Soapbox: a lesson in Liverpool


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

12 thoughts on “Soapbox: a lesson in Liverpool”

  1. Unfortunately, whenever a person writes a review there are always going to be the odd subconscious dig at the opponent. There was times reading the article that I thought, “Ooh the Scousers won’t enjoy that one.” Similarly though when I write I do exactly the same, it’s in our nature to perhaps put the other team down.

    Don’t take away from it though, this is still a very well written and – as far as I’m concerned – accurate piece of writing. And regardless of any slant on it, we still got pumped 3-0 so it’s neither here nor there I’d say.

  2. I have to agree about Richardson at full back. I haven’t got Steve Bruce’s pedigree as a Premiership player, nor do I get paid his salary to do his job, but just what makes him think that Richardson would do better in that position than Ferdinand, Bardsley or da Silva? It seemed pretty obvious to a layman like me that Richardson was no full back when his indecision cost us the first goal at Birmingham. This was reinforced by subsequent showings including the FA Cup defeat which exposed his lack of positional nouse in the back four. It’s not even as if he can tackle effectively.

    Having said that we were played off the park by the best performance shown by the opposition I’ve seen this season other than that of Chelski.

  3. Getting back to the original thrust of the article (Sorry to hear about tasteless, and mindless chanting lads), and back to the football.

    I think that there would be few who’d have disagreed with you about the back 4. Knowing you as I do Pete I suspect your heart was also in your shoes when you saw the defensive changes ahead of kick off. Bruce keeps making the same mistakes and isn’t learning in this regard. Why has he signed Kilgallon (I wouldn’t have, but he’s at least a defender), and leave PDS on the bench to accomodate Richardson at LB? Does he still think that this is potentially KR’s best position? Surely not after this!

  4. As a traditionalist, redscouse, i would be sorry to see Anfield go. But it was like that for us, with Roker Park. I am still, at heart, a Roker man for the simple reason that I’d spent so many hours there as a boy. But it was a tip when we finally left and while the SoL is far from perfect, it’s almost as good as new stadiums get and is in most respects a massive improvement on the old. If you move, too, you’ll experience similar mixed emotions, I imagine, but the grandchildren will be much better served.

    Off topic a bit, but our average gates, in the 40,000 region, are exceptional given how bad the football has been for so much of the time since the new ground opened. But it doesn’t have to go much lower before the empty spaces begin to look embarrassing and I would position the away end somewhere other than behind a goal since there is nothing worse than seeing images of so many unoccupied seats in, supposedly, one of the world’s most passionately supported leagues. There are honourable exceptions, Liverpool among them, but I am staggered at how few fans travel with some Premier clubs.

  5. I accept that we do have our share of ‘tourist’ support as you put it Pete but as I`ve said its an acceptable trade-off for those years of high-profile success and one which will also, hopefully, help us get rid of our yank problem and bring in a rich middle easten replacement (sadly this is the future of football if you really want to dine at the top table it seems!)
    we have a tout problem Pete that means we are locking out locals every week so we see the new ground as our salvation and a way to make sure that my son(who comes the game with me) can take his son/daughter when that happy day arrives!

  6. Fair comment redscouse. The old songs about “You’ll Never Get A Job” are pathetic and it’s almost a reflex action from fans who should know better. And yes it is a sweeping generalisation, but it is also a relevant observation; many of the fans I was looking at (although maybe I was looking for them to confirm my predjudices) were tourists.
    The only tourists we get at Sunderland are those who have stumbled off the North East Heritage route – Durham Cathedral, Beamish Museum, The Mag Banner Museum (Boycott the museum).

  7. international fame that comes with being successful means you do attract fans from overseas but your sweeping generalisation about the main stand was bit much dude – I`m in there meself lad with a load of mates from Nth Liverpool who`ve been going to the match long enough to remember sending food and money to the Nth East during the miners strike! which makes hearing some young makems singing about ‘signing on’ a bit dissapointing – seems we all have our crosses to bear eh mate

  8. Earl: so he was 10 minutes out. You stopped reading not because of one minor error but because you didn’t want to have to acknowledge that this was a perfectly fair, appreciative and, unlike at most independent fan sites, exceptionally well-written report.

    Trader: we cling desperately to proper club, proper fans status and, in doing so, aim for that high moral ground, But we also admit that it is elusive territory: see

  9. Sorry Earl. I don’t write from a Liverpool point of view. I know he went off early. And there was me complimenting the opposition on a good performance. Maybe I’ll just stick to my own team in the future.

  10. So you were there without noting that Stevie G didn’t play 90 min! When you get to such errors you just stop reading.

  11. I do find it slightly funny reading about a Sunderland fan giving out about tourists in the stadium – the one and only time I was at the Stadium of Light you couldn’t even buy a Sunderland jersey in the club shops – there was nothing but Ireland jerseys for sale! Appealing to the locals I’m sure.

  12. Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal are all brands now. Arsenal go on about not having sold their soul but Stan Kroenke may soon have something to say about that. However, to their local support, these clubs are still their local clubs and that is right. Sunderland cannot take the moral high ground because they are doing their upmost to become a brand, just like the rest of the clubs chasing the top clubs. At the moment, its the only way forward but lets just hope that eventually the game goes back to its roots. I think it will at some point.

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