw, but do they sit back with ten men behind the ball like we would? They bloody well do not – they go forward and try to score goals. Sneaky gets. BASLE 3 L 3 brings our Champions League ‘adventure’ to a close. In truth, it never really got going. We go out with one point more than we needed to reach last season’s quarter finals. That was spawny, and all our luck ran out tonight. The fightback was exciting but I’m not too grateful. Imagine thanking someone for saving you from drowning if they’d originally pushed you in! Smicer can hold his head high, but I’m not sure about any of the rest – especially our now-permanent ‘left winger’. The Heskey favouritism is now an embarrassment. You sense the player himself is really uncomfortable about it, but in true Emile style he sticks at it.

13th November: Well, take your pick from the long list of managerial eccentricities today. Most will concentrate on the odious scapegoating of Steven Gerrard, another remarkable example of “Team First – except if any flak is coming MY way, in which case I’ll throw one of you to the wolves”. The uncharitable, petty “they had three shots and scored three goals” is also worth another airing (that’s not the first half I saw). No, the line that really caught my eye is this: “You can have the best game plan in the world but when you concede a goal after 90 seconds it counts for nothing” ………so there you have it. A clear confession. If this team doesn’t score first, it has to thrash around looking for another game plan! In the last 35 months, the Reds have won ONE league game they were losing, and this pitiful statistic (not that you’ll ever hear it from Le Boss) shows how one dimensional we are. Basle scored first, and that was the end of the game. Heskey left wing, Riise left back, one up front – the best game plan in the world? My arse.

15th November: Big shock – Phil McNulty thinks Houllier was right to “blast” Gerrard. When this slobbering, toadying kiss-arse ever criticises the boss, I’ll sit up and take note. “Boss’s words could work as wake-up call for Stevie G”. Yes, but they could also further undermine a young lad going through personal turmoil, loss of form and with injury concerns still not completely erased from his mind. But McNulty’s biggest pile of unmitigated shite is “he knows this manager has form for declining to indulge unfulfilled talent too long”. Isn’t that right, Emile?

16th November: Butt out, you. The manager has opened up a huge can of worms with this Gerrard nonsense, and the biggest worm of all is Nic Anelka. It’s perfectly acceptable to point out that Houllier also “has form” for singling out individual players (Ginola, Hamann at Bayer, Diouf at Valencia), but that’s still no reason for Anelka to dredge up some ancient incident from a French U-20’s match. “I still appreciate all that he did for me at Liverpool”. Funny way of showing it, Nicky lad.

17th November: Be afraid, be very afraid. This morning’s hot transfer ‘scoop’ is that Ferguson could be considering a bid for Alan Smith. It’s obvious the little wretch already thinks he’s above the law. Imagine what will happen when he signs for Man U and he actually is. Luckily, the story’s on the back of the Mirror so that almost certainly means it’s rubbish.

17th November: I wish I had a quid for every time someone said “he’s kicking Stevie up the arse, to get him back to his best”. Odd how he won’t give him a chance to make him eat his words today, then. He should have been surplus to requirements, anyway. L 0 SUNDERLAND 0 was one of the most one-sided games in years, but I’m not buying into this whinge about bad luck. Their keeper made a few great saves, true, but any team that has 20-odd shots (and I stayed awake for all of them!) really ought to be getting one into the net – only ten were on target. Wilkinson showed all the flair we’ve come to expect from his teams, but you’d bring everyone back if Phil Babb was in your defence. He walked out of Anfield with a clean sheet. First time for everything, I suppose.

18th November: I should keep away from the Internet. All this crap about how boring Sunderland were ignores the fact that they did everything we did at Middlesbrough (except lose). They are a relegation side, facing a team that could’ve gone top. They have an excuse – can you think of any reason why we went to the Riverside with a similarly negative approach? But no, all you get from the cyber-nerds is that “In Ged We Trust” fuckwittery.

19th November: Spin is all around me, it’s everywhere I go. Well, I can paraphrase Wet Wet Wet if Prentice can quote Deacon feckin’ Blue. “Fergie Sings The Blues” headlines a piece about Exlax prattling on about Everton being the best team they’ve faced. Aye, and the team that BEAT them 3-0 is one of the worst. Go figure. Now the blues are high in the table, they’re starting to slowly draw back from King’s Dock. We all know they had a better chance of building a ground in Teletubbieland, but while they had nothing to crow about they clutched the idea like a straw. Moyes, Rooney, a few wins – and guess what? “The £160m dream is put on hold”. No shit. But if it’s propaganda you want, try GH. “STAND FIRM” he says. “When you go through difficult periods that’s when you need everyone to stick together”. Well, it makes a change from “you do not destroy today what you worshipped yesterday” I suppose. Steven Gerrard was unavailable for comment. It’s what’s known as silence speaking volumes.

20th November: Get ready for scapegoat 2, if a headline like “Rise and fall of John Arne” is anything to go by. Not that the Express’ Paul Joyce is paving the way or anything. In fact, Paul archly writes “Riise has impressed for Norway in a left midfield role and could be forced to dislodge Emile Heskey from that position”. JAR in midfield? Hmmm, nice idea. Why didn’t we think of that?

20th November: More spin. “HOU JOY AT SUPER DIAO”. Yeah, he’s been okay, but let’s not exaggerate. Or is it all to do with the position he plays in. “I like the way you can see how much he loves the game and likes playing” – unlike some, GET IT?

