14 May 2014

The Year Liverpool Nearly Won The League

As the curtain came down to signal the end to the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League campaign, Manchester City were deservedly crowned champions of England, but I cant help but think, that this year, will be remember as the season that Liverpool nearly won the league, maybe even the season that Liverpool threw it away.

I'm a Manchester United supporter, so putting this into words is not the easiest thing I've ever done. Liverpool and Manchester City are our fiercest rivals, so I didn't take much pleasure from watching this seasons conclusion to the season, following a very disappointing season at Old Trafford.

Perhaps, the only thing that put a little smile on my face, was the fact that the majority of Liverpool supporters, ex players of the club and the media, had Liverpool crowned champions in their minds with a month of the season to go.

Now there is nothing wrong with being confident, there is no shame in believing that your team will win the title, but you sensed with a month left of the season, that the way the Liverpool supporters were acting, that they were setting themselves up for an almighty fall, and fall they did.

March 27th, 2014, Liverpool supporters lined the Anfield Road in their hundreds before kick-off against Sunderland on a Wednesday night. As the Liverpool coach arrived, flares were set off, flags were waved, and the 'We're gonna win the league' chant, filled the scouse air, all that was missing was the open top bus and the Premier League trophy, it was like a circus.

The chants and celebrations were a sign that Liverpool supporters believed, they were confident they could land their first ever Premier League title, a first league title for 24 years, but it was very premature to be chanting those words in March, it was like they knew something that we didn't.

In the 1991/92 season, as a school kid, I was experiencing my first ever title race as a Manchester United supporter. My old man planted in my head from an early age, he'd wisely tell me: 'Don't count your chickens before they've hatched'. It's something that has always stuck in my mind, even with QPR leading at the Etihad back in 2012 on the last day of the season, I still sat watching it expecting City to score, I didn't shout 'Champions', like a friend of mine did, in our local pub, the rest is history as City scored 2 late goals to win the league on goal difference.

United lost out on the league title that season, Leeds were crowned champions, my dad told me: 'the best team always deserves to win the title.' Which brings me onto the supporters and the journalist's who claimed 'Liverpool deserve to win the league this season.'

TalkSports Adrian Durham wrote a piece for MailOnline, on 12th November, 2013:
'If there is one set of fans who deserve to win the title this season, it's Liverpool supporters. Liverpool last won the title a year after the Hillsborough tragedy. Those fans have been lied to, Hilsborough police changed their stories to try to pin the blame for the tragedy on Liverpool fans.'

He added: 'Liverpool fans were blamed for an appalling tragedy that wasn't their fault, they've had to endure the pain and lies of all that followers for years, for decades, it's time those supporters had something to shout about. If there is any justice and sentiment left in football, Liverpool will be champions come May.'

Now, I'm not disrespecting the Hilsborough tragedy in any way here, being a Manchester United supporter, I can relate to the pain and anguish that comes with something so cruel and sad, and I sincerely hope the families of those who died, get the justice they deserve. The Munich air disaster in 1958 is a dark chapter in our clubs history that will never be forgotten, but why did so many people believe that Liverpool deserved to win the league?

I'm trying to highlight the word 'deserve', my dictionary says the definition of that word is: 'To merit or have a claim to reward because of actions, qualities.' The only way a team would 'deserve' to win a championship, is when it becomes mathematically possible for them to be so. Surly you can't deserve it because of tragedy? It's what you do on the field that will rightfully see you lift the top prize in England. You deserve it if you win it.

It's clear, that Liverpool simply got carried away. Greeting the players' coach with chants of 'Were gonna win the league', was a symbol of this, the hysteria would hit boiling point on the day that Liverpool faced Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday, 13th April, 2014, a game they won 3-2, which meant their destiny, was now in their own hands.

The scenes at the final whistle that day, you'd have been mistaken for actually thinking that the league title had been won, which goes to show naivety and the clubs inexperience in a title race. With Steven Gerrard in tears, his decision to round up his troops for a team-talk on the pitch, is something that as a captain, should have been done in the privacy of the dressing room. There was still 4 games left of the season at this stage.

I know both Manchester City and Liverpool supporters. The contrast between them is very different. Even when the destiny of the title swung in City's favour, the blues I know remained grounded, they never sung about winning the league at the Etihad, mainly because of that 'City tag' that is attached to them from their past. They'd also been in this position before, they knew how to handle it.

That team talk would come back to haunt Steven Gerrard, TV camera's clearly picked him up screaming: 'This does not f****** slip now', in the group huddle. The following week, you got the impression they thought they simply just had to turn up against Chelsea at Anfield. The man who mentioned the slip reference, would slip at the Kop end, allowing Demba Ba to score.

Following that defeat, Liverpool supporters turned on Chelsea's Jose Mourniho, claiming he parked the bus? Liverpool's inexperience would finally catch up with them at Selhurst Park. They were 3 goals up with 11 minutes remaining, each time they scored, they priced the ball out of the net, they were trying to work away at the goal difference, the match ended 3-3, and how ironic, that the man who loves kissing camera lens', would push away a camera to deflect attention from a distraught Luis Suarez.

Brendan Rodgers, he's the man that some say, 'reinvented football'. The media love affair with Liverpool this season has been an eye opener. They backed the opinions of former players, Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler and Graeme Souness, who all claimed that: 'Nobody deserves a Premier League winners medal, more than Steven Gerrard'. If I had £1 for everytime I heard that comment, I'd be richer than Sheikh Mansour. He deserves a winners medal, about as much as I deserve to win this Fridays EuroMillions jackpot.

Steven Gerrard was voted the second best player in England this season, why? I could name 7 players who should have been named above him, Ya Ya Toure, Hazard, David Silva, Willian, Adam Lallana, Fernandinho and probably even his Liverpool team mate Jordan Henderson.

The media lavished praise on this Liverpool team for blowing teams away, but Manchester City did exactly the same thing, they just didn't get the praise that media darlings Liverpool got, and in a season that Manuel Pellegrini won the Premier League and Capital One cup in only his first season with the blues, Brendan Rodgers is names League Managers' Association manager of the year, and Tony Pulis named Premier League Manager of the year?

Pellegrini has matched, what Jose Mourinho did, in his first spell in charge of Chelsea. The media don't seem to acknowledge this? The Manchester City manager has done a great job, he's also remained tight lipped, refusing to respond to Jose Mourinho's mind games and even Alan Pardews 'Old c***' jibe. He's conducted himself very well this season.

So this season will be remembered as the year that Liverpool nearly won the league. Heaven only knows how the media would've reacted, if Brendan Rodgers had done what Manuel Pellegrini did this season? I imagine the press association would be addressing him as 'Sir Brendan', at next season's first pre match press conference.