Whirlwind start to year can hopefully be the start of a settled future
If the first month of 2011 is anything to go by, Liverpool Football Club are in for an eventful year. Since the introduction of transfer windows, January has become one of the most important months of the football calendar but few clubs would have had as much New Year drama as Liverpool have had.
Last minute winners, disastrous defending and a change of manager followed by a controversial F.A Cup loss at Old Trafford, a thrilling Merseyside Derby and a goal of the season contender in a textbook away victory, wouldn't look out of place on the back cover of a season review DVD, yet this has all happened in just over three weeks.
It has been anything but a slow start to 2011 and that's before mentioning the transfer pursuits of the pantomime villain of last years World Cup, currently suspended for biting an opponent and the star midfielder of newly promoted minnows who have recently just completed a league double over the Reds.
Funny then, how Blackpool, a town famous for it's roller coasters have been quite prominent in an up and down start to the year for Liverpool fans and although his first game was a defeat to their main Nemesis, they couldn't be more delighted with the return of their Big One.
January 1st, however, suggested that the Liverpool player's New Year's resolution was to really fight for Roy Hodgson as an excellent second half performance saw Liverpool come from behind against a tough Bolton side. Joe Cole's 91st minute tap in was the first stoppage time goal scored by the reds all season and it gave Hodgson a glimmer of hope just three days after the disastrous home defeat to Wolves.
Only a week later, after a midweek masterclass of how not to defend at Blackburn, enough was evidently enough and the majority of fans got what they wanted as The King, Kenny Dalglish was finally summoned to retake his place on the Anfield throne. The same thousands that didn't utter two words on the way home from Ewood Park on the wet Wednesday night couldn't keep their re-found voices quiet on their sun filled Sunday morning trip down the East Lancs. The clouds had cleared for the travelling Kop and they were going to make it known.
The depths of Old Trafford's East Stand was rocking as United's 'Theatre of Dreams' was witness to an outstanding opera of optimism from supporters who had walked through a storm with their heads now held high, remembered their dreams and songs to sing and added an extra few inches to their bounce. Not since Athens 2007 had 'Oh Campione' been sang with such meaning, These scousers were ready to rule the country again.
Behind after a dodgy penalty within a minute, down to ten men after best player and captain Gerrard sent off after half an hour, the game didn't really follow Liverpool's script and it was another third round cup exit. Spirits were high though and Liverpool fans were behind the team as one for the first time in well over a year. The chants for the manager were only positive and there were no arguments amongst fans, which was an added blessing considering it was the best part of an hour after full time before anyone could leave.
Each game has seen an improvement from the last, what the second half of the Fulham game lacked in quality, it made up for in grit and determination whilst Dalglish hasn't been afraid to make changes. Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic were surprise inclusions at Bloomfield Road whilst no one expected Jay Spearing to be handed only his second ever league start against Everton. Youth is also being given a chance with Martin Kelly excelling at right back, Jonjo Shelvey coming on in every game and Dani Pacheco appearing more regularly on the bench.
A change of style is already noticeable and if performances given in the first halves against Everton, Wolves and Fulham are an indication of the future, then things will only be getting better. Silly points will undoubtedly be dropped before May but if a system can be developed with the future in mind and any new signings get a bedding in period, then that can be of great benefit for the start of next season. With the return of pass and move, the revitalised Torres scoring again and smiles reappearing on Liverpool faces, everything is in place for the reds to start coming up the hill again, with the King on the front line.
With no expectations of a top four finish, Kenny Dalglish has five months with relatively little pressure. Although he will undoubtedly do all he can to win every single game both in the league and Europe, he also has the rare luxury of taking a few more risks without huge consequences if they don't quite pay off. His reputation and legend at the club has earned him that leeway, something the previous manager could never have. Although only one month of 2011 has brought so much change to Liverpool Football Club, hopefully this year, and the ones that follow, can be happy ones.