Monday, March 31, 2014

Liverpool are going to win the league...

Stop fighting me on this, Liverpool fans. Stop analyzing. Let some stat jockey apply the science at a later date. Let the computer-generated player-rating algobots fight over who should have won the league. Liverpool might never win that argument, but who cares? Liverpool are going to win the league, even if they shouldn't.

Yes, the silken flanked Man City Galacticos should have left us in the dust long ago. Thank you for the lager-spittle heavy lecture on that point, Captain Analysis. Yes, Eden Hazard and Oscar should be dancing a Pasodoble on Steven Gerrard's career grave right around now. Brilliant, Professor Zanussi. I never said Liverpool were the favorites. I just said we were going to win.

I'm not going to draw specious parallels to the lopsided odds ahead of the battle of Stalingrad here, other than to say that Luis Suarez, on current form, could probably have beaten both sides in that conflict -- at the same time. I'm not making one of those reverse-psychology arguments, saying we're the underdogs so therefore we have less pressure, making us some kind of Gladwellian favourites. There are no underdogs at this point in the season. Giantkillers win the FA Cup. Giants win the league.

This is the Internet, where everybody turns into a persnickety debate judge. So I need some "evidence" to back up my "argument" or it will be "invalid." (I'd like to see some of these Internet hard men go down the local in Toxteth and start blithering about Steven Gerrard's pass-completion rate...I'm sure they would learn a new appreciation for a "strong argument.")

OK, let me lay this out on an airplane streamer. I believe Liverpool are going to win the league because...this is what winning the league feels like.

Don't forget, I am a veteran of the 1989 - 90 campaign. And I'm not talking about checking in with a couple of minute-by-minute game reports between texts here. I'm talking about sitting down in front of the telly and watching games all the way through, several times over the course of that campaign. I'm talking about 90 minutes of sheer hell. I'm talking about pulling out the middle pages of Shoot magazine with  my bare hands, and singlehandedly pinning a poster of the 1988 - 89 league champion team on the wall. I would have to check with my mum, but I may have even nicked myself with a Shoot staple during that operation.  As I said, I am a veteran so I know what winning the league feels like. It doesn't feel like you think it feels when you're watching Manchester United do it. From a distance, it looks like all you have to do is sit there, and watch your team score a lot against a wide range of opposition. And wince occasionally when Rooney misses a sitter. That's not the way it feels. This is the way it feels.

It's watching your whole team wobbling like someone who has just been put on a bicycle for the first time against Sunderland at home, looking like they're going to throw the whole season away until, somehow, they cling on for a 2-1 victory. It's teams like Crystal Palace popping up out of the basement to dance all over one of the favourites the day they looked like they'd run away with it. It's basket cases like Arsenal pulling themselves together to break the other favourite's stride. It's your brain turning into a little calculator that runs through every permutation of every game, and every game in hand, and then throws them all out when some crazy result comes in that wasn't even in your wildest scenario. It's people who probably would have been bit-player nobodies in another setting, people like Jordan Henderson or Craig Johnston or Ray Houghton, suddenly dribbling like cherubs and hammering in goals like Thor.

You probably think when Liverpool ran out on the last day of the 1985 to 86 season to take on then-lowly Chelsea that all the fans half-expected Kenny Dalglish to top off his first year as player manager by scoring the only goal. Rather, the assumption was that Chelsea would beat us 10-0, and that Everton would take the title from under our noses. You are convinced your team will throw it all always think some other team could or would or should knock them off the top. This is what it feels like: it feels like shit until the final whistle in the final game. And then you start worrying about next season.

Teams have personalities. If the premiership run-in were a match on the local green, Man City would be the new kid with the shiny white boots, blowing everybody away with the way he juggles the ball on his heels during the warmup, and then fluffing a simple pass as soon as the game kicks off. Chelsea would be the lad who has reportedly had trials with "the pros," scores a couple of peaches early on, then throws a tantrum when he's dispossessed by a five-year old girl, and never regains his composure. Liverpool is the lad whose runners have almost eroded away because he hasn't left the green all summer, the lad who scores goals as naturally as fish swim.

Liverpool are going to win the league.

-Rob Curran