It’s been too long a wait since the Southampton game – in truth we football supporters have little patience anyway. We are always looking forward. In June when the fixtures come out the potential end of season points tally are already being totted up – “Ah Hull away in December, 3 points there will set us up nicely for the very tricky Spurs game coming up, and we have a great run-in and should win the last six”. I do it every season.
After winning our first three games this campaign, I was told that we should be winning the next six as they were all very winnable. That would have been 27 points on the board after 9 games! It would have been very nice indeed. Of course it wasn’t to be. It’s impossible to predict the twists and turns throughout a 38 game season, but even the most optimistic red would not have dreamt how close this side are to the summit of the table when pouring over the fixture list last June. It’s just great to be even looking ahead to what are vital games in the race for top honours and we are well and truly part of it.
Going to print we don’t know the outcome of the Man United game but no matter what the result the redmen will still be in a strong position to return to Europe’s top table once again next season. This coming week we face two teams in a relegation battle and another with their eyes still firmly fixed on a top 4 finish. Cardiff are fighting for their lives and after looking like their appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjær was going to be a mistake on the tanned ones part, the victory over the already doomed Fulham may well have kick-started their fight for survival and the game against Cardiff is unlikely to be done and dusted before the end of the first half as it was last December at Anfield. But it’s certainly a game we should be winning.
Sunderland have been involved in a cup final and a cup semi-final in the last few weeks and won neither of them. The semi-final defeat at Hull bared no resemblance to their decent performance in the League Cup final reverse to Man City. They won’t have Fabio Borini available for selection at Anfield of course, the Italian has had a productive loan spell in the North-East and should report back to pre-season training at Melwood with renewed hope that he has a future at the club. Speaking of Sunderland, I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Doig recently. Eric is the grandson of the famous Sunderland and Liverpool goalkeeper, Ned Doig. Born in Arbroath Ned was actually on the books of the club when they beat Bon Accord 36-0 in the Scottish cup, and to this day is still the clubs most capped international with two caps for Scotland. Moving to Sunderland via Blackburn, Ned made his name under the guidance of Tom Watson at Sunderland, winning an incredible four league titles before joining Watson at Anfield and winning a second division title. Buried in an unmarked grave Eric finally erected a headstone in honour of his grandfather last December, situated just a few feet away from his manager Tom Watson.
The home game against Tottenham Hotspurs will bring the month to an end and a victory here would surely see us create a big enough gap between ourselves and the North Londoners. It’s been a strange few months for Tim Sherwood. Winning at Old Trafford and impressive victories at Newcastle and qualifying for the last 16 of the Europa League. On the other hand, they can ship goals at an alarming rate as we reds know only too well. But what we will know by the end of this month is whether us reds can still dream of league glory – Over to you lads.
Oh what a night it was at our last home game – any win against the blue half of the city is to be savoured but a 4-0 drubbing in what was described as the ‘most important derby in 30 years’ was much more than we had hoped for. And it could have been more. At the time of going to press we don’t know the WBA result but let’s hope we are going into today’s first of two games V Arsenal in a week in good nick.
There does seem to be a trend with the reds taking on the Gunners in different competitions so close together. As recent as April 2008, the two clubs clashed three times within a week, a league encounter sandwiched between two Champions league quarter-final ties (remember that competition). It was a trilogy in which Liverpool came out unbeaten. The Champions League tie at the Emirates ended all square. A scorer of many important goals for the reds, Dirk Kuyt cancelled out Adeboyer’s opener thus leaving it all to play for in the second leg the following week. In the meantime the two sides had to play a league encounter the following Saturday morning – Once more it finished level, an impressive Liverpool which included Damien Plessis making his debut took the lead through Peter Crouch with Nicholas Bendtner grabbing a equaliser as thoughts turned to the next game of the trilogy at Anfield – an unforgettable evening.
