Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I can feel the summer breeze

"So, what ye up to for the summer then? "
What’s this about summer I hear you say?
"Well, according to Sky Sports, the BBC, ITV and RTE the Premiership season is over so it must be May and hence summer is on the way."
"Well, Spurs are Champions on goal difference from Chelsea. Liverpool are in mid table. Man Utd have their worst season in a long time and Everton are relegated."

All this is true if you believe the utter, utter rubbish sensationalism that all are portraying after only three games. In these three games Liverpool have lost twice and therefore have no hope of winning the league. Yes, we are a huge six points of Chelsea, three of Man Utd and since we are three ahead of Everton they have no hope of catching us and therefore are already down. And Burnley are in the UEFA cup (sorry, Europa League).

What has happened to the world? Why is everything – in this case nine month’s worth of football – judged on only a few days of time? Why has everything become a must win, a must-not lose, a must-do-something-or-be-damned? Why? What happened to logical and reasonable debate? And basing an opinion on a good sample of statistics and information.

This morning Sky had a poll asking it Liverpool could still win the league. As it stands, after three games, they are on three points, six points off the leaders – a HUGE six points which makes every one of the remaining 35 games a must-win. Based on last season, we are one point worse off than against the same opposition. Last season Liverpool lost 2 games and only came second and therefore, in the ‘top’ *cough* pundits eyes if they lose one more the league is gone. Even if they beat Stoke away, Hull at home, and match every other result of last season. That would give them three points more than last seasons total. Utd could lose to Arsenal on Saturday, Liverpool beat Bolton and go level on points with Utd - would that mean Utd are also out of the title race?

To be perfectly honest, all this ‘in the moment reaction’ is actually driving me away from the game. I get deeply frustrated at listening to so-called experts talk during a match as most talk utter, utter drivel. Most commentators are no better. Andy Gray continually gives out about zonal marking yet Liverpool have conceded less goals from set pieces over the last 4 seasons compared to any of the other clubs – yes, less than Utd who do man-marking and yet they never get chastised. Every single moment of a game is analyised and soon we will have the "Title Deciding" weekends. In October. Yawn.

With Alonso gone, it’s obvious to see Liverpool are struggling a bit but anyone who has ever played or followed football knows you can’t take a crucial part out of a team and not suffer a bit at the start. Most ‘experts’ (a loose term) blame Rafa for selling Alonso but what could he do? Alonso asked to leave – he handed in a transfer request – so the choice was not Rafa’s. Most pundits still refuse to remember last summer when Alonso was for sale and no-one came in for him – one excellent season later and he’s worth over £30m. Again, a poor reflection of the times we live in when one good year does that. Personally, I’ve always loved watching Alonso play, his passing and eye for a shot from 60 yards are a pleasure to behold. But he never scored many goals for a midfielder. When he arrived first he was very good, got injured for a few months and finished the season well. The next year he was good, then OK, then average, then excellent. Not exactly consistent really and he was injured a fair bit.

I’ve seen one supposed betting expert say Aquilani is a panic buy. I do wonder how they figure this out. He was watched for some time by Liverpool and indeed they made the first move when before Alonso left – they just didn’t have the money until Alonso left hence why he was bought so quickly afterwards. Again weak journalism, with no facts or knowledge to back up statements. Sir Alex bought Valencia within days of Ronaldo leaving yet this was not a panic buy? Mmm.

It’s not just the pundits that bring this to games. Supporters (or alleged supporters) also join this bandwagon of changing their minds with every game or indeed during games. A few seasons back I was at the Liverpool v Galatasaray game at Anfield in which Crouchie scored that brill scissor kick. I sat beside a fellow Irishman whose opinion on a player changed DURING the game. This player passed lovely and helped set up some chances. He was a god to this supporter beside me. Then, he attempted an audacious pass, which if it came off, had us in for a certain fourth goal. The pass was just slightly under hit; the other team broke and had a chance. Suddenly, the player should be removed from the pitch immediately and never play for Liverpool again. No matter what the player done for the rest of the game it wasn’t good enough for him. I was taught to applaud such skill, cheer the player on so they don’t get down-hearted and be a fan to help the team. Not get on their back at every misplaced pass or mistake – which are inevitable.

Now people who watch sport change their moods frequently; they class supporting a team as watching the match, wearing the newest kit and maybe going to a few games during the season - not supporting their team when they are down or cheering harder when they are losing. I’ve even seen ‘fans’ at Anfield who do not know the words to ‘You’ll never walk alone’ – and I’m not talking about kids here but adults who could not possibly fit anymore gear onto their bodies. And they never sang or cheered the whole match...well done folks. Hope it was worth the trip.

I’d just love a sense of reality to come back into sport. Titles and championships are not decided in a moment. Yes, there are knockout tournaments where one game can make or break you, but you have to get to that stage. You have to consider the whole campaign and not just one game. Sport is about a season and following your team until the end – and not just for three games.

So, you off anywhere nice for summer?

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