Tag Archives: luis suarez

The End

Brendan Rodgers

This season. This fucking season. As we reach the final couple of weeks it’s now become clear that Moyesageddon was only a precursor to the main kick in the bollocks: Liverpool are going to win the league. Shanks looking down, Stevie G, Suarez’s rebirth, Brendan Rodgers, class and dignity, justice at last, back on their perch… just switch off now and avoid contact with everyone and everything until August.

I’m not sure how this has happened. They finished 7th last season and Rodgers was something of a laughing stock to everyone outside of the red half of Merseyside. I predicted he’d get another year before being found out and hounded out of the place, Hodgson-style. Suarez was desperate to leave, Gerrard was creaking, Carragher had retired… they were just a mix of flop signings, average journeymen, a couple of promising kids and Suarez. A Champions League spot looked beyond them, never mind actually winning it.

Yet here we are. Rodgers has left his fat wife and had his teeth done, they’ve scored 96 goals (one for each angel) at the time of writing and won 11 league games on the bounce. Since the realisation dawned it was a possibility, I’ve been clinging to the hope that once the pressure of being in sight took hold, they might crack. Instead, Chelsea and City have been so generous in chucking points away that it looks like Liverpool are going to win it with games to spare. No nerves, no gut-wrenching fear, no fixture congestion – just a steady procession to the title.

Rather than endure any 1992-style heartbreak, it appears they’ve wisely fast forwarded to 1993. They’ve got that momentum United had back then, where everything has aligned and neatly fallen into place. Gerrard, whether you can stomach the comparison or not, is their Bryan Robson. Suarez, despite being a hateful shit, possesses the same potent mix of genius and lunacy as Eric Cantona. Obviously I can’t stand him, but he’s an absolutely brilliant footballer – the standout player in the league this year by a mile. I don’t rate Liverpool as a great side, but why should that bother them? United won it last season and we weren’t a great side either.

If Liverpool do win it, it’ll be richly deserved. Yes, Rodgers is a Brent-esque buffoon, but he’s absolutely perfect for them and knows exactly what buttons to press. He’s all sentimentality and syrupy rhetoric, referencing their past at every opportunity whilst bigging-up the fans and their knowledge and their sportsmanship and their influence and their humble nature etc etc. He’s clearly a skilled coach who knows his way round a training pitch, but he’s proving himself a skilled manager too. Rodgers understands the scousers’ love of self-aggrandising bullshit and their inherent sense of moral superiority – and he’s got the whole place in awe of him at present. It doesn’t really matter that he’s talking bollocks as long as everyone is listening and believing in him.

Moyes

Which brings us to David Moyes… to whom people are still listening, although believers are becoming scarcer by the day. Indeed, as I’m writing this, news is breaking that his departure will likely be announced within hours. It comes as no great surprise. The last few weeks have just been a continuation of what we’ve witnessed all season – mostly miserable, punctuated with the odd decent performance when the opposition isn’t up to much. The Bayern tie ended up exactly as anticipated (soundly beaten) and his much heralded return to Goodison resulted in another predictably meek showing. We really can’t go on like this.

I’m not sure why the feeling in pubs or internet message boards or day-to-day conversations hasn’t led to vocal dissent at the match. Is it just pigheadedness or drunkeness or are people genuinely expecting things to improve over the next few months? The team don’t look like they’re improving, they look like they’re going backwards. Players don’t look like they are playing for the manager, they look like they are playing in spite of the manager. There’s no confidence and no belief. All this ’20 times, 20 times’ nonsense is really starting to grate too; we took the piss out of the scousers for years for their ‘we won it 5 times’ comfort blanket bleating – is that what we’ve been reduced to? ’20 times’ has become the soundtrack to our downfall. ‘Playing football the Matt Busby way’? Yeah right, if only.

