Liverpool v SAFC: the voice of America

It was from the judge I mentioned yesterday that I first heard the expression “up and down like a harlot’s drawers”. It was a reference to his football team’s yo-yo existence and I suppose there are County Durham variations of the phrase I have known and forgotten. Anyway, it also applies to Salut! Sunderland. Ever since our pals at announced a new server, it’s been hit-and-miss as to whether anyone out there can actually come here and see what we’re up to. The site has been up and, with frustrating frequency, down. I desperately hope the techie wizards are right to say we are nearing the end of this frustrating period – it always seems to happen just after something especially interesting has been posted – though the past week has seen continuing problems.

One result of was that out in the Mid West of the USA, Ed* – short for editor, of the Liverpool Offside fan site – was unable for long periods to see how we’d handled his responses to the Who Are They? questionnaire (he was a welcome contributor after one Gerry Marsden and his manager ignored overlooked polite, even grovelling approaches). So here, for a matchday audience and with fingers tightly crossed, is a repeat of Ed’s analysis of events at Anfield, offered before Liverpool’s plucky Carling Cup exit. And I am sure that if Titus Bramble plays, Liverpool fans will keep our judge happy by ensuring their chants faithfully observe the Contempt of Court Act …

Ah, to be a Liverpool fan. Memories of standing on the Kop as a lad, that overpowering emotion stirred by the first words of You’ll Never Walk Alone with every home fan raising scarf aloft, a pint or two in the Ship & Mitre after the match. Ed* – our latest contributor to seek semi-anonymity (good reason) – can only take our word for it. He’s a keen enough supporter but lives on the other side of the Atlantic, has never set foot in Liverpool and knows nothing of the Anfield experience at first hand. Ed offers his thoughts on the Reds’ slow start to the season, the Liverpool hero who has been known to cheat and the corporate chaos engulfing his adopted club …

Salut! Sunderland: Generally near the top but – despite the incredible 2005 Champions’ League final – a shadow of the marvellous side of not so long ago. Is that fair comment, and is Roy Hodgson finally the man to lead the Reds back to glory?

I don’t think it’s entirely unfair to suggest that Liverpool aren’t where they were 20 years ago, let alone five. The past year and a half really has been a nightmare – consistent tabloid fodder, farcical ownership, uninspired performances, and a fade from relevance as a force to be reckoned with on the pitch.

It’s particularly unfortunate for me, as I latched on to Liverpool just prior to the 2006-2007 campaign. The only silverware I’ve seen won as a supporter was the Community Shield of that year, which is just a hair off the Champions League trophy. The Champions League run to the final in that season was fantastic in its own right but ultimately fell short, and aside from the success in league in 2008-2009 there’s been little to suggest Liverpool are near the glories of seasons past.

As for Roy Hodgson, it’s cliche as hell, but I think only time will tell. You wouldn’t think that he’s there for the long term, but it also wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to bring him in for a season and send him packing. He was apparently the most stable choice, and the party line is that he’s brought a sense of ease to the operations near the pitch. Ultimately he’s going to be measured by the record he’s able to achieve, and that’s as it should be. A tall order for anyone, though, when things around the club are so messy.

The Torres enigma: great player but allegedly out of sorts so far. Is it important to keep him or wrong to build so much hope on one player?

For me the suggestion that all of Liverpool’s hopes rest on his shoulders is a bit romanticized, even if it’s dribbling down the chin of every pundit in England.

Yes, the collective psyche would have been shattered if he picked up and left prior to the start of the season. But he didn’t, and regardless of how often he’s referred to as “forlorn” or “frustrated,” he’s stated every intent to stay for the duration of his contract. He and Steven Gerrard are clearly the most influential players in the side, and as such they carry the lion’s share of the focus.

But the club needs sorting in other areas as well, and I think it’s become increasingly clear that without significant investment in the rest of the squad we can’t expect as much out of the top talent, including Fernando Torres.

The World Cup was eminently forgettable unless you’re Spanish, but have your players returned with any sort of hangover or are you confident of quickly improving on the moderate start to the season (question posed and answered before Liverpool’s defeat in the Carling Cup by Northampton)?

Moderate’s a nice way to put it, isn’t it? Worst start in the top flight in 18 years, but also worth noting that, based on the opposition’s final spot in the league table the previous year, it’s the toughest start to a league campaign in at least ten years

So as to not tempt fate I’ll avoid saying “there’s nowhere to go but up,” but I will say that there’s plenty of improving left to do. I think a hangover from the 2009-2010 campaign is more relevant than any lingering effects of the World Cup–Torres might be the exception, as he’s played the last six months at less than full fitness.

But we’ve seen too many performances already this season that are near-replicas of last season’s failings, so I think any correlation between the World Cup and the “moderate” start to this season is tenuous at best.

I was at the beach ball game – which I believe we deserved to win – but not Anfield, where you brought us right back down to earth after a mini-revival. An easy three home points again?