In a game that ebbed and flowed, the old stadium rocked from start to finish, heck, I didn’t get to sit down and I was in the Anfield Road end, you know it’s special when that happens. All the drama came late in the game, after both sides traded goals in the first half, Fernando Torres looked to have put Liverpool through only for Adebayor to put the Londoners ahead with 6 minutes remaining. We certainly had some roller-coaster times under Rafa and you just knew we could come back, and we did two minutes later. Torres who had tortured the hapless Senderos all night, drew a foul and once more Steven Gerrard saved the day with a faultless spot-kick to put the reds in control even though the game was still in the balance. The crowd could relax just minutes later when Ryan Babel was given the freedom of the Arsenal half to race through and finish the job off. Ring of Fire didn’t stop for ages that night as the reds spilled out onto the surrounding streets dreaming of another tilt at Chelsea in the semi-final of the Champions League. Good times, no, great times.
If we had the upper hand in 2008 it perhaps was a case of revenge for what happened to the redmen two years earlier. This time we were paired against each other in the two domestic cup competitions. The League Cup 5th round tie at Anfield in December was called off due to heavy fog, now it was to be re-fixed just three days after the reds would open their FA Cup defence, also against the Gunners.
The FA Cup clash would be known as ‘Truth Day’, the Reclaim the Kop group organised a mosaic as 12,000 fans in the Kop were given cards to hold up which spelt out the words “The Truth”. It would be a timely reminder to those in power that the fight for justice would not go away. With the mosaic visible while Liverpool supporters chanted “Justice for the 96” for six minutes it was a breath-taking sight that had the desired effect in highlighting once more the long awaited fight for Justice.
The match itself was dominated by the visitors who inspired by Thierry Henry ran out 3-1 winners as both sides locked horns in the League Cup tie three days later. The League Cup match was to be a game to forget for the redmen and one to remember for Arsenal frontman Julio Baptista who netted four times as both sides fielded somewhat understrength teams. A 6-3 reverse was the worst home defeat in 76 years and leaving Anfield that night we were sure we would never see another opposition player score 4 goals against us again, and certainly not an Arsenal player, wishful thinking!
Playing each other three times in a week in 2008 may seem a lot, but back in 1980, the two sides traded blows an incredible five times over a three week period. Both sides had reached the semi-final of the FA Cup and after a scoreless draw at Hillsborough the two met again four days later at Villa Park. No pens in those days. A goal apiece from David Fairclough and Alan Sunderland would not settle the tie – as both sides headed to Anfield for a league clash just a few days later. Predictably enough, the game finished all square with Liverpool remaining in top spot in the race for league honours, just a point ahead of closest rivals Manchester United.
The two clubs had a well-deserved break from each other for a whole nine days before their second replay. With the added bonus of playing second division side West Ham in the final, Liverpool were eyeing up a first League and Cup double. In a dramatic finale at Villa Park Kenny Dalglish popped up on 90 minutes to cancel out a first minute strike from the previous year’s cup final hero, Alan Sunderland. Extra-time wouldn’t separate the two and just three days later at the unusual semi-final venue of Highfield Road Coventry, Brian Talbot scored the only goal of the game to send the Gunners into the final against West Ham, a game they lost 1-0. For Liverpool, they only had to wait another two days to pick up the championship once more.
So onwards to the next installment in the history of these great two clubs. I’m sure the majority of the red army that travelled to Bournemouth were counting the cost and praying for a home tie when who else but Arsenal away gets pulled out of the hat. Not only that, it now means two trips to the capital for the reds within a few days with the league clash against Fulham taking place on the 12th Feb. Quite the expense and I’m sure most can’t afford to attend the two games. After the possibility that ticket prices may hit £93, the pressure for common sense was applied by Jay McKenna and the Spirit of Shankly. The game has now been labelled a CAT B game by Arsenal, thus reducing ticket prices to £54, well done to all involved. Still far too much money for any football match, but small steps.
So it’s been a great week at the time of writing. Libpool Libpool top of the league, Libpool top of the league. Well commercial league at any rate. New sponsorship deals with Dunkin’ Donuts, Vauxhall and most recently the Indonesian firm Garuda Airline who will sponsor the clubs training gear. With the teams above dropping points recently, perhaps we can even dream of snatching the 3rd Champions League spot. After today’s game we might well have a better idea on whether it’ll be the Champions League Logo or the Europa League badge that will appear on next seasons kit.