Our Liverpool guests, Peter Hooton, rock singer and leading light in the Spirit of Shankly union, and Neil Jones, a Reds-supporting football writer, have dealt with some of the on-the-field issues affecting their club, who began the season hoping for the title but now have to settle for being just one of a cluster of clubs vying for fourth place. But let’s stop the pussyfooting: what do the fans really think of the owners? What, come to that, do they think about the lad who threw the beachball, whether cheating is OK provided it delivers the title and who will win Sunday’s match against Sunderland? And what do we think of Peter’s band, The Farm?* …
Your club has an immense history, with triumph and tragedy, glory and disappointment, but what would Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley have made of the current owners and their impact on LFC?
I think they would be horrified at what is happening. One of Bill Shankly’s most famous quotes is ‘At a football club there is a holy trinity- the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques.’ The problem with these cowboys is that they have run out of cheques; in fact they never had any in the first place!
Neil:It’s the million dollar question I suppose, I’m sure Shankly in particular would have plenty to say. He was a man who despised any interference from above, so he would not take kindly to some of the stunts pulled by the current owners. I’m sure he would be very much behind the supporters’ union which bears his name.
What were your expectations at the beginning of the season and what are they now? And what will be the top four in order?
SOS: I was hopeful at the start of the season but all luck deserted us early on including the beach ball incident and we have never quite recovered. After last seasons title challenge expectations were high but realistically though I don’t think our squad is strong enough to challenge. With Alonso leaving as well as Sami Hyppia and Arbeloa we are much weaker than last year but is Rafa had been allowed to buy with the money from sales and we had bought the players I mentioned we would have challenged. It’s all about economics in the Premiership. We still have an outside chance of 4th so my prediction or rather this is what I hope happens
Neil: At the start of the season, I was cautiously optimistic. I felt Liverpool might challenge for the title, that Glen Johnson would prove to be a major difference, and that our solid home form would see them right. But from the opening game at Spurs, there was clearly something wrong. Liverpool haven’t played well enough, often enough, and it is no surprise that they are scratching round for the 4th place in the Champions League.
My expectations now? I think fourth is within reach, and I think if Torres stays fit they might just do it. The top four, in order, will be – Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester Utd, Liverpool.
Who will go down? If Sunderland aren’t in either (!) list, where will we finish. Do you have any thoughts about Sunderland – the club, the city, the stadium, the fans?
Wolves, Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth will go down. I think Sunderland will finish mid table after putting a decent run together after the game at Anfield. I know you are passionate fans with a great history. My abiding memory of Sunderland is when you beat Leeds in the Cup Final in 1973. I was only a kid but I remember supporting Sunderland because Leeds were our big rivals at the time.
Neil: Going down are……Hull City, Portsmouth and Burnley. Portsmouth are down of course, and I think the other two have the wrong managers in place personally. Burnley I quite like, and Hull aren’t as bad as they seem, but I don’t see either Iain Dowie or Brian Laws having the nous to keep them up.
Sunderland won’t go down, they have a good side – although not much depth it must be said. They will get goals from Darren Bent, and have players in midfield who can make things happen – Reid, Malbranque etc. I’ve been surprised at how they have fallen apart since a good start to the season, but I guess financial strains take their toll eventually.
I must say Sunderland aren’t a team that enter into the consciousness too often, as arrogant as that sounds. I think my abiding memory of Sunderland was that documentary with Peter Reid! They have a very nice stadium, though it is a shame to see it so rarely full. The city I am not familiar with, so I wouldn’t be able to comment. But I think they have a good manager in Steve Bruce, and some good players – certainly enough to build a solid side around.
Were you at the beach ball game and what did you make of the incident? Was the lad who threw it crucified?
SOS: I was at the game it was an unfortunate incident. The media tried to crucify the lad involved Liverpool fans just laughed it off. In fact when we played United The Spirit of Shankly purchased 500 beach balls and wrote Hicks & Gillett Out on them. It completely deflated the United fans attempt at humour with their 10 beach balls. Of course the media never gave us credit for it but we’ve come to expect this.