I was never comfortable with the Moyes appointment and said as much in this column before he was handed the job. There were better options available and I didn’t agree with the reasons given against other key candidates – all proven winners who happened not to be Scottish. Looking back, it’s quite insane how (if we are to believe the account in his book) Ferguson was virtually given carte blanche in appointing his own successor. It’s absolutely crackers. Was anyone else even short listed? Why was no one else interviewed?

That said, I was quite prepared to give Moyes time. He said straight away that changes needed to be made, which at the time was really encouraging given that Fergie trotted out the “very happy with the squad” line every time the ongoing lack of investment was questioned. He was serious, grounded and clearly not versed in making extravagant claims or outlandish gestures. Okay, there was very little stardust there, or irreverence or mischief – qualities that Ferguson relied upon time and time again. Life under Moyes was always going to be a little more dour and methodical, that’s just his nature.

The hope was that in time, he would grow into the job and start to look and sound more like a Manchester United manager. The reality, however, is that the exact opposite has occurred. As I’ve said before, it’s not the results that have hurt so much this season, it’s the manager’s doleful reaction to them. As time has gone on, Moyes has appeared more and more defeatist in his media briefings – everything appears to be about lowering, as opposed to increasing expectations.

As supporters, we don’t need to be reminded that we’ve ‘enjoyed the Champions league experience’. Champions League football has been a minimum expectation here for the last 20 years. A successful campaign is not qualifying for the Champions League, it’s WINNING the Champions League… and the Premier League. That is the benchmark and what we should be looking towards doing every single season. We are not Newcastle, or Aston Villa or Everton. Failing to qualify this year shouldn’t be seen as a disappointment, it should be seen as a complete fucking catastrophe.

Nobody is demanding that we win every single game or win titles every year – we’re not stupid and we know football doesn’t work like that. What we should demand is a manager who has the ability to confound, inspire and bring people together – and we’ve not seen anything like that from Moyes over the last 9 months. Something needs to change. By the time you read this, it probably already has.

Enjoy the hibernation period, it’s going to be a long summer…

Copyright Red News – April 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

Serenity Now

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Champions again. 11 months later than hoped for, title No. 20 is in the bag and we can finally look forward to a little respite on the “Aguerooooooooo….” front. I’m reasonably confident MOTD will remove the clip from their opening titles next season and one assumes that Sky might cease playing it every 15 minutes. Persuading every single City fan I know to change their ringtone might prove a tad ambitious, however.

Despite talk of trebles and doubles ultimately proving just that, we’re left with a more than satisfactory single to savour – one that all of us would have settled for before a ball was kicked. Of course winning the league is always something to cherish, but winning it back from ‘them’ after ‘that’? This title feels more cathartic than celebratory.

After the final day drama last season, history will no doubt show this years title was won at a canter – but I remained somewhat twitchy up to the point we went 3-0 up v’s Villa. The bookies paying out early happens every year now, but the fact pretty much the whole of the football world (with the exception of Brian Kidd) declared the title race over and done with weeks ago only increased my sense of agitation. Talksport were dismissively telling listeners, “United have nothing to play for” prior to the West Ham game – pretty much the same line they were trotting out on the night we lost at Wigan 12 months previously. “Nothing to play for”? – we still needed another 7 points for fuck’s sake.

So despite being ‘inevitable’ and a ‘procession’ it never felt entirely comfortable. The thrills and spills of the opening half of the season were replaced by a return of the defensively solid, wildly unspectacular football that’s become our trademark over the last 3-4 years. Whilst there were some fantastic moments with late winners and goonage aplenty, it’s difficult to recall many games where the team performed for 90 minutes – the manner of the crucial 3 away victories at Liverpool, Chelsea and City being especially indicative.

Liverpool dominated us for the best part of the game and we only began to get a foot in the game once they’d had a man sent off; the trip to Stamford Bridge saw us storm into the lead then go to pieces before Clattenburg intervened and handed us back the initiative; RVP’s free kick at City, surely THE moment of the season – came off the back of a 20 minute spell where we’d barely had a kick and were hanging on desperately for a point. 3 pivotal games, 3 slightly fortuitous yet insanely satisfying wins. Our luck couldn’t last.

