Monday, 7 February 2011

Oh Dear Carlo....

I had tears in my eyes on Saturday pre-kick off. A great atmosphere, a few jokey boos directed towards Drogba when he missed the target in the warm up and a rapturous welcome for Torres. On top of this, gentlemanly applause from Chelsea fans for Steve Clarke and Glen Johnson. We were back with a couple of top signings and it looked like Roman had not let the club rot as many of us had predicted he would.

Then came the teams news - Torres to start, hurrah! Drogba to start alongside, double hurrah! Anelka to start.... er, three strikers up front? Anyway, I am in a good mood so triple hurrah!

Then the game kicked off with Liverpool playing with just Kuyt up front. From the opening exchanges it was quite obvious that Chelsea's lop-sided team were struggling. We were eventually beaten by a team with better tactics and a bigger heart - a team which had its fair share of injuries and players out of position such as Johnson at left back.

The irony for me was to see Liverpool adopt the same tactics that Chelsea had under Mourinho. 4-5-1 with Kuyt the loan striker and wingbacks tormenting our fullbacks. Meireles kept making roving, unmarked runs through the centre when they attacked (as Lampard used to do for us) and with more accuracy we could have easily been down by two goals at half-time.

The blame for the performance must go with Carlo who seemed to revert to his Ranieri persona. It was almost as if Roman had picked the team with our biggest and most expensive names on the pitch at the expense of formation. Mikel had his malco hat on; Essien looked a shadow of his former self and Lampard does not look happy playing the role of midfield support rather than being able to join the attack. It is a waste of space to have Anelka playing a midfield role on the pitch when we have Malouda and Kalou on the bench: we ended up finishing the game with the team that should have started.

With hindsight, Torres should not have begun this game and the team that defeated Sunderland should have started today. I can imagine Alan Hansen laughing at our formation of three strikers up front when the opposition only had one.

The chances of us winning the league is more remote than ever. If we had won then the romantic in me would have thought we had a slim chance still with United home and away to contend with and other results going our way over the weekend. Instead, Chelsea supporters have been let down by odd decision making again that I feel will cost us should be make the latter stages of the Champions League. Even worse is to be on the same level of points as Tottenham.

As for Torres - he had a single one-on-one which he spurned but you cannot blame him for a lacklustre debut when he had so many cooks spoiling the broth alongside him. How he must be feeling today when the manager took him off with thirty minutes still to play is anyone's guess - a normal manager would have brought him on as a sub rather than starting with him. I liked Luiz's tackles and hair though when he came on!

I cannot begrudge Liverpool their win - I hope one day Steve Clarke will come back to manage us... it is more painful to see their less than salubrious fans enjoying their day while spending the game throwing Torres shirts and other detritus on the pitch - that is what hurts the most.

Friday, 4 February 2011

World Cup winning manager Del Bosque says it all

'Del Bosque was also asked whether he had spoken to new Chelsea striker Fernando Torres after his high-profile move from Liverpool on transfer deadline day last Monday.

"I haven't spoken to him," Del Bosque said. "It's a surprise but it's a step forward in his career."'

Thursday, 3 February 2011

BlueBarney's excellent dissection of Liverpool's "fanatics"

"Let me try and explain Liverpool Football Club and why they have so many representatives in the media, why they seem to get away with anything, why they are so distressed about Torres leaving and why this all leads to Chelsea being openly hated.

It's quite simple and fascinating. Liverpool (the "club", which is like any other football club, no more than an abstract concept built on concrete facts like past records, a stadium and supporters), the fans and many of their former players show the same behaviour traits displayed by followers of major religions. Once you begin to understand this and how it manifests itself, the anger dies down.

The closest comparison is with the Catholic Church and Islam. Both powerful religions obsessed with being big. Obsessed with the number of followers they have and obsessed with preserving their beliefs even when faced with evidence that disproves or just challenges their long-held assumptions.

Ritual, as we know, is a key element to religious behaviour. "You'll Never Walk Alone" is an incredible example of this. It is sung with religious fervour and is about surrendering individuality for the group. It is a defining moment for all Liverpool followers. No other football chant comes close. And they ask everyone who hears it to comment on it. They ask us to confirm that it is the loudest, most awe-inspiring, most spine-tingling, most religious moment we have ever experienced. And it is repeated word-for-word, note-for-note before every match as a gospel choir would sing in church. It does not behave like a football chant. There is no humour, no taunting the opposition, no jolly lads getting ready for 90 minutes of support and abuse. It is born-again, wide-eyed fervour.

Repetition is, of course, a central factor to the belief system and that is why every Liverpool follower (I choose this word above supporter), is primed to say exactly the same as every other Liverpool follower. There can be no deviation from the true path. Have you ever met a Liverpool follower who would dare to say that YNWA is a dreadful chant or that talking about "history" is a load of bunkum? This kind of deviation is not allowed and if someone dared to say such a thing then the simple answer would be that he is not a true follower because a true follower would not say such a thing.

History. What is this fascination with history? Football is really only about the present and memory. It is not about history. Most supporters know all about their team. They know the great players, cups won and disappointments along the way. But history? This is something that religions do in order to create a back story on which to build a myth. Liverpool has no more history than Crewe Alexandra or Queens Park Rangers, although it has certainly had more success. Success can be measured and although Liverpool's followers like to quote their successes (and fear being surpassed), it is something that is ultimately too risky to build a belief system upon. In fact, this season Manchester United could become more "successful" than Liverpool in domestic league titles. For this reason Liverpool's belief system is built on an abstract concept (history) rather than something that is scientifically provable (league titles). In fact, the more Liverpool stopped winning things, the more "history" became the currency for their beliefs.

