One awayday, many broken dreams. We persuaded ourselves we were on a roll, over the hump, climbing the table, good enough to win at Anfield. Pete Sixsmith witnessed the shambles that returned us to reality …
The two questions I asked myself on the long journey home were simple ones. How good were Liverpool? How poor were we?
Answers: very and pretty.
To play Liverpool when they are on form like this, everything has to be right and for us, it clearly wasn’t. Injuries dictated changes but I felt that the Brucester got it wrong. He made three changes in the back four when only two were necessary and he altered the balance of the midfield, leaving us with little craft and guile there.
Bardsley for Hutton was an obvious choice and I thought that Da Silva would come in for Mensah. Instead we had Ferdinand taken from left back and Richardson dropped back.
Sorry, Steve, he is not a left back; he may be able to fill in in an emergency against moderate opposition, but against a rampant Liverpool – well, they might as well have recalled Lenny Ashurst.
Richardson’s removal from the midfield allowed Cana and Cattermole to resume their partnership in the centre, but it struck me as being like one of those double act reunions that never quite seems right – the magic has gone. Pearl Carr sings out of tune with Teddy Johnson and Bobby Ball misses his timing when Tommy Cannon feeds him a line.
Cattermole is a shadow of what he was before he was sidelined after National Beachball Day in October. His tackles lack bite, his interceptions are late and his passing is poor. Apart from that, he has made a great recovery. It may be wise to use him sparingly for the rest of the season.
Cana looks tired and he knows that he is a marked man. His tackling has suffered because of this and maybe he needs a rest as well.
Turner had to mark Torres who was tremendous. I saw Torres as a lad of 16 playing for Spain in a UEFA tournament at Durham City and he stood out among some excellent players. Once again, he did us with a moment of sublime and deadly skill to score after three minutes. Poor Turner must have wanted him to crawl off long before he did.
They were good. Gerrard got through 90 minutes (OK – see comments – so it was 80 .. ed.) without elbowing any one or making gestures at the referee. His strength and energy were too much for us, that’s for sure. He was ably backed up by Kuyt and Mascherano who worked equally tirelessly.
Other than the game, we had an enjoyable day in Liverpool. A taxi ride into the city and straight into the Globe, known in these parts as “the slopey floor pub”. Good Cains Bitter, a free 60s jukebox and some faces among the clientele that took us back 40 years, their owners resembling extras from an early episode of Z Cars.
One customer, resplendent in his overcoat and pin collared white shirt, looked as if he had been involved in a “discussion” with Fancy Smith, while there was a man collecting glasses in the fashion of the guy in the final episode of Boys From The Blackstuff. Add to that a chancer who tried to sell us an Avia watch (“in a nice box, pal”), and all the stereotypes were there for us. There has been a tail off in stuff being sold though. In the 80s and 90s there was a steady stream of fellas offering you handkerchiefs, socks and Toblerone.
So, as we trooped away from Anfield, cuffed by the Reds, our tails between our legs and our wee revival firmly ended, I was able to reflect on my 25th visit to that once esteemed stadium. I have to say that it was even quieter than Ashburton Grove. The crowd looks predominantly middle aged and has a large number of tourists in it.
The area of the old Main Stand, next to where we were housed, looked like an advert for Thomas Cook Football Tours, with cameras flashing, new scarves unconvincingly draped around necks, and an inability of those sat there to truly engage with the football. Liverpool are, to my mind, a brand rather than a club, which is probably why the Americans bought into it. I can’t see us ever becoming a brand – thank goodness.
So, six games left and three points needed to be absolutely safe. I fear that Burnley have gone today, leaving West Ham, Wolves and Hull closest to the drop. We have to play all three of them away from home. Surely we can manage to win another away game to add to that dim and distant memory of August 2009