Champions! After a thirty-year hiatus Liverpool are back on their perch as English top flight head honchos. I was in prison when they last took the title. It wasn't the Premiership then and seems such a long time ago. That was when I could still play soccer myself, for which I had a passion and skills more sulky than silky to match.
Jurgen Klopp’s team had raced through this season and were so far in front that in a way it seemed fitting that they should seize the coveted trophy while lounging in a hotel bar on Merseyside, rather than on the pitch where most fans, I guess, would have preferred to see them do it, even if the fans themselves had no chance of access due to Covid-19 restrictions. Taking it while relaxing conjured up a feel of the effortless, which by this stage of the season it was. A fitting and assured end to what had long become a one horse race.
The real effort had been put in from last August. My one concern was that if they didn’t push it over the line quickly enough a possible tidal wave of Covid-19 might well have led to the season being shown the red card. And their display against Everton on Sunday did little to settle the nerves. Had they won then the title would have been in the bag after the stunning display against Crystal Palace where the team went the entire match, Dixie Elliot assures me, without once allowing a Palace player to touch the ball in the Liverpool penalty area.
The nerves have at long last settled, for like former stalwart Jamie Carragher the notion had taken hold of me that Liverpool might never do it again in my lifetime, perpetually condemned to a Sisyphus like existence of being good losers, also-rans and runners-up. Even when the mercurial Jurgen Klopp arrived I had my doubts. His defensive record at Borussia Dortmund was less than inspiring. Because Liverpool’s real troubles lay in defence it was hard to dismiss that nagging feeling that the blind had come to lead the blind.
Last season they blew it. Much has been made of the close run they give City but in reality it was City who ran at them and once the blue light caught up and passed the red that had been in poll position, there was no turning back. Liverpool were seven points clear at Christmas and through a series of bungling draws threw it away.
Despite the European and World Club championship successes, I wasn’t sure they could step up to the plate again. We have seen it so often in sport with one season wonders. Had Kopp’s team reached the pinnacle and were now faced with no way but down? Their serial detractors like me were to be proven wrong or at least have our misgivings allayed. Straight out of the traps from day one they swept almost all before them in the title race.
I still don’t reckon they are the best Liverpool side I have watched since I first attended one of their games in Windsor Park in July 1968, when as the visiting side they beat Linfield 3-1. That accolade goes to the 1976-77 side that narrowly missed the treble when they lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup final. The Jimmy Case scorcher in a 2-1 defeat was a strike to grace any cup final and remains my favourite FA Cup final goal of all time.
Nevertheless, best ever Liverpool side or not, they are worthy winners. The only drawback is that soccer without the fans invites comparisons to Hamlet without the Prince. Soccer at this level is very much a spectator sport. One hand clapping in soccer stadia creates only the sound of silence. Not fitting for football.
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