If those 3 fixtures were representative of United pre-Christmas, the 3 games biggest games during the 2nd half of the season resulted in 3 disappointing defeats. Madrid sent us out of Europe by winning at OT, a fairly abject performance saw us lose to Chelsea in the cup replay and City were well worth their victory in the recent derby. Our form aside from these games was solid enough but it’s fair to say, very rarely set the pulse racing. Winning is great of course and makes even the most uninspiring football palatable, but Manchester United should be about more than just winning.

Nevertheless, perhaps it’s slightly churlish to be airing these gripes now and instead we should instead focus on some good, old fashioned ballooning in light of what the management and squad have achieved – and it is a huge achievement. It won’t be celebrated with quite the same gusto that we’ve greeted previous trophies with, but that’s just an unfortunate consequence of us having gorged on success over the last 20 years.

My 40th is fast approaching and it occurred to me the other day that most of my first 2 decades were spent longing to see United win the league. That finally happened just prior to my 20th, so since then I’ve seen it happen another 12 times. 12 titles in 20 years – after it had taken us over 100 seasons of playing league football to amass the previous 8. If you’d informed me in the summer of 1992 that was going to occur, I’d have most likely called you a lying bastard before politely enquiring where you’d got your drugs from.

Whilst we can look forward to a relaxing few weeks receiving begrudging guards of honour and watching the tombola XL, the Berts are quietly licking their wounds and steadfastly maintaining an FA Cup will represent progress. After the awful noise which followed their title win last May, they’re pleasingly silent at present – no doubt gathering their breath for another sustained period of self-aggrandising bullshit should they overcome Wigan at Wembley. I received a solitary text from an alright one after the Villa game offering congratulations, this having been inundated with gloating messages at the close of last season. I didn’t bother sending any nonsense out myself, just having the knowledge that they’re hurting is enough.

Talking of pain, the serene ending to the season at OT is in marked contrast to the misery currently being experienced by supporters of Liverpool FC. If the manner of our title win feels ever so slightly anticlimactic, then do console yourself with the fact it’s gone down like a cup of cold sick on Merseyside. I’ve managed to go the whole season without mentioning Brendan Rodgers, mainly due to the fact I’m not sure where to begin – the man is truly a gift that keeps on giving. One expects he’ll be given another season before the scousers tire of his bluster, which is a relief because in the meantime he’s doing a fantastic job of promising an awful lot whilst in reality, delivering very little.

Rodgers, let’s not forget, wasn’t even first choice when he came in last summer. Roberto Martinez sussed the job was going to be a nightmare given the financial constraints in place following Dalglish’s extended shopping spree so sensibly gave them the swerve. It was clear FSG needed a good communicator after the PR disaster overseen by ‘Kenny’ and they got one. A master exponent of kind of flattering, syrupy rhetoric the scousers lap up, Rodgers is very good at talking so they took to him immediately. They called him ‘Brendan’ whereas everyone else pissed themselves laughing and called him ‘a dickhead’.

In fairness to Rodgers, he’s on a hiding to nothing ultimately – despite his brief surely not extending much beyond ‘manage expectations’. Although welcomed as ‘one of us’ after speaking in hushed tones about ‘class’, ‘dignity’ and ‘the Liverpool way’, it’ll be a surprise if he’s still there at the end of next season. It must be soul destroying for them at present: United champions, yet another slow realisation their owners aren’t going to pour millions in, manager a national laughing stock and their best player finally proving beyond all reasonable doubt he’s the biggest cunt in football. 23 years since they won the league now, roll on 2016…

Before I sign off, one last thing that’s been bugging me. Not content with insisting everyone should stand up for the Busby Babes every 10 minutes, I hear certain denizens of Stretford End Tier 2 spent part of the recent derby waving their JD Sports Adidas above their heads whilst bellowing ‘shoes off for the Busby Babes’. Here’s an idea for anyone involved – why not take it a step further and do something truly original? How about removing your shoes and beating yourselves unconscious with them instead?