“Easy” is a foreign term in the Liverpool vernacular in recent times, and after the start to this season it’s nearly erased for good.

It’s tough to tell right now, but after today’s display (3-2 loss at Old Trafford) I’m hopeful things are moving forward. Sunderland’s proven they’re no pushover, so I don’t plan to witness Liverpool breeze past them at all.

Do you have any fond or bitter memories of past LFC v SAFC games – home/away/the Wembley final?

Reference your above question – if there was ever an omen that things were going south for Liverpool, the beach ball game last season was it. I’m in complete agreement that Sunderland deserved to win that day, but the manner in which it occurred made the result infamous, particularly in light of the way Liverpool’s season continued.

Insult to injury that last season’s loss was the first time I’ve seen Liverpool come away without all three points since I’ve been a supporter.

There is something special about the build-up to any Liverpool home game, perhaps because You’ll Never Walk Alone has become established as a great football song. What do you make of Celtic fans borrowing it too?

Speaking as someone who hasn’t had the pleasure of experiencing either atmosphere in person, I think it’s fantastic.

For me there’s little point in bickering about who had it first (even though it was Liverpool) or to whom it means more–my biggest point of attraction to club football is the atmosphere, and there’s nothing better for me as a fan to watch and listen to the passion associated with it. Save for the nasty stuff that pops up from time to time, I’m a fan of any club’s supporters doing it up well.

That being said, it seems like it’d be pretty tough to match You’ll Never Walk Alone at Anfield.

Who are the greatest players you’ve seen in Liverpool colours – and who have been the worst?

As a recent fan of the club this one’s tough – I’ve done my homework on the legends of old, but to avoid cheating I’ll have to give the boring answers:

Best: Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina, Preseason Andriy Voronin

Worst: Phillipp Degen, Andrea Dossena, Regular Season Andriy Voronin

We had some very embittered responses last season to questions to your fellow Reds about the ownership issue. Is the departure of Tom Hicks and George Gillett imminent and how important will that be?

We can only hope it’s imminent, although recent reports don’t indicate that there’s been any sort of success on that front. The RBS takeover/toxic assets/rumors of administration are cause for panic, and it’s clear they’re running out of time. Blackstone blocking Tom Hicks’ bid to refinance is good news, but something needs to happen soon.

As for the importance of their departure, I don’t know if it can be overstated. The amount of negative attention they’ve brought to the club is astounding–debts and mismanagement aside, I think their impact will be felt on the club for awhile yet. The financial situation could be rectified in one miraculous swoop (even though that’s not looking likely), but the qualitative damage they’ve done has been the worst.

I came across a Liverpool blogger who declares himself too disillusioned with modern football to be bothered to post any more. Salut! Sunderland banged on a lot last season about cheating (diving, feigning injury, trying to get opponents booked or sent off) but is it time to abandon old-fashioned principles and accept it as part of the game?

I ‘ll lead with the obligatory Steven Gerrard condemnation – awful at various points in his career and shameful on more than one occasion. Hopefully those days are behind him.

Regarding it’s place in the game, I don’t think it has one. I’ve grown up in a sporting culture that generally vilifies simulation or fakery in vivo (even if they turn a blind eye to steroids, crooked agents, etc), so I’m of the stripe that can’t stand it.

And after witnessing Nani on Sunday, I stand convinced.

Name this season’s top four and bottom three.

I have to be optimistic, even after the rough start. You could also call it stupidity:

Top Four: Chelsea, Arsenal, United, Liverpool

As for the bottom three, I have no earthly idea. I hope nobody takes offense, this is drunken dartboard stuff:

Bottom Three: Wigan, Stoke City, West Ham

Will you be at our match? What will be the score?

I won’t, I’ll be sitting in front of a television in the Midwestern United States, having a cup of coffee and cursing uncontrollably.

As for the score, I’ll guess 2-1 Liverpool with a late winner, because foolish hope is all I have left.

* Ed on Ed

“I’m an American graduate student in my late 20s, currently living in the Midwestern US with my wife and working in a health clinic while I finish my graduate studies.

Like I mentioned above, I’ve only got a short period of time supporting Liverpool – my best buddy and I got hooked after the 2006 World Cup, and we quickly developed an unhealthy obsession with Steven Gerrard highlight videos, which led to Michael Owen, which led to Robbie Fowler, which led to Ian Rush, which led to Kenny Dalglish, etc etc. Maybe not the most glamorous history as a supporter, but I’ve greatly enjoyed the time I have spent following the club, and I’m looking forward to many more years.”

And is Ed planning that Anfield debut?
“I am – right now the tentative plan is to go the fall after I complete my doctoral studies/dissertation, etc. Couple years out, but it’s on the horizon. Hoping to involve my good friend and his wife as well, so we’ll see. A bit of ‘impostor syndrome’ on my part, being a supporter without having been to the ground. One of these days soon, though.”

Interview: Colin Randall

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