Neil: I was covering the game from home unfortunately (or fortunately) so I didn’t get to witness the incident first hand. I believe the lad who threw it onto the pitch was only a young kid, so there would not have been too much abuse I’m sure. In any case, he could hardly be blamed, it was just one of those freak accidents that happen every now and then. Typical of our luck at the time, but then Liverpool did not play well at all that day. Sunderland deserved their win.
Name the greatest players you’ve seen in Red, and/or those you wish you’d seen.
SOS: The greatest players I have ever seen in the Liverpool kit are Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, and John Barnes. I wish I had seen Johan Cruyff and Maradona in the flesh.
Neil: Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Robbie Fowler. Fowler was the best in the business early in his career, and there isn’t a Liverpool supporter alive who would have a bad word said against him. Right foot, left foot, five yards, 20 yards, headers, big game, small game, he just scored!
Gerrard is up there with the all-time greats in terms of accomplishments. 300 games as skipper, more than 500 for the club, lifted all the big trophies bar one, and some of the goals he’s scored, the games he’s played, have been legendary alone.
Torres at the moment is unstoppable. His goal record is phenomenal, but as an all-round footballer he is just special. He glides across the ground, he is quick, he is strong and he finishes off either foot. It is a privilege to watch him.
Those I wish I’d seen…take your pick from King Kenny, Graeme Souness, John Barnes in full flow (late 1980s), Kevin Keegan…some real greats there. Barnes in his first few seasons at the club was unreal, just watching him run at players is frightening.
Have you experienced anything better as a fan than coming back from 3-0 down to win the Champions’ League?
We have had quite a few famous come-backs but that tops the lot. It was Roy of the Rovers stuff. We experienced a whole range of emotions that night. Incredible!
No. And I doubt I ever will.
Back to Mr Gerrard. It’s what we call the Eduardo question, though David N’Gog, Drogba and others might feel left out: last second of the last game of the season. You’re drawing but a win would make you Premier champions. Gerrard’s outrageous dive, recognised as such by everyone in the ground except the ref, wins a penalty, and he scores. You take it gladly, you take it guiltily or you’re so ashamed you almost wish you’d not won?
Take it guiltily but most Liverpool fans would kill their granny if it meant us winning the league again.
Neil: Ha, the hypothetical teaser. Honestly, I would of course take the initial delight from Liverpool winning the league. But my job is in the media, and I would obviously have to report it and debate it, so it would certainly tarnish things. The moral dilemma rarely comes into football with supporters, they want success and they want it now.
?Now you can rebuke us for dragging SG’s name into that question!
SOS: No you are justified as he has gone over too easily sometimes.
Neil: I have a tendency to blame referees with really blatant dives, but you would hope that the captain of your club is above such things, and though Gerrard has a bad reputation, I think his is more about exaggeration than outright diving.
Club vs country: who wins for you – rooting for England in South Africa or too concerned about Liverpool to care too much?
SOS: Most Liverpool fans I know aren’t that bothered about England and just want to see our players come back from International duty without an injury but if they play decent football in South Africa I’m sure most will want to see them do well. ?
Liverpool over England, but there is no need to choose! I will be supporting England in the World Cup of course, and I will be interested to see how any Liverpool players do. If I had to sacrifice one however, it would be country.
Will you be at Anfield for our game? What will be the score?
Yes I am a Kop season ticket holder and I think we will win 2-1.
I will be at Anfield working, the joys of the press box. I think Liverpool will win it, maybe by a couple of goals. We have the kind of midfield that can outdo Sunderland’s at the moment – Mascherano is fantastic and both Lucas and Aquilani have shown good form of late – and with Torres, who has a good record against Sunderland I believe, we have the X-Factor. Bent will need to be watched, but I think Agger and co can handle him.
Neil Jones is Liverpool correspondent for Goal.com UK and a supporter of the club. I work full time as a journalist/writer, my site is called Football Sense and is very much in its infancy, as a lot of my time is taken up working for Goal.
Peter Hooton (SOS):, lead singer of The Farm, has been watching Liverpool since the 1970s. He is a Spirit Of Shankly committee member and has just written a book When Football Was Football – (Liverpool a nostalgic pictorial history of Liverpool FC). (Buy it here – ed )
* And the old folkies at Salut! Sunderland, well one of them at least, has become a minor fan of The Farm, via the clips available at YouTube, including this showing Peter and chums in Human League tribute band mode: