To write a blog trying to decide whether I thought Liverpool threw the game against Chelsea would be almost as easy as the Dippers made it for the West London club. That debate even exists asto whether Liverpool gifted 3 points or if they are actually that bad is a new low for our once proud rivals up the M62. Yesterday’s reviews of their capitulation were varied. But, in surrendering even the faint hope of short term prosperity for more probable short term schadenfreude, those Liverpool fans who were happy to see their team lose not only the game but all of its integrity in one fell swoop are also presumably looking forward to the years in the wilderness that result guaranteed.
Liverpool’s fans wished for their own club to fail yesterday. That short term failure could have long term effects. Stretford-End.com explains why those fans should be careful what they wish for.
I was accused prior to the game of making excuses in advance when I challenged Rafael Benitez’s integrity. When I blogged prior to the weekends fixtures I acknowledged this but was under the impression that the feeling of a manager who is more than likely on his bike in the summer would not be replicated by the players or their infamous “12th man.”
Well, how wrong I was. That 12th man was busy making banners that demonstrated where their loyalties lied; any doubt on that score was eradicated when the eerie silence that shouldn’t accompany any home game, let alone one where in the last game of a season where there was still a Champions League spot up for grabs, was broken only after Frank Lampard scored a goal. Anfield broke into verse. Only, “Are you watching Manchester?” wasn’t quite the ditty you would associate with fans trying to inspire their team to an unlikely comeback.
Their response to Steven Gerrard’s blunder was as nonchalant as the response of the man himself. No remorse. No drive. No sense of urgency to make things right. Conspiracy theorists were shot down because of Gerrard’s previous – two similar errors to Thierry Henry in the space of a couple of months 6 years ago, though, don’t really count as previous. Not with 6 years time and a couple of Champions League finals worth of experience to boot. I don’t need to really state whether I think Gerrard’s assist for Drogba was intentional. It’s a sign of how poor this player is at this present time that there is a huge number of people clearly stating that this is just what they expect from him these days.
The extra time 3 days prior to the game was used as an excuse. Really? That’s really the best you could come up with?
What’s done is done. Unless the man himself has enough belief in himself and his convictions to admit it, we won’t know if it was intentional, just as we won’t know for sure if Liverpool fan Mike Dean, a ref whose professional integrity was under such suspicion from the FA that he was removed from a Cup Final they were in, meant to deliver one of the worst refereeing performances in English league history when we played Chelsea at Old Trafford. It could be argued Chelsea might not even have needed the assistance they received. But they did, and the damage that has done to the integrity of the competition cannot be underestimated.
The Telegraph took an alternative look at it, saying that Liverpool’s performance brought shame on the club and aura that it inherited from Bill Shankly. And while opinion can be split on whether the players threw it or were really as bad as a team doomed to relegation, opinion cannot be split on what is commonly seen as the most integral part of any football club – the fans. Dippers made their allegiances clear with their banners and anxiousness until Chelsea scored. They made their feelings clear by their nervousness that wouldn’t settle until Lampard scored the visitors second. Only then did they find their voice.
And, fair play, the 35,000 plus that were in Anfield yesterday to a man got the result they wanted. Chelsea won a game that they seldom looked like even imposing their presence on until they were gift wrapped and presented a goal, and their odds of 33/1 on to win the title next Sunday reflect the realism of the situation. It’s probable that Manchester United won’t be winning the league this season, that we won’t win a fourth successive title, that we won’t become outright record holders with 19 wins. Liverpool can safely say they’ve played their part in that and revel in that schadenfreude.
What of next season? Liverpool’s lack of effort and passion and subsequent defeat means they won’t be playing Champions League football next season. No matter what happens in the rest of the season, it’s only Liverpool themselves that guaranteed that by losing against Chelsea. The club are going backwards. Who knows if Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres will stay there next season. If Manchester City get fourth place then you can probably safely write off the next 2 or 3 years of Champions League prospects for Liverpool in advance. Knowing that, there will likely be a mass exodus. Will they have the money or pull available to replace those players who leave with better? Who could they get better than Torres for less money and no offer of Champions League football? And where from there? The club is not secure enough to go through a period of instability and come out the other end. It’s not as stable as United were when Abramovich funded Chelsea. It’s not as strong as Arsenal, who seem as if they could probably cope if they were to go without Champions League football for a year or two.
If the fixture list pops up Liverpool against Manchester United in the death throes of next season and the Red Devils have the chance of the title again, we won’t be questioning the intention of the Liverpool players or the desire of the fans. That much is cast iron guarantee. But will their next incarnations of Kvarmes, Kennedys, Bjornbyes and Ruddocks be good enough to stop us?
The dippers can revel in the twisted logic of celebrating at best the incompetence of their own side and at worst the fraudulent nature of them. But that short term fun at our expense is a very real stepping stone on the way to fast becoming a club that will be battling for survival.
Every club has it’s share of morons who indulge in vicious and sick chants. We put that down to an unpleasant minority and hope that our shared love for the game would prevail. There are a new generation of Liverpool fans though, raised on having no notable memory of their own team have a period of success of no real memory of their last league trophy and have been conditioned to hate United more than support their own team. That hatred was at fever pitch when a large number of fans behaved inhumanly to attack the ambulance carrying Alan Smith to hospital in 2006 and was on show yesterday when to a man Anfield waited with baited breath for Chelsea to score.
Liverpool Football Club as it once was is no more – any lingering healthy respect for their accomplishments has been overshadowed by the pathetic nature of their supporters. Those fans will have to stomach the inevitable as it is now to be expected they will comfortably surpass a 26 year wait for a league trophy which they have so often been quick to jab at United fans. That will probably be the least of their worries as even the trophyless days of the last 4 years will seem like very pleasant memories in the face of what the journey they are about to embark upon.
But don’t feel sorry for them, not even a bit. After all, they quite literally asked for it.