Speaking With the Enemy – Liverpool
Steven Kelly is Trizia’s LFC counterpart at the Irish Examiner. He was also the editor of the Liverpool fanzine ‘Through The Wind & Rain’ between 1989 and 2008.
1. So, why Liverpool?
Born that way, I’m afraid, though things could have taken a calamitous turn for the worse. My dad’s step-father was an Evertonian, and was a bit of a tyrant so I’m told, so there might have been a bit of Bolshiness in his choice.
It was his mate’s dad who took him to both clubs’ reserves game when he was a nipper and things were slightly less partisan than they are today. One Saturday morning, no one came to pick him up so he made his own way to Anfield, thinking it was just an average reserves day, when in fact the first team was playing. He got so caught up in the noise and the general ‘tumult’ that he never went back to Goodison again. So I have my dad’s naivety to thank for all the wonders I’ve seen and the bile and bitterness I’ve managed to side-step (well, ish).
And his stroppiness and bigotry came in handy too. As a small kid I was mates with a few blues at school, and they were always needling me to come over to the dark side. One week I succumbed and told my dad I was now an Evertonian. He literally stopped speaking to me, and this lasted at least a week. You’d have to be 9 again to fully understand it. I never made the same mistake again.
It’s called Tough Love.
2. Liverpool are going through a rather “indifferent” period at the moment – why is that?
Well, Hicks and Gillett certainly didn’t help. The capacity and earning power of Old Trafford was making a lot of reds squeal about our ability to compete, despite 4 cups under Houllier, and ironically it was Roman’s arrival that pushed many of them over the edge. We were supposed to be taken over by Dubai, who were (and I quote) “going to make Abramovich look like Kenwright”.
Trouble is, when the cowboys scuttled in through the crack in the floor we started behaving as if we WERE super-rich. Transfer fees became stupid, wages went through the roof. Benitez managed to put a gloss on it all for a while but once he slipped down the table the numbers simply didn’t add up.
The blunt truth is that we have bought some awful rubbish over the last few years. The gross spend is fairly spectacular by anyone’s standards, maybe even yours’, but a quick examination of what it got us doesn’t stand up to any half-reasonable measure of quality control. This is the club that bought Rush, sold him after 6 years and 200 goals and bought Aldridge, Barnes and Beardsley with the proceeds. Now it’s the club that buys Aquilani, Keane, Carroll, Downing, Henderson, Borini and Allen.
Not exactly rocket science I’m afraid. Even now some fans are still crying about how we’re not spending mega amounts. I’d be more tempted to wait until we’re doing everything currently within our power to compete, and if that fails then put out a call to A.N.Oligarch.
Whilst at the same sneering at Chelsea and City’s success, naturally……
3. What do you think of Rodgers? Do you think he was the right choice for Liverpool?
Not that much, and not really.
Beggars can’t be choosers obviously, but it looked like the main characteristic required was to look the other way whilst the wage bill was slashed. Roberto Martinez was his main rival, so it was going to be somebody immensely grateful for the (ahem) ‘opportunity’ – so grateful they’d not kick up much of a fuss when players headed for exit. Kenny was unceremoniously dumped, and the bewilderingly unemployed Benitez was not even spoken to. Their answer to the suggestion to squad cuts can only be imagined.
Since the squad was deemed not good enough to begin with, that’s meant a lot of emphasis on Brendan’s modernity (unlike Kenny) his total dedication to his craft (unlike Kenny) and his willingness to turn to youth (unlike…well, you get the drift). A part he seemed to play up to rather a lot in that dreadful documentary.
Early impressions aren’t what he or his employers would have wanted; not so much Shankly with a laptop, as Hodgson with an Etch-a-sketch. Not so much Midas as Ratner, but it’s still early days obviously. We must have broken a few mirrors last year, as the luck in this one continues to be wretched, but outsiders tell us that we had plenty of luck when we also had a very good team.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence…
4. Although never the best of friends, the animosity between Chelsea and Liverpool has intensified beyond belief in the last decade or so – why do you think that is?