Enjoy the summer and see you next season.

Copyright Red News – May 2013

www.rednews.co.uk

Keep An Open Mind Or Else

Like all great football rivalries, United and Liverpool’s stems from decades of mutual, on and off-pitch loathing: we don’t like them and they don’t like us. You can explore the sociopolitical identities of our two cities and find we have much in common, but in football terms – it’s fair to say Mancs and Scousers breathe different air and exist on different planets.

That said however, like some twisted sibling rivalry, the existence of one helps define and dictate the identity of the other. You’ll do well to meet a United fan who could honestly claim to pay Liverpool no attention and consider their fortunes an irrelevance. We’re in opposition to them on a daily basis, whether it be whilst celebrating moving ahead of them in terms of titles won or by simply sniggering at their unwavering devotion to that rotund oaf, Benitez.

As football supporters, we sport blinkers instinctively as part of our matchday attire. Question is: how much do we let an entrenched dislike of ‘the other’ invade our real lives? Taking football out of the equation, does the old adage of ‘never trust a Scouser’ (or Manc) ring true to the point it shapes opinions or influences relationships at home, socially or at work? The sensible answer to give is ‘no’, of course. That’s a line that reasonable, rational people don’t cross…but as we’ve witnessed recently, football rivalries can transcend what’s reasonable and rational and take us onto extremely dodgy terrain.

“We would rather have it done and dusted, out in the open. Whoever is the guilty party – the person who said it or the accuser – (should) get their due punishment.”

So uttered Kenny Dalglish back on the 28th October, in his familiar, self-righteously indignant mode. Fully supportive of the FA’s decision to launch an independent enquiry into the events at Anfield – where just in case you’ve been away on another planet somewhere, Patrice Evra recently got into ‘a bit of a heated debate’ with Liverpool’s Luis Suárez.

Sadly for Kenny and advocates of racial intolerance everywhere, 9 weeks later, the 3 man independent panel appointed to investigate the matter found Suárez guilty, resulting in a fine of £40,000 and an 8 match suspension. Having steadfastly refused to contemplate anything other than the Uruguayan’s innocence from the start, this wasn’t part of the script at all as far as Kenny was concerned. Within minutes, Liverpool had released an official statement that made for incredible reading.

“We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no-one else on the field of play – including Evra’s own Manchester United teammates and all the match officials – heard the alleged conversation between the two players…”

In reality of course, the 2nd part of that extract was superfluous. Liverpool were unable to grasp that Suárez could be found guilty at all – how could an independent panel listen to all the evidence in what was a highly emotive, sensitive case and reach an informed and considered decision against them? How dare they.

“LFC considers racism in any form to be unacceptable – without compromise…It is our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible – certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations.”

“In any form”…“without compromise”. Seriously?! This seemed slightly at odds with their assertion that Evra was an unreliable character, a truculent upstart ‘with previous’ for playing the race card.

“It is key to note that Patrice Evra himself in his written statement in this case said ‘I don’t think Luis Suárez is racist’. The FA in their opening remarks accepted that Luis Suárez was not racist.”

Hang on, I’m getting confused here – so are we to take notice of what Evra says or not? In the last paragraph they were claiming he wasn’t in any way credible, remember? Clearly we must disregard the part of Evra’s testimony that is damning towards Suárez, but take careful note of the part in which he states he doesn’t believe the guy is racist. That’s all a bit conveniently contradictory, isn’t it?

No one thought for a minute that Suárez was a card carrying member of the BNP…or UNP…or whatever. The FA’s verdict wasn’t casting aspersions on his political views, it was delivered following an investigation into a one-off incident. To illustrate: I’m not an alcoholic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get pissed and make a tit of myself.

“Luis himself is of a mixed race family background as his grandfather was black…He has played with black players and mixed with their families whilst with the Uruguay national side and was Captain at Ajax Amsterdam of a team with a proud multi-cultural profile, many of whom became good friends.”

“Luis is also a keen fan of dub reggae and once enjoyed a relaxing, family holiday in the Caribbean. He respects diversity so much that he’ll often request half-rice and half-chips. He prefers 1970’s Michael Jackson, when his skin was considerably darker than it was in later years.” Okay, okay, we geddit.

“We would also like to know when the FA intend to charge Patrice Evra with making abusive remarks…in the most objectionable of terms. Luis, to his credit, actually told the FA he had not heard the insult.”

Oh so we were to pay attention to this part of Evra’s statement as well, were we? Funny that. So Suárez hadn’t considered it relevant to mention a key mitigating fact – that he’d been incited? Despite the seriousness of the allegations and potential damage to his personal and professional reputation, he’d chosen not to mention the fact he was provoked? Very odd.

The statement was an incendiary development in a story that had been a quietly smouldering since the original incident, weeks earlier. With the decision to wear ‘Suárez 7’ shirts in support of their troubled colleague at Wigan, a day later – Liverpool may as well have chucked a can of petrol over proceedings.

Up to that point, press reaction to the original verdict had been fairly mixed – if anything, most commentators in the football world seemed taken aback by the severity of the punishment imposed. The t-shirts, however, led to widespread condemnation. Consensus of opinion interpreting Liverpool’s actions as somewhat crass, rather than the classy and dignified gesture of solidarity as was intended.

The siege mentality is a common managerial tool in football, with our own manager utilising it to stunning effect over the years. As well as helping bond a dressing room, it’s a useful (if obvious) trick for getting supporters onside too. You purposefully perpetuate a sense of injustice with the insinuation being that everyone (whether that be referees, the authorities or the rest of the world in general) is wishing nothing but ill on you. Hence, everyone unites behind a common cause with the intention of upsetting the odds and proving all outsiders wrong.

As United fans, we’re well versed in seeing the world contrary to public opinion. We defended Eric whilst some were calling for him to be imprisoned or extradited back in Jan ’95, and closed ranks around a number of our players during the fallouts of England’s repeated tournament failings. Similar posturing from Liverpool though, looked spectacularly ill-judged in this instance – pinned in a corner, fervently defending Suárez’s right to repeatedly call an opponent ‘negro’. Such battles aren’t worth fighting, one would reasonably assume.

Still, fight they did. Dalglish was unrepentant in his post-match press conference, sounding bewildered as to the fuss taking place. “It would be helpful to everyone if someone gave us some guidelines about what you can and cannot say.” Yeah, these politically correct types, eh Kenny? Bloody can’t say anything these days…ask Jeremy Clarkson. Meanwhile, Alan Hansen waded in and found himself dangerously close to Ron Atkinson waters on MOTD.

The list of people to boycott and complain to was growing and anyone speaking out of term (Livepool’s terms) was rounded on. Stan Collymore was subjected to all kinds of abuse on twitter for daring to condemn the club’s stance, much of this coming from black and Asian LFC fans for whom misplaced loyalty to the club had taken precedence over common sense. John Barnes played it safe, peddling the ‘cultural differences’ line whilst Paul McGrath gave a withering assessment of Glen Johnson’s compliance in the t-shirt stunt during an interview on Talksport.

Ever the astute social commentator and nemesis of good grammar, Rio Ferdinand blundered in with a knee-high challenge on twitter. “I’m seeing sooo many BOUNTY’s!! I hate them personally!!” Either that, or he’d just opened a tin of Celebrations.

Liverpool must have known this was all going pear-shaped for them on Christmas Eve, when after a mad few days, events took on an air of the surreal. In a PR move worthy of Brass Eye, a picture appeared in the Daily Mail of John Terry posing with a black baby. Well that was me convinced, he’s obviously NOT racist then. Chelsea also attempted to gather kudos points by revealing they kyboshed attempts by their players to wear t-shirts in support of the lionhearted one, deeming the plan “inappropriate and unhelpful”.

