Despite a curious but brief boyhood flirtation with Peterborough United, Monsieur Salut does not really approve of “second teams”. But he can think of Sunderland supporters who would share Lars Knutsen‘s declaration of more than grudging respect and admiration for Liverpool – plus a few who would profess to loathe them …
Second teams – we all seem to have them for some reason, be it down to a style of play, geography or memories of great football games on TV or seen live.
I have a minor confession to make: I have a soft spot for Liverpool. I think it all came down to the 1970s and 1980s when I was in my formative years football-wise and the Merseysiders represented the cream of English football.
This was at a time when Sunderland were a bit of a yo-yo side, and Liverpool won 11 League Championships between 1973 and 1990, in some style. My allegiance was and is with my home town club, but Liverpool demanded some admiration – not least for their style of football, and I admired their strikers in particular – Callaghan, Keegan, Toshack, Rush, Aldridge, Fowler and Owen.
Liverpool could have done with a striker of this calibre on Saturday – Sunderland played with composure and passion against the Merseysiders in their first home game of the season, despite Stephane Sessegnon being strangely off colour. The Benin international has a new contract, but he has not shown his best form so far this season (Martin O’Neill has mentioned fitness – ed).
In the first half, Liverpool lived up to their label of being a team in decline. They definitely had their moments in the game, but they played without real conviction, especially in front of goal, and the contrast between the sides was clear, Sunderland played as a team, were together as one and sweated blood for each other.
What caused Kenny Dalglish’s downfall was all those almost games last season when they drew or lost, especially at home when they dominated many times without coming away with the points. This looked like one of these games after Steven Fletcher put us ahead just before the half hour.
Liverpool used to be able to dictate whole games in the way they dictated the second 45 minutes yesterday. The end of the transfer window was seen as a bit of joke for the visitors, with the failure to recruit Clint Dempsey while letting Andy Carroll go out on loan; it was a day that incensed friends who are true and passionate fans of the Reds.
The second half was a lot more like the Liverpool of old, despite this being their worst start for a century. We conceded after Suarez put away a loose ball in the six-yard box, and there were several chances for Liverpool to go ahead, but the Black Cats managed to continue their unbeaten start to the season.
I wish the Merseysiders well in many ways; they tested our character and we held firm for a point in the end. A club in transition, they showed a lot of spirit and pace, especially after the week they have had off the field. Brendan Rogers is only 39, he is their 20th manager, and despite Dalglish’s controversial departure, part of me hopes he is successful in turning things round.
It is a great club, which will always be in the spotlight and when they play with pace and passion they are superb to watch.
Martin O’Neill was grateful for a point in the end. We have had three tough opening games and like all Sunderland fans I look forward to the team clicking and bringing home three points soon.