Obviously you pushed yourselves front and centre in 2003, but it was never really that great before that, was it? Chelsea always seemed more ‘Southern’ than everyone else to us, even during the lean years. Add a few reasons to be cocky and you’ve become insufferable!
Also, we were supposed to just get out of Mourinho’s way for those European semi finals and we didn’t oblige. I actually hated the place pre Abramovich because we could never win there. Perversely we don’t seem to be doing that badly now, but I suspect that’s all about to change.
Bottom line is, the old guard never makes way for the new willingly and never with any grace. A few of us wish we could be a bit more Corinthian about it all, but we are definitely in the minority!
And there were far too many games. It got a bit boring. He says, checking the Europa fixture list…
5. Which Liverpool player should Chelsea be wary of and vica versa?
Depends on the team selected but it’ll be Suarez and ten others so that will give you a bit of a clue won’t it? Vice versa? Probably all of them, the way we’re shipping goals at the moment I can’t see us feeling safe from any part of the pitch.
6. If you could choose one Chelsea player to join Liverpool who would it be and why?
Never really given it much thought, since it never seemed very likely. Not Joe Cole, I can tell you that much. Drogba probably, with the “yeah but could we look the other way with all the nonsense?” proviso. I suspect we would have done.
We’ve always had decent players in the same positions as the best Chelsea players, so we were never really that jealous of anyone. We’ve had some awful left backs though, so I suppose I should say Ashley Cole.
Can I be honest? With Liverpool where they are, I find it hard to even watch the top sides play any more. I’ll have to start soon I suppose, if only to see some decent football!
7. What would make a good season for Liverpool?
The bar’s been set at ankle level, particularly after the transfer window slammed shut. It might change; beating Everton or Newcastle as we should have done recently could have put us in a good position for Wenger’s Fifth Trophy, but while we’re as wasteful and leaky as we are I couldn’t really say. Sad things that you cling to; since promotion in 62, we’ve never finished out of the top 10. Ever. Be nice to keep that going.
In black and white, that looks positively scandalous doesn’t it?
8. Joe Cole – discuss?
Do I have to? Bosmans are never truly ‘free’ and here is the classic example of it. He’s just going to cling to his wage and watch his career peter out.
And to think we laughed about Winston Bogarde!
9. Torres – discuss?
He made the right choice didn’t he? Not really much to say after that. I read that interview where he was waxing lyrical about his time at Anfield and thought “that’ll go down well at Chelsea!” Like Mascherano he keeps going on about how we don’t know ‘the full story’ about his move.
Like Mascherano, I suspect we’ll never get to hear it. He seems to be giving the impression that he was forced out of Anfield so we could fund our revival. Going well isn’t it? Initially I admit to the odd smirk when his career seemed to be over, but it’s hard to keep up that level of malevolence especially as he was mostly fantastic for us.
It’s been a small consolation that you haven’t yet seen the player we had between 2007 and 2009. It’s doubtful you ever will.
10. How do you think Chelsea will do this season?
Very well probably. You’ve just seen what you’re up against though, haven’t you? City are only just discovering it; a second CL campaign, a second Group Of Death. All the money in the world won’t get you the clout and influence ‘they’ get. As long as ‘they’ get a red card and a pen in every difficult match they play, I’d have to see you coming 2nd or 3rd to be honest.
11. What has been your biggest high as a Liverpool fan?
Is this where I say ‘Istanbul’ and you all look to the heavens? Not sure what the Chelsea equivalent would be but beating your neighbours to both trophies to win the League & Cup double was pretty special in 1986. The football we played two years later with Barnes and Beardsley was pretty good too.
But we expected it back then, we were always the best or close to being the best. That overall domination was probably the biggest high generally. In 2005 we were nowhere near that, as I believe The Spesh might have pointed out once or twice! The way we got there, the way we came back, the distance we had to travel in order to see it, the way it just looked like we were being protected by a higher power; well yeah, it was Istanbul.
Wasn’t fooling you for a minute, was I?
12. Finally, what do you think the score will be this weekend?
God knows. I’m not sure even this fixture can keep on confounding expectations. Given our current form and yours, the idea of making it 6 wins out of 7 seems patently absurd.
It’ll probably be 1-3.
Posted by Trizia