Every year when Liverpool are out of the title race before the turn of the year, the fans and players are heard talking of next season. Next season will be their year. Then next season comes along, they’re miles behind the leaders, and again they’re ready to claim next season will be the year they win the title. The capture of Fernando Torres was certain to seal the deal this year, but despite the young Spaniard’s great scoring record, Liverpool still find themselves 17 points behind the leaders.
With other teams in the top eight having stronger teams and getting better results, there is now only 6 points separating 4th and 8th in the league, meaning a couple of weekends worth of football could change everything around. Liverpool’s local rivals, Everton, seem firm favourites to scoop 4th spot, and thanks to new European rules, even a Champions League title couldn’t secure them football in the competition next season.
Liverpool beat United Reserves last night courtesy of two United goals dodgily being disallowed, and Liverpool’s Alonso netting a penalty along with Kewell’s last minute strike. It appears as though getting results against United is all our sad rivals from Liverpool can hope for, Steven Gerrard confirming as much in his rant in the LFC magazine.
“Now we soon have massive games at Manchester United and Arsenal, knowing we can’t win the league,” he said. “We are not bothered about whether we have an impact on the title race we’re not in. But winning at both those places would send out a message for next season. That would lay down a marker that no-one would ignore.” Surely he’s not talking about the infamous “next season” is he? Does he honestly believe that getting results against United and Arsenal would be something teams will give a second thought to in 08-09? I can’t imagine we’d lose to them at Old Trafford, but even if we were to, it says very little about Liverpool, unless we’re suggesting Manchester City have set down a marker than no-one can ignore as well. Small clubs dream of that one result a season against a big team, where their fans get their day to celebrate, so surely that shouldn’t be something Steven Gerrard is aspiring to?
In August of last year, Gerrard felt as though this really was their year, again. “I’ve watched what the other teams are doing in the market and they’re all strengthening, but all those teams will be looking at us and thinking we are going to be all over them this season,” he boldly claimed. “Without doubt, if we all perform to our level each week, we have the players to push United and Chelsea all the way. We are looking in great shape, not only going into this season but for the next few years. I thought going away for the summer that we were three or four players away from where we need to be. Now I think we are in a great place to challenge United and Chelsea and I hope if we get things right from the beginning we can beat them to the big prizes this year.”
Despite this comment, Gerrard is now quick to play down his ritual talk of next season, claiming he is fed up of hearing the same thing every year. “We can’t keep talking about next season all the time,” he said. “There are only so many times you can say it and believe it. Sooner or later we have to make one season the season we make it happen and do the talking on the pitch. We need to make people believe it. I’m 27 now, I don’t want to be talking about ‘next season’ for Liverpool when I’m 32. We’ve got the stadium, the fans, the manager and the players to compete for the Premier League. But we have no chance of doing that if we are always well out of it by the first week in January. And at the moment we have our work cut out fighting it out with Villa, Everton and Manchester City for fourth.”
Just last week, Jamie Carragher had the same doom and gloom outlook on his team, saying, “I wouldn’t call this just a bad spell, it’s been a lot longer than that. We realise that we are not playing well enough. It’s not a matter of putting your finger on one reason. It’s simply because we have not been good enough.”
Former dipper, Alan Hansen, said much of the same. “Quite frankly, there have been too many lacklustre performances by too many lacklustre players,” he said. “Everything at a football club is about the players and they have not been good enough.”
When Liverpool travel to Old Trafford next month, we’ll be singing “18 years” to drown out their Munich songs, and the way things are going, it’s likely to be a song we’ll keep adding years to every season.
Oh well dippers, there’s always next year eh…