Ze beautiful game

Stumbling on

I have supported Liverpool since the age of 11 or 12. In Ireland, at least when I was growing up everyone supported either Liverpool or Man United. So a premier league ‘derby’ in Ireland was Liverpool VS United. Many of my school chums back then initially supported Liverpool but then as the balance of power shifted towards Manchester there was a slew of transfers in that direction!

I kept the faith though, I suffered for a lot of years and in many cases on my own. I did my part with regards recruitment – I signed my brother Gerald and sister Betty (whom I don’t even think liked football) to the cause, I think I also converted my cousins in West Cork, or at least had a positive influence on them. My youngest brother Liam was allowed support United as I thought it was healthy to have a little rivalry in the house and I think I felt like I had done my bit. Liam lost interest anyway but I’m still a fan, though my interest has waned at times.

I remember listening to the crackle of 5 live and Alan Green on my dads radio with Gerald (my brother), often in the middle of winter. We couldn’t hear a thing and the noise always seemed to got worse when the action happened – ‘Gerrard…great pass..to Michael Owen..now…..tackled by Hen..Beckham….Robbie Fow….’ and then an explosion of crackly noise! You knew something had happened of significance but you weren’t always sure what it was, but it was the worst kind of torture because you were never sure which team had struck the mortal wound to the other! These are nice memories to have looking back really and I do value them but I think, still we did suffer for our team!

I also remember being told to grow up by mum when Man United beat them in the FA cup final – she could never understand my sorrow. I was 11 or 12 but it was the last time I cried about football because I think I soon after realized it was only a game. That is kind of my attitude to this day – I love to see them do well but I don’t get too upset when they lose.

And I learned from one of the best supporters of anything in my dad. His sport is Ireland’s own indigenous hurling. It is a great sport and I think soccer could learn a thing or two from it. It is full of passion, love of the game, but also loyalty. I digress slightly but my dad loves hurling probably more than he loves me and he definitely loves Waterford more than he loves any one thing in the world. It really affects his mood though and the Monday after Waterford have been knocked out of the championship is the end of the word – for everyone. I don’t think it is worth that anymore.

So I learned from watching him but I also learned from my own experiences. I remember going to Anfield for the first time with another massive Liverpool fan – my friend Anil. We came over from Ireland assured our tickets were in place but when we arrived it seemed like something had gone awry at the ticket office and our entry was in doubt – I couldn’t believe it after coming all the way over – I think if I didn’t get in that day it would have ended my ties with the club as the taste would have been too bitter!

We got in at the last as the confusion was cleared up – it was really only on Anils clear head and thinking though. Once we got inside we headed straight to the sidelines to get as close to the players warming up as we could and there they were, all the lads; Stevie, Pepe, Crouchie. I felt like waving at them as I new them so well. It is the strangest kind of feeling but then you realize and remember that they don’t know you at all. I thought there was an unhealthy unbalance in this relationship and I think it sunk home then a bit. One way relationships are never good.

None the less I really enjoyed the experience and was happily able to return the following year with my brother and I think my support levels recovered a bit. It was the era of Rafa Benitez and Liverpool were really good – they got to two champions league finals, winning one and became the top ranked team in all of Europe at one stage. I got carried away – we all did and I remember not getting too excited by them winning the FA cup. It seemed like a matter of time before thy won the league and ended the wait. Then it all fell apart.

Xabi Alonso left for Real Madrid. To be honest I think his loss was as much psychological as anything else as he grew in reputation as a player with every day away from Liverpool. I blame the fans – they lost faith in Rafa and the team. Things went down hill quickly, Roy Hodgson was brought in and to be fair he never stood a chance. He got a few months but everything had got so negative it would have been hard for anyone.

King Kenny was brought in to save the day and results picked up for a while but it didn’t last and the final nail in the coffin was hammered when Fernando Torres left. I’ll not talk about Fernando as his story is a sad story and every one knows it. That was the worse moment for me as Liverpool supporter – it was et tu ‘El Ninio’. You are leaving too. A part of Stevie G died that day and apart of the Liverpool in me died too. I don’t know if I will ever get that back.