Only recently have we heard commentators say on television that even with all Chelsea's money and recent success, they will never have Liverpool's history. Of course that is true because nobody knows what it means to have another club's history and nobody could ever be anybody else anyway! This is a trick that religions have been using for thousands of years and why it is practically impossible to debate with "true believers".

As an aside, an interesting comparison can be made between Liverpool and Everton and one that a football anthropologist would do well to study and report on in detail. The followers / supporters of these clubs display very different traits even though they may come from the same families, live in the same streets, go to the same schools. Everton play the theme tune from Z Cars when the team runs out and talk about the School of Science. They support their club and leave it at that. I would love to see some genetic research on those who choose to be a Blue and those who opt for the Reds in Liverpool. If, as neuroscientists are attempting to locate at the moment, there is a "god gene", I would imagine it is more prevalent in Liverpool followers than Everton supporters. (This doesn't mean they are closer to god but more disposed to believing in one).

It is often remarked that there are more ex-Liverpool players in the media and on football programmes than any other club. Match of the Day is a good example where the definition of a balanced view is to listen to Alan Hansen first and then Mark Lawrenson. But why does this happen? Again, the answer lies in religion or how Liverpool displays all the traits of religion at its worst. There are not more Liverpool representatives because they have history or had success. That would be ridiculous. And statistically Liverpool has had the same number of players in the last 40 years as any other club and they are only one of about 45 teams that have been in the top division during this period, which makes it unlikely that any club would be represented by more than a couple of ex-players on television. But, like religious followers, the ex-players are believers and believers want to be heard. (Evolutionary biologists describe the meme theory where beliefs are transmitted by individuals or a group. This may be how religions survive and so the analogy holds in this case). It is essential for the Liverpool story to be told over and over again and therefore it needs storytellers. This subconsciously propels ex-players from Liverpool to become spokesmen and storytellers and thus perpetuate the myth. The only other club that does this is Arsenal, where it has convinced its own followers first and then the wider public that it has a "way of doing things". But we can leave Arsenal for another day.

And all this brings us up to Fernando Torres. He is a footballer. He played for Liverpool. He is a good footballer. He decided he wanted to move to another club (in much the same way he decided he wanted to move to Liverpool four years ago). This happens all the time. Footballers either stay at one club all their career or move. These are the only two things they can do. We are all used to it. But something very different has happened here. In fact, something religious has happened.

Fernando Torres was loved at Liverpool. He had a special status like a saint or a leader. And he became an apostate. In religious terms, this is as bad as it gets. No matter how big or how powerful a religion is, the "church" is rocked to its foundations when someone chooses to leave or step outside the line. In Islam, apostates are killed. Think of Salman Rushdie. He wrote a book where he imagined some scenes that involved the prophet having sex. This led to death threats, book burning, flag burning and the incredible scenes of followers of an enormous religion feeling threatened by the words of one man. The lesson is simple. When you are in the club, the church, the movement you do not criticise and you always follow the party line. You'll Never Walk Alone. The Biggest. History.

Fernando Torres angered his followers by becoming an apostate and daring to say that he was moving somewhere else that might be bigger. And just like across the muslim world the same reaction happened on Merseyside. Book burning, shirt burning. And to back up the meme theory, this was transmitted through the media. It was considered a subject for debate even though the conclusion was never in doubt (as it never is with religious followers). TORRES DID NOT MOVE TO A BIGGER CLUB. HE IS A BAD MAN. HE HAS LIED.

And so Torres has moved from saint to apostate to sinner to Judas figure. And he has been replaced by a second coming, by a brighter future because religions don't like to lie down and admit defeat. They are never wrong. Every Liverpool follower is now saying exactly the same thing. They did best out of the deal. They got two for one. They traded in someone past his best. They are happy. The religion was challenged but it has come out on top. They will never walk alone.

And just like the Catholic Church has a history of murder, rape and massacre from the Crusades to the Inquisition, this history is irrelevant. Only good history is history. And no other football club has blood on its hands like Liverpool but this is also ignored in its history. Just like a religion, it creates myth and worries not a jot about the truth.

I could go on about how they have created a god out of Shankly. Someone who is often quoted, even though he didn't really ever say that much which is particularly illuminating or original. I could also mention the self-pity (another religious characteristic) and their desire to always be a part of every tragedy. In fact, once you start the more you realise how interesting it is that in England there are so many football clubs but only one that stands out for displaying the behaviour traits of a religion.

Religions do need other religions in order to survive. It may be argued that through memes they create other religions themselves along their evolutionary path (Judaism to Christianity to Islam as well as the different branches specifically within Judaism and Christianity). Opposition is a necessary factor for belonging. And, for another day, this is why the new Chelsea myth exists and why "pundits" (followers of Liverpool) are openly antagonistic towards Chelsea, something which they would not do to any other club. Chelsea is a threat and must be treated that way, according to the followers of the Liverpool religion.

But I don't want to linger on Chelsea, or why Manchester United has continued being successful without displaying the same traits as Liverpool or why nobody has ever considered if Bolton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion or West Ham United have a history. I just want to show why we all find it so frustrating listening to the nonsense that is spoken about Liverpool and by their followers. And once we begin to understand that it is like listening to a Moonie talking about being saved or a theologian cloaked in mythology masquerading as fact "proving" that miracles really do happen that we realise that we will never be able to argue with Liverpool followers. They are too far gone. And quite simply, that means they are too far away from truth, reality and knowing how to have a good time."