Every week Lawrence Gray-Hodson, a man who made his name in the upper reaches of Division 2 in the 1970s and 80s as well as being a former Scotland and England international, writes a column exclusively for Three and in.
This week it’s the situation at Liverpool
Like many of you I have been astounded by the shocking situation at Liverpool this season. Beaten last weekend by Blackpool, which is the football equivalent of Muhammed Ali being beaten up by a dwarfer, they find themselves in the bottom three and the fans are not happy.
While I understand being upset at such a defeat I have to say their fans have acted quite disgracefully in turning on the owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks. I watched the now famous YouTube video in which Liverpool fans started by talking about how much they loved their club and then ended up talking about raping the Americans and making threats to burn down their houses. If you’re capable of love you should not be capable of sexually violating a fellow human or man, let alone burning his house down. What if his wife and children were there? His dog? Why would you burn somebody’s dog to death? It’s unconsciousanable.
Frankly, it was unbecoming of a club whose fans have always carried themselves with a quiet, unassuming dignity. We didn’t need Benny from Brookside or the fat beardy fella from The Royal family to preach at us. We can all look, with our own eyes and ears, at what’s going on at Anfield and it strikes me that the Liverpool fans are completely misguided.
The team is playing badly, the new manager is proving quite quickly he’s not up to the task, his signings have been dreadful, and they can’t even beat a third division side in the Carling Cup, so what do the Liverpool fans do? Blame the players, no. Blame the manager, no. Blame the previous manager who left the new manager a poor squad, no.
Instead they blame a pair of businessmen who have always tried to do their best for Liverpool Football Club. Some might argue that’s not the case but not once have I heard a decent argument to back that up. Do you think Hicks and Gillett actually bought Liverpool to run it into the ground and lose millions of pounds in the process? Of course they didn’t. They wanted to make money so why would they do anything other than their best?
Another thing to consider is just how many games have the Americans played for the club. That’s right. Not an appearance between them. They haven’t played, they haven’t picked the team, they haven’t told the managers who should play. They gave Rafa Benitez £20m and he wasted it on Alberto Aquilani, an Italian so abject and spineless he wouldn’t even get a job as Berlusconi’s shoe shine. Where’s the anger directed at the Spaniard for getting that transfer so wrong?
“It’s the owners, it’s the owners!”, they cry instead of looking at the evidence right in front of their eyes. Perhaps if Steven Gerrard put as much effort into his football as he does into telling disco bar DJs which songs to play they might be doing better. Perhaps if Fernando Torres didn’t have the groin of a clapped out gigolo he might score the odd goal. Perhaps if Poulsen hadn’t been signed just to make Lucas look good, perhaps if Martin Skrtel focussed more on the game than his vicious body art and perhaps if Jermaine Pennant could get in a decent cross now and again things wouldn’t be so bad.
Perhaps is a small word with a big meaning and it’s easier for Liverpool fans to point fingers at two, honest, hard-working Americans than at the bigtime Charlies who are picking up their massive wages and simply not putting in the required effort to win football matches. And who pays those wages? Exactly.
It reminds me of a time early in my career when we went to Milwall when their fans were particularly disenfranchised with the men running the club.
“It’s brilliant”, said one Milwallian in the player’s bar after we’d won 5-1, “they’re so wrapped up in their hatred of the chairman that they don’t even notice how bad we are. We don’t even have try. Chug chug, mate”. We got so drunk that night I ended up vomiting in Cyrile Regis’s front garden. I don’t think he ever knew it was me.
His words were shocking to me at the time but it’s part and parcel of the game, any pro will tell you that. And that’s what’s going on at Liverpool right now. There’s a culture of excuse making. The manager and the players know they can coast through games and the ire will be directed at the board. Why bother trying your best when someone else can take the blame?
I suppose if and when the new Americans take over that things will be all sweetness and light for a while but if the team loses a few games the same old story will emerge. Fans, too cowardly to blame their half-baked on-pitch heroes, will decide these Americans are no good as well and threaten to kill them.
When you consider how the Americans helped us out in our great fight against the Germans it makes me ashamed that Hicks and Gillett are being treated like this. They should know that those of us who love football in this country appreciate what they’ve done and a few ‘scallies’, as they love to be known, do not represent us.
They’re walking through a storm with their heads held high. Oh yes they are.
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