20th November: Footballers aren’t bright, are they? Silvestre is about to sign for us, but Fergie says he’ll play him in central defence so he goes there. United play him… ……at left back. Three years later, he may leave because, er, he’s never played in central defence. And if the Mail expects us to believe that “fierce rivals Liverpool could enter the race to sign him”, then they obviously think we’re as thick as………well, Mikael Silvestre.

22nd November: Ajax’s Rafael van der Vaart is a player that’s been linked with us a few times. “He operates just behind the front two”. Not here, he won’t. Ask El Hadji. Ask Jari. One paper claims we’ll be pipped to his transfer by Barcelona, so I hope Mr Litmanen will be putting a word in for us. “Don’t go to Barcelona – the coach is a by-the-book automaton who only picks his favourites, he’s afraid of flair and he’ll leave you on the bench to rot” …………

22nd November: “Steve knows I didn’t criticise him publicly”…………sorry, I am genuinely lost for words here. If anything, I’m worried about the man’s sanity. He’s been cornered in a way, but he said this stuff and he’s got to live with the consequences now. The longer he keeps talking for Gerrard, the longer everyone thinks something is wrong. Denying it happened is foolish.

23rd November: “Sven says what he says and I say what I say, but I never comment on what he says so I would like him not to comment on what I say”. He’s turning into Stan Laurel!

23rd November: Jerzy, that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into. FULHAM 3 L 2, and yet again the “game plan” is thrown out of the window after a few minutes. Liverpool’s inability to win games from a losing position is notorious, but when Fulham give you 85 minutes to make a comeback and you can’t, it’s time to look at your game plan and give it a tweak here and there. Left to me, I’d shove the game plan where the sun doesn’t shine. Stevie G got dragged out at 0-2, so no pressure there then. Fabulous goal from Didi, which he doesn’t do nearly enough for a man of his talent. Milan Baros must be completely bewildered by now. His scoring record is great, but he’s always snubbed. It’s the kind of thing that got Roy Evans sacked.

24th November: Martin Edwards? With a prozzie? Do me a favour. Who writes this farfetched rubbish? There are some cracking lines, though. “I had sex with Martin – and he was very noisy” “I went to the toilet and Martin followed me. He immediately asked me for my phone number” – and a quick blimp under the cubicle, eh? Sorry! Sorry! That was completely uncalled for.

24th November: What’s the French for “gag order”? Someone needs to have a word. I expect rubbish like “We’re trying to make the Premiership exciting” from Ferguson, not a Reds boss. “We always learn more in adversity than in victories, and any setback must be taken as a gift if you want to progress”. Guess what? Out of the Champions League and four-point lead to one-point deficit, all within a fortnight - Christmas has come early.

25th November: Strange goings on in the ‘Echo’. Chris Bascombe writes about players “in hiding, even on the pitch, and thus far escaping censure for their mediocrity”. So far, so anonymous. Then he turns on Riise. “Whatever the Norwegian is for ‘pull your finger out’, he could do with a translation”. What’s he up to? Yes, left side of midfield “has been a problem” – and exactly how many times has John Arne been played there this season? I can’t figure out whether this is a misguided attempt to express annoyance at how Stevie G was singled out, or smoothing the way for the manager to find yet another victim. Not that he needs help with that. Asked if Jerzy is still his number one, he says “it’s hard to say”. A year’s brilliance followed by a few minor rickets. As Dave Usher rightly says “how many has GH made this season?” – more than Jerzy, that’s for sure.

26th-27th November: Basle 1 Man U 3, followed by Valencia 1 Ajax 1 on Wednesday. I think that’s called ‘perspective’.

27th November: One letter in the Echo amply demonstrates what it is that annoys me about Gerard and some (not all) Liverpool fans. The level of sycophancy is nauseating. “Houllier is the greatest thing to happen to Liverpool since Shanks arrived in 1959” – complete and utter shit, but you’d be amazed how many people agree. Bill is not even our greatest manager. That accolade belongs to Bob Paisley, the perennial Forgotten Man of football. This is an incredibly hyped-up tag for a man who hasn’t even won the championship yet. Let’s wait till May, and maybe then I will be able to stomach talk that compares him to Dalglish or even Fagan. Until then, pass me a sickbag.

28th November: “Magnificent obsession is Euro threat for Houllier”. More stirring from the Mail, which conveniently forgets that Ferguson spoke about his tactics for Sunday’s clash three days ago but THAT isn’t obsessed, oh no. They haven’t even got a quote from anyone to back any of this u-………oh, hang on, just read further down. “I can’t help wondering if they have their minds on Manchester United. I hope not” – I’ll give you three guesses.

28th November: Dudek kept his place in the end, though it wouldn’t have hurt to make that known straight after Fulham. The lad’s earned it. VITESSE ARNHEM O L 1 saw little threat to the Reds until we took the foot off the pedal. It should have been four or five, so maybe there was one eye on the second leg attendance (I’m still suspicious about Palace in 2001). The game was over for 5 minutes and I’d forgotten about it.

29th November: McNulty to the rescue! “Houllier’s critics way off mark”. You do surprise me. “No manager is exempt from criticism and Houllier is no different”………wait for it, wait for it… ……“but” Bingo! You knew it was coming didn’t you? “My constant support for Houllier has angered some”. There’s a world of difference between support and sycophancy. Gerard’s heart op took eleven hours, and six of those were taken up extracting McNulty from his arse.