21 Jan 2008

Drop the excuses, Stevie. Rafa and the players are to blame for the on-pitch shambles, not Hicks and Gillette.

Steven Gerrard wasted no time passing the buck after Liverpool’s pitiful home draw against Aston Villa, claiming that off-field events were affecting the team, and that it was, in some cases, ‘impossible’ to ignore the problems.

Gerrard whined:

‘It’s not just this week. It’s been going on for some time and it’s certainly not helping the players’. We know what’s going on, but as players you’ve got a job to do on the pitch and you try to put what’s going on off the pitch to the back of your mind. But sometimes it’s impossible, when it is every day.”

Awww. My heart bleeds for you, Steven. And I suppose your wallet is too small for your fifties and your diamond shoes are too tight?

It’s so nice to see another shining example of Liverpool’s so called ‘inspirational’ Captain lifting the mood amid behind the scenes turmoil.

Gerrard’s comments are tantamount to shirking responsibility for a season blighted by staggering inconsistency. 'Captain Fantastic' basically concedes defeat, handing every other team Liverpool face this season a psychological advantage in the process.

I appreciate that Gerrard was asked a direct question, but what happened to being positive, and inspiring the team and the fans with fighting talk? Isn't that what captains are supposed to do...?

Gerrard may privately think that the team is suffering, but what purpose is served by saying it in public?

In any event, it is utter nonsense to suggest that off-field problems are to blame for Liverpool’s failure to mount a serious title challenge. Blaming loss of form on behind the scenes shenanigans is just an easy excuse and a coward’s way out.

How exactly does Liverpool’s ownership situation ‘affect’ the players? Anfield's cosseted playboys are still getting paid their grossly exorbitant salaries. None of the players are at risk from any proposed take-over, and regardless of what happens, none of the them are going to be out of a job.

I keep hearing how the players ‘must be affected’ by the off-field problems, but it’s all just meaningless, empty sound-bytes. I’ve yet to read one convincing argument detailing how the current situation actually impacts the players.

In fact, I would argue that footballers in the top division couldn’t care less about who owns the club. As long as they are getting paid, that’s all that matters.

When Liverpool's players step onto the pitch, they should be 100% focused and concentrated on the job in hand. To suggest that the players are thinking about off-field battles whilst they are playing is, quite simply, an insult to the intelligence.

Hicks and Gillette have NOTHING to do with Liverpool failing to win 12 of their 22 league games this season.

Off-field strife has nothing to do with 10 league draws, endless tinkering, ineffective rotation, poor home record, sup-par performances, ridiculous team selections, outlandish formations, playing players out of position, lack of creativity, inability to break teams down and an ultra-cautious approach.

Rafa and the players are to blame. No one else.

They are paid obscene amounts of money to behave in a PROFESSIONAL manner. That means being dedicated to their jobs and having the mentality to withstand the comparatively tame impact of boardroom power-struggles.

If players like Gerrard or anyone else can’t hack it, and it’s too difficult for them to give their all on the pitch, then replace them with players that Liverpool FC deserve, i.e. mentally tough PROFESSIONALS.

The thing that makes an absolute mockery of Gerrard’s moaning is Luton Town’s lionhearted performances against Liverpool in the FA Cup. Now there is team with REAL problems off the pitch. The pressure on Luton’s unpaid players is infinitely greater than anything the mollycoddled Merseyside millionaires are facing.

You don’t hear Luton’s players moaning about it though, even though they have far more reason to that Liverpool's players. And Luton's recent performances against Liverpool were bursting with passion and energy despite their dire situation.

Quite frankly, Luton’s strength in adversity makes Gerrard’s whining and Liverpool’s regular capitulations look embarrassing.

And let’s not forget that the Liverpool’s season was on the rocks BEFORE everything exploded between Benitez and Tom Hicks. The start to the season was fantastic, but it quickly tailed off into a depressingly predictable mess, as Rafa’s flaws and the team’s creative limitations came to the fore.

Were Gillette and Hicks to blame for the miserable draws against Portsmouth, Porto and Birmingham in September 2007? The woeful home defeats to Marseille and Besiktas in October? Rafa’s continual failure to play his best team? Rafa’s never ending tinkering with team formation and personnel?


The problems on the playing side have been there all season, and have been brewing ever since Rafa took charge of the club, and no amount of spin or passing the buck is going to change that.

Hicks and Gillette have been turned into Hollywood bad-guys by the press, and sheep-like Liverpool fans have followed suit, with a misguided outpouring of pseudo-emotional hand-wringing.

Liverpool’s owners have arguably brought shame on the club with their rampant unprofessionalism and ill-advised public statements. However, blaming them for everything is dangerous, as it removes the focus from the real problem: Rafa’s inability to get the best out of the players at his disposal, and the team’s defeatist, cautious mentality.

And if DIC take over the club, things will not just magically disappear; The same tiresome problems will still exist and they will inevitably continue.

Liverpool may be in turmoil off the pitch, but the turmoil *on the pitch* is far worse. Instead of shirking responsibility, Rafa and the team need to start taking personal responsibility for their ineptitude, and that means knuckling down, being positive, trying harder and dispensing with the destructive negative attitude.

Self-pity is not what Liverpool FC is about, and if Anfield’s current crop of pampered players can’t hack the pressure of representing the club in times of adversity, then as far as I’m concerned, they’re not fit to wear the shirt.

1 comment:

  1. Jamie you'd be lynched on other fan sites with what you are saying. But it's so refreshingly true. MTV generation footballers worrying about men in suits? Pah!