By David Lynch
There has always been a certain level of expectation at Liverpool Football Club, but the arrival of a new manager this summer has seen anticipation escalate.
Who will we sign? How will we play? Who will we sell? These are all questions for which Reds fans are trying to ascertain answers whilst feeding on meaningless friendlies and a barely competitive Europa League tie. The minutiae of Brendan Rodgers’ revolution has already been analysed to the nth degree prior to the action kicking off in earnest when the Merseyside outfit face West Brom on August 18. This is the level of loyalty and obsession which is the minimum requirement on Merseyside.
Liverpool's first six Premier League fixtures
||West Brom (A)|
||Manchester City (H)|
|Sep 23||Manchester United (H)|
And yet, it feels as though the club’s fans may need to look elsewhere ahead of this transitional season should they truly wish to see progress – at themselves.
It’s hard not to feel that the aura of hope rendered by Rodgers’ arrival has a sell-by date which roughly expires around the day of his first bad result. Whilst that may sound like a harsh assessment, there are many amongst the club’s support who still harbour bitterness over the fact that a section of their own dared call for the head of Kop idol Kenny Dalglish last season.
Quite frankly, if ‘the King’ can be criticised so vehemently despite reaching two cup finals - and winning one - then does anyone stand a chance should the turnaround not be swift and perfect in nature?
Rodgers seemingly acknowledged the frailty of his position following his side’s final pre-season fixture against Bayer Leverkusen, telling reporters: “I have come in and I’m sure the majority of supporters are still not sure about me. I’ve got so much to prove here. I have got to fight for my life to prove I am good enough to be here. I feel comfortable in relation to my position and work on the field. My promise was to fight for the club every single day.”
He knows as well as anyone that the Kop must buy into what is a lengthy process, much like Fenway Sports Group have in acknowledging that they needed a young and hungry manager to bring in players who also fit that bill to arrest the club’s slide.
Make no mistake; the task is a big one. What was originally a temporary blip in falling out of the Champions League has become the status quo over the last three years, and getting back in will be difficult given the position of strength which the clubs ahead of them currently boast.
The first steps taken by the Northern Irishman already hint at the patience which will be necessary not just next season but in subsequent campaigns. Out with the likes of Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt, Alberto Aquilani, Craig Bellamy – average age 31 – and in with Joe Allen and Fabio Borini – average age 22.
Those who have headed for the exit door also underline the difficulties faced by the 39-year-old in paying for the mistakes of those who preceded him. Aquilani may be one expensive flop eventually moved on after three difficult years but it appears that Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing will be more difficult to sell for an agreeable price.
|66/1||Liverpool are 66/1 to win the FA Cup & Europa League in 2012-13 with William Hill|
The Merseyside club have inarguably adopted a healthy long-term strategy; ensuring resale value on those who fail to fit in and guaranteeing that players will arrive on lower wages. However, this set-up does not provide an instant fix, the sort which the modern football fan so regularly craves after witnessing the meteoric rise of both Chelsea and Manchester City. Thus, building the club in Rodgers' image is delayed and yet more patience is asked of a fanbase who have waited 20 years for a league title.
However, this does not mean that hope should be abandoned by those supporters. That virtue has so often been the Kop’s greatest asset, at times contributing to some of the scarcely believable results which have gone in the Reds’ favour over recent seasons.
But a change of attitude is required. The composure which Rodgers expects from his players must be reflected by the crowd. And with Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United all to visit Anfield before September is out, this new outlook is set for an early test.
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