I felt like I have been through a great many highs and lows as a Liverpool fan but I think I will always support the team. I think though at times Liverpool (and other clubs doubtlessly) take supporters for granted and should give more back. I live in London these days and try to go see them once or twice a year. You need to pay for a membership before you any real chance of getting tickets though and basic membership is around 26 pounds. I got a membership for both my brother and I this year and made the mistake of telling him that I was gonna get tickets for both of us an Xmas present.

I was gutted when I logged in on sale day to find all tickets had gone! I was disappointed to have to tell my brother that I had failed in getting the tickets but I was a little angry and disappointed with Liverpool Football club too. I wrote to them asking if I could transfer my membership to next year as I had little need for the membership this year. Despite persistence I was repeatedly told what felt like ‘computer says no’. I was angry because I felt that Liverpool were using my loyalty towards them against me, assuming that I would sign up again next year regardless. I guess they think, what is he going to do, support Man United? – ha ha ha. I wouldn’t do that of course!

I think if football clubs are to continue to do well they need to support the fans back. There ticketing policy doesn’t seem wholly fair and I think it needs a review. I have invested a great deal of time, money and emotion in watching and supporting my team over the many years and I think I should be seen as more than just a customer. I don’t expect Stevie to come over or wave at me when I go to a game but I expect a little bit more back from Liverpool in situations like this where I have spent my hard earned money and to no avail.

Sterling Effort

I think the coverage of Raheem Sterling’s reported decision to sit out England’s qualifier was unfair and very unhelpful to the English team, British football not to mention Liverpool.

He is still very young and as one of Liverpool and England’s outstanding talents he should be protected. Statistics have shown that he has played a lot of games and he probably did feel that he needed a rest. Whether he was being over cautious or was in fact need of rest, I believe the issue should not have gotten the coverage it did.

It is negative and must be massively distracting for everyone involved. Hodgson is getting criticized for disclosing that it was Raheems decision not to play, Rodgers and Liverpool are being accused of putting the idea in Raheems head and being overly protective of their players and Raheem is being painted in a poor light also. The player’s focus should be on helping his club and country – how can it be with all the nonsense floating around his head.

A lot of older senior player like Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand backed him and said that they thought he was brave and I agree I think it showed courage to admit that he was tired and couldn’t help the team and in fact would probably would only injure himself. I think to be be honest he might have shown a little bit of innocence but even at such a young age I would guess he knows his body better than anyone else and his opinion should be respected and I think his honesty should be also be respected.

I do think that Hodgson will regret having handled the issue in the way that he did. People should realize also that the media looks for controversy and don’t always have a vested interest in the truth. The truth is Raheem Sterling is a great player and should be protected and encouraged – like all young people.

It will be interesting to see this weekend how he deals with it. Hopefully he bangs in a few goals for Liverpool against QPR!

Fantasy football

I do EPL fantasy football each year and normally do quite well but this year I am bottom of every table that I am in. I don’t know why but it feels like I’m trying too hard at times.

I’ve played my wildcard after four games and I got less than thirty points as a reward. I panicked the week after and put Diego Costa in, I had to take a four point  hit as I need to make a another substitution to get my boy Costa in. Costa hit the post but pulled a blank for probably the first time all season.

It has also been a bit of a funny start in some senses. Chelsea have started really well. Jose Mourinhio keeps on playing Costa despite the fact that he is always reported as injured. This stopped me from putting him in earlier.

Also Liverpool have been a bit up and down which is probably due to all the new changes and the loss of Saurez. Chelsea look very good and it looks like they will slog it out Man City for top place. I

t has been difficult enough to know how to pick from these two teams though as they have so many good players. it seems a little clearer now. In terms of last years dependables, Ya Ya Toure has had a very slow start to the season and he has always been one of my bankers. Sturridge has been injured and Ramsey seems to have lost his form a bit.

As I write Liverpool have conceded a late goal to Everton so no 6 points for Moreno – disappointing but I hope I might get a few bonus points for Sterling!

Patience is a virtue and it is one I will need to rely on. It is like a scab that you keep picking at, sometimes the best thing to do is realise that you have done too much and leave things a lone for while. So that is what I have done this week. I have left my team alone. Lets see how I get on.

 

Retiring Fergie

Really its about time Alex Ferguson was moved into a museum with the rest of the dinosaurs. There is a good chance though that the other dinosaurs would fall off their racks from neglect through the preferential treatment that he would get though.

