A belated moan about the start of the new football season, and some quiet optimism about Liverpool
OK, so I am finally, reluctantly, willing to accept the football season has started.
Other sports provide us with lengthy off-seasons, for us to collect our thoughts, take a break, enjoy other sports, and gradually look forward to the start of the next season.
Football gives us no such luxury.
Just five weeks passed from the conclusion of the World Cup to the start of the domestic season. Those five weeks were full of pre-season friendlies and much idle transfer speculation.
Essentially, football never went away.
So, with no palate-cleanser of a reasonable off-season I have had mixed thoughts about throwing myself back into football, and writing about football.
Plus, the start of the football season is never particularly inspiring. This year is no exception. Players fatigued from a long 2009/10 season, and the World Cup, are not the best candidates to kick-start a season. Neither are players eyeing up a move before the transfer deadline at the end of the month. With so many players unfit or unsettled, and club sides still attempting to ‘gel’ players new and old, the start of the season is a messy time.
This isn’t real football to me. I’d much rather transfers took place prior to the season’s start, and that clubs had ample time to get their players fit and prepared. The current situation just distorts the early results, and means the season doesn’t really begin with the ‘bang’ that it warrants.
And there is also something quite odd about football in the summer. At least the British summer is doing its best to recreate proper autumnal football weather, I guess.
But I can resist no longer. The season is well and truly underway, whether I like it or not. So, what of it?
Well, my team Liverpool is in the midst of uncertainty on the pitch (as players look to leave, while others may come in), and off the pitch (as the club is up for sale). There is also a new manager, Roy Hodgson, who has set a suitably statesman-esque tone, and has been refreshingly free of excuses when it comes to explaining the team’s failures and weaknesses.
Hodgson has convinced Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to stick with the club, which is no mean feat, and brought Joe Cole in – a fantastic player, yet something of an enigma. Hopefully Hodgson can bring the best out of them.
The season has not started well, with just one point from the first two games. However, I am still quietly optimistic that the season will be a good one. The first reason for this is my expectations have been suitably lowered. Liverpool, with their current precarious financial situation, cannot compete with the top Premier League sides.
Accepting this reality, there is still a squad with genuine world-class quality (Gerrard, Torres, Reina), potential world-class quality (Cole, Jovanovic, Agger) and some great prospects (Pacheco, Shelvey).
Marshalled by a meticulous organiser in Hodgson, Liverpool can and will improve from a shaky start. Their first two games were perhaps tougher fixtures than any other Premier League side faced. Three 6-0 drubbings in the Premier League this weekend are evidence that there are many poor sides competing this year.
Liverpool won’t win the league. That is an easy and obvious prediction. But I think they will make encouraging progress across the season.
The biggest lift for me has got to be the total change of atmosphere during press conferences. Whereas the press we clearly trying to wind Rafa up so he went into one of his ‘Facts!’ meltdowns or promised a final league position that few outside the club believed Liverpool would achieve, the media actually like Roy Hodgson. It’s such a difference. He’s erudtie and answers questions succinctly and as honestly as the profession allows. No diversionary swipes at referees, moans about injuries or botching about how Manchester United are looked favourably upon by the Premier League fixture computers. Even other managers like Roy as was evident by the lengthy and cordial chat Roberto Di Matteo had with him before last Sunday’s match. None of this will change the player’s performance on the pitch but it seems to be positively altering public perceptions of a once well-liked club (well-liked outside of United and Everton fans of course). Long may the trend continue.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. It has been so refreshing to have a manager steering clear of excuses or embarassing statements. I think, in time, it will filter down to the players too. I was impressed that we didn’t appeal Joe Cole’s sending off, as it showed the club accepting its fate and moving on. Cole was then refreshingly frank in apologising for his penalty miss. ‘No excuses’ seems to be the new mantra. While it is a shame that the squad wasn’t strengthened further, I do expect performances to improve. I’d rather a small, happy squad, than a bloated one.
We’ve had two managers full of excuses in Houllier and Benitez, although Rafa couldn’t quite match Houllier’s levels of media paranoia (and Villa apparently want him to be their next manager!?!). And you’re right, it should filter down to the players and hopefully remind them what a privilege it is to play Premier League football for a club with as rich a history as Liverpool.
The squad could really have done with another striker but I’m excited by quite a few of the summer signings. Joe Cole is someone I’ve admired for years, Jovanovic looks like he’s got enough physical strength to cope with this league, Meireles was one of my favourite players in the World Cup (one who will surely be the long term replacement for Alonso, not Mascherano), and Poulson has a great tackle on him. As for the youngsters, hopefully Roy has a better eye for future stars than either of his two predecessors – Shelvey and Wilson could definitely walk into teams expected to finish lower down the league so a season or two alongside Gerrard, Torres and Cole should mean they become good enough to grab a first-team slot at Liverpool. The future’s brighter.
I think Roy is our first realist in a while. As most LFC fans don’t hold out much hope for this season, I think that is healthy. There does seem to be a good mix of experience and youth, which can be built on this year. I do hope the likes of Shelvey and Wilson get playing time, as this is the ideal year to start planning properly for the future.
In a year or two we could easily see a squad without Gerrard, Carragher, Torres, and for this to not be a disaster there needs to be younger players willing and able to step in.
I’ll remain quietly optimistic that Hodgson can succeed with this.
I’ve been wondering — what’s your thinking on the possibility that the group that own the Red Sox are thinking about buying Liverpool?
I’ve been trying to get my thoughts straight about and write a blog post about it. Maybe I might get my act together soon – watch this space!
So many uncertainties at present. Will the deal go ahead? Will Hicks and Gillette succeed in ousting Parslow from the board? Will Liverpool go into administration and be docked 9 points? This seasons is going from bad to worse and many fans won’t be too happy about swapping one set of American owners for another even if it means avoiding administration.
New stadium (or rebuilding anfield) a must whoever is in control after October 15th.