It has already begun. Of course, it was always going to be this way. The first so called ‘slip-up’ of the new season saw Liverpool FC and their players come under immediate scrutiny by the press pack and sections of the media. How original.
As stated, it was always going to be this way. Especially after spending close to £60 million this summer, combined with the £57 million spent in January. Especially after Manchester United last season tore from their grasp, their title as most successful domestic side in England. Especially as the club are finally in the hands of seemingly steady ownership and the ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish is starting the season as manager for the first time since Liverpool won their last league title back in 1990.
Regardless of the immense overhaul and restructuring the club has just been through – and is still going through, the transitional period the club finds itself in buys no extra time from the relentless pressure the media will exert every time a result doesn’t go the Red’s way. If the grand name of Liverpool FC didn’t already dictate this, then the money spent by the club over the last six months certainly will.
Anything but a victory (and probably a comprehensive one at that) against Sunderland on the opening day of the season at Anfield would have brought negative press instantly to the red half of Merseyside, and the subsequent 1-1 draw didn’t disappoint those eager to quell any rising optimism. This is despite the call for calm and patience for the new season ahead by Kenny Dalglish, and echoed on various occasions by voices like Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and most recently, Chairman Tom Werner. This is despite a vast restructuring going on at the playing level, where no fewer than four new signings made their debuts against Sundeland – three of the four in a four-man midfield. And this is also despite the fact that yet again, an incompetent referee made an incompetent decision against Liverpool at Anfield, during the ground’s first match of a new season (anyone for Rob Styles penalty blunder v Chelsea in 2007, or Joe Cole’s harsh redcard last season?)
Surprisingly, the press chose to focus less on the inept Phil Dowd and his ridiculous decision to let Kieran Richardson stay on the pitch after bringing down Luis Suarez when clean through on goal with only four minutes gone, and focused more on Liverpool’s failure to break down a team, who were fortunate to still be playing with 11-men. Mostly coming under ‘surprising’ attack was striker Andy Carroll. I use the word ‘surprising’ in a sarcastic manner – the £35 million price tag will ensure certain members of the press will focus on his every touch, unfairly or not – that’s what a massive price tag brings. I was, however, surprised that the attack on Carroll was as instant as it was, whilst being totally unwarranted – Carroll was far from the worst player on the pitch. I was genuinely more surprised at the seeming knee-jerk reaction from the ‘Chief Sports Writer’ for the Observer, who based an entire article in The Guardian on the fact that Carroll has not lived up to his £35 million price tag – from his performance against Sunderland. In the first game of the season. I wonder what his article would have been based on if the referee had failed to correctly disallow Carrol’s goal for a slight push? You got that one right didn’t you Mr. Dowd.
The reactive article on Carroll is something Liverpool fans better get more accustomed to this season, if results are not positive. And by this I mean press-positive i.e 3-points. The unfair criticism Carroll received comes from him not yet being given a chance to gel with his new side, and especially new strike partner Luis Suarez, thanks to an injury-plagued start to his Liverpool career at the end of last season. A fact conveniently forgotten by those keen to write a negative reaction piece.
In total opposite to the media’s obsessive negative pressure mounting at Anfield, the vast majority club’s supporters are remaining calm and sensible – for now. Most have realised that this is a rebuilding season and whilst it seems there are exciting times ahead and the future looks bright and optimistic, that time may not yet be right now. New signing and youth need to gel into a team that can push for honours but for now patience is the key. Maybe owner John Henry’s comments of a need to finish at least fourth this season didn’t help, and allowed the press to frenzy again – but those demands are the level every Liverpool fan is already hoping for – anymore this season, will be seen as a welcome bonus.
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