While he is successful, there is no danger of him being moved along any time soon. He is good for Manchester United. He has won more than any other manager in top flight English football, probably more than any other top flight team anywhere.

He is also Sir Alex Ferguson and is probably seen as ambassador for the British game, but I would argue that he isn’t good for the premier league. That is unless you want it to be about contentious decisions.

In truth, Ferguson is a very good manager, in every respect, but like Jose Mourinhio at Real Madrid and too may others elsewhere, his biggest asset is probably his is ability to affect results through referees.

How many times have we sat back in the past and watched United get a penalty for a a less than 50/50 incident in the box. The fact is that the premier league is so tight and fiercely contested that games between teams are often decided by a bit of luck or border line decisions going one teams way.

This might be good as it adds to the drama and excitement but the problem is that managers know that if they apply pressure on the referees and they can get away with it, they are more likely to get the result they want.

The FA is supposed to monitor this but they don’t, or they can’t – not with Alex Ferguson. He has been around for too long now and he is far too brazen, far too clever for the FA – by a mile.

When pushed, members of the FA probably think, who am I to stand up to Sir Alex Ferguson? This man has been around for decades and has won everything in the game as a manager.

In the end I guess it also comes down to what people want the game to be about. Do they want it to be more about football or do they want it to be about other things.

It would be great if football was the only way to win.

Wenger don’t fall at the last

I’m a Liverpool fan but I like Arsene Wenger and his philosophies about footall. That is why I have been disappointed of late to see them lose their way a bit.

It looks like their confidence has been dented and their manager Arsene Wenger looks frustrated. I think he is close to having a really great team and they probably just need to kick on and win something to prove any doubters wrong.

Arsenal normally play good football but I thought they were really poor against Barca in both legs. I don’t think Barca on paper are that much better than Arsenal but they do have this aura about them and some teams are beaten (much like United in the pl) by the sight of the jersey.

Why did Arsenal sit back and let Barca come at them? Maybe they would have been better off if they had not been protecting a lead from the first game. Its not Arsenals game to play negatively like Inter Milan did last year against the same opposition and I think it cost them. There was a real restriction in the way they played against Barcelona and they were not playing there normal slick free flowing game of football.

I think Arsenal need to forget about everything that has happened in the last fortnight and take each game as it comes, if they win all their remaining games in the league they will be champions. They should forget about United too because you can be sure losing to them at such a stage in the season is a bad blow.

There are so many people questioning Arsenal right now – it must be hard for Wenger, he has his style and it has been successful but he needs a trophy and probably a big one to shut the dissenters and confidence sappers up. I think they have a break for a week now and its a great chance to rest tired legs and tired minds, hopefully when they come back people will see a different Arsenal.

Kenny Daglish for Taoiseach

I hate to say it but I think one of the most important jobs for a football managers is in getting the media and its fans behind him.

That’s the difference between Liverpools Kenny Daglish and those who came before him (or rather between him). The media seem to be in his pocket in the same way that Alex Ferguson has had the media in his for the last 10 years.

And the fans seem to have so much faith in him. I read somewhere once that losing under Daglish is better than with Roy. Its kind of true.

When the fans are behind you and the media print good things about you it does seem to inspire teams to greater level of confidence and I think thats what you are seeing right now with Liverpool.

Daglish does have the same way about him as Ferguson. A hint of fierce with a dash of friendly and a few stupid jokes thrown in for good measure.

I think Ireland needs somebody with that kind presence at the moment as its leader. For what its worth I think Brian Cowen was a good politician but unfairly perhaps he didnt have the face and the charisma to get people onside.

I’d imagine,  it is very hard to be successful as a manager of anything if you dont have everyone onside. One of the first things that Kenny Daglish said when he took over at Liverpool was that everyone needed to pull together and he has got people doing this.

I think sadly for Ireland Michael Martin would have done a better job at this than Enda Kenny or Eamon Gilmore, but really I think if we had trusted Brian Cowen a bit more he would put us on the straight and narrow again.

Anyway, I don’t like Enda Kenny or FG for that matter, I think there is bad odour of hypocrisy around them and I also think while they didn’t cause the recession in Ireland they added the flames to it and have might it going. Little things like Simon Covney tweeting about Brian Cowen being drunk got international recognition everywhere and hurt the countries image.

All said and done, everyone should start pulling together now and have a little faith in themselves and others. I am hoping for that anyway.