The first sign that anyone connected to LFC was uncomfortable with the stance the club had adopted, came via a Times article penned by respected Scouse journo, Tony Evans. Evans dared to suggest that Liverpool had made grave errors of judgement in their handling of the case and were entirely wrong in attempting to shift focus of the blame onto Evra. Fair play.

Still, it appeared no one thought it wise to brief Dalglish on this development. The FA subsequently published their detailed, 115 page report on the case. In response, Liverpool issued a holding statement – vowing to “digest and properly consider” the content before making further comment.

After 3 days of reflection, LFC and Suárez each released statements that demonstrated their stance hadn’t altered. Whilst deciding not to appeal the ban – Liverpool considered the report to be “highly subjective”, maintained the FA had treated them unfairly and even suggested United had set out to deliberately secure a ban for the player. Suárez meanwhile, showed a similar lack of contrition, instead choosing to remind us how he was “born into a very humble family, in a working class neighbourhood, in a small country” and throwing in a couple of crowd pleasing YNWA’s for good measure.

After the poorly received statements, Dalglish’s press conference following the City game that evening proved simultaneously ludicrous and gripping, upping the ante further and revealing the true extent of the man’s bitterness.

“There’s a lot of things we’d like to say and a lot we could say but we would only get ourselves in trouble. We are not trying to be evasive…well, we are being evasive because we don’t like getting ourselves in trouble. But we know what has gone on. We know what is not in the report and that’s important for us. So without me getting ourselves in trouble, I think that’s it finished.”

No hint of an apology or remorse, just sulky belligerence and a self-pitying refusal to accept that Suárez was out of order. “Wrong place, wrong time”, according to Kenny. Evra, the FA, the 9 week independent investigation, Manchester United…everyone seemed to be in cahoots against Liverpool Football Club.

2 days later and 10 weeks too late, Suárez did, finally, choose to apologise. Well, it was an apology of sorts. A terse, 2 line statement delivered with all the grace and sincerity of a recently admonished pre-schooler. In doing so, he still managed to protest his innocence and pointedly made no reference to any offence that Patrice Evra might have been caused. Class and dignity.

Discussing the case weeks earlier, the question came up ‘imagine the outcry from Liverpool if all of this had been the other way round?’ Say if Javier Hernandez, in a spat with Glen Johnson, had used insulting remarks with racist connotations then sought to discredit Johnson at every opportunity and claim it was all a cultural misunderstanding.

How would we have reacted? Instinct would have led us to defend our boy, wouldn’t it? One would hope that collectively, we (and I’m talking everyone with an interest in Manchester United) might have responded differently. I’m pretty sure the club would have handled things better than Liverpool did, but would United fans have been able to see through the red-tinted specs and accept that a punishment was merited? I seriously doubt it. Most people, I’m certain would have reacted exactly as Liverpool fans had done and blindly followed the party line being dictated by the club. Football supporters are sheep-like by nature, aren’t we?

In true soap-opera fashion, Liverpool were to face the consequences of their handling of the Suárez case within days. 10 minutes to go in an innocuous looking FA Cup tie vs Oldham and 20 year old, Latics player Tom Adeyemi was called a ‘black bastard’ by a single voice on the Kop. After he turned to remonstrate with the perpetrator, the crowd (as they’d been doing throughout the evening) chose that moment to rise as one and re-affirm their support for Suárez. A baying crowd facing a black kid in tears? I’m not deliberately trying to over dramatise things, but this all looked a bit ‘Nuremberg rally’ and made for very uncomfortable viewing.

Of course it was only one dickhead in a crowd of thousands, and noone seriously doubts LFC when they claim to oppose racism and discrimination in all forms. However, due to the timing of the incident, it’s clear the individual concerned had been influenced by the club’s implicit support of Suárez’s conduct towards a black opponent. Even if it was only one supporter, it was one too many. Racism + sheep-like mentality = extremely dodgy terrain. One would hope this provides food for thought when the Liverpool board takes time to reflect on their handling of the Suárez-Evra affair.

Copyright Red News – January 2012

www.rednews.co.uk