Our Season Ends as It Began
The City of Liverpool's red football fraternity yesterday began the day filled with hope. This was the day when we would attend the coronation of our King and it was also the day that Liverpool Football Club would regain the right to enter Europe.
As we all know though, these very rarely go to plan and yesterday were no different. Our King of course would be crowned but the match that followed left a myriad of unanswered questions. Many of which were centred on referee Howard Webb.
Anfield of course was buzzing with excitement and with John Henry; his wife Linda and Chairman Tom Werner in attendance the match against Tottenham began with a rousing version of You'll Never Walk Alone as Kenny entered the stadium. This of course was our way of marking his coronation and letting him know that our belief in him, was as massive as it always had been.
That belief had been missing during the first five months of the season, when we were a dysfunctional team, working under a manager bereft of ideas. This of course led to us losing matches that we should have won, and indeed it looked at the time as though yesterday would have marked our relegation to the Championship.
But January arrived and things began to change. Kenny was installed temporarily and immediately our results began to improve. The team were beginning to play fantastic football and Kenny being the wise man he is, even introduced several youngsters to first team football. One has improved so much that he is being called Liverpool's young player of the year. The other has found himself unexpectedly called up to the England U21 squad. There were also a couple of others, who have made their mark on the team, one of course is Martin Kelly, who unfortunately pulled a hamstring and is finding it hard to recover. The other is young Jack Robinson, who after playing a couple of games is back on the bench. That though is a sign in itself as it means Kenny rates him and he will get his chance to shine on the pitch at some point in the future.
Kenny also appears to have removed that ghastly thing called rotation and the same eleven barring injuries seem to be playing together. This has always been a bug bear with me, for the simple reason, if you mess around with a team too much, the players simply are not going to get to know each other's good and bad points, so much so that in the end our results will suffer.
Now to bring us back up to date, yesterday we played Tottenham and the games result would determine who would grace Europe next season. This would of course mean that we would be in what is now termed as Europe's little competition - The Europa Cup, which comprises of a Mid-July start, journeys to far flung places, strange kick-off times on a Thursday and the team having to play again on the Sunday. For Liverpool of course in many people's eyes this needed to happen, where Tottenham were concerned, their Manager Harry Rednapp had gone on record as saying, that he did not really want the inconvenience of the Europa League.
On the pitch though both teams would do everything they could to ensure the game was won. They also had to negotiate around the decisions made by referee Howard Webb. Howard Webb as we are all aware, only awards the right decisions to his paymasters, Manchester United and it was just a matter of watching and waiting.
It became evident within fifteen minutes of the game starting that it was not going to be Liverpool's day. I am going to be slated for this but it became apparent within that time that Andy Carroll appeared to be more of a hindrance than a help to the team. The formation played was the old 4-4-2 system and not the 3-2-2-1-1 system that had produced some exciting football during the previous weeks. The magnificent display that we had seen six days previously, had disappeared and it was like watching a game that had taken place between August and December 2010.
Tottenham were immediately all over us and with Howard Webb not awarding the decisions he should have, it got to the point where Luis Suarez could easily have been issued with a red card. His temper was very slowly being eroded away and I suspect Kenny had to calm him down during half time. They also opened the scoring after a magnificent volley picked up by Van Der Vaat hit the back of the net.
Now normally this would have spurred the newly vitalised Liverpool team into action, but with the players having to adapt to Andy being back in the team it simply did not happen. He was still unfit and it showed immediately. His lack of movement certainly did not help and I honestly wonder if it would have been better if Kenny had brought in another of the youngsters as a replacement for the injured Meireles, rather than play him.
Somehow though, Liverpool made it through to half time with Tottenham only being one goal up and only a few of the usual bizarre decisions by Howard Webb. In the second half though, all this was too change when Howard Webb awarded Tottenham a penalty. Now this decision even puzzled the Tottenham players who were reluctant at first to go ahead and take the kick.
The controversial incident involved young John Flanagan and Pienaar happened when they locked shoulders during a tackle. It clearly happened outside the area but as per usual Howard Webb decided he had award yet another penalty against Liverpool.
Now Tottenham do not have a very good record of taking successful penalties but yesterday Modric sent the ball into the opposite corner after Pepe misjudged which way he was going to go. Tottenham were now two up and our European dreams were slowly ebbing away. The team did try to pick themselves up but with Kenny leaving the one substitution that I believe would have made a big difference to the score line until ten minutes before the end, there was no way back. Andy Carroll was finally substituted and immediately as the team shifted position, they appeared to wake up.
It was of course too late for any major impact to make a mark on the game. There were a couple of shots at the goal but they amounted to nothing. The afternoon that had been begun so brightly ended up with Tottenham looking the most likely the ones to technically take up the Europa League place. There is one game left but unless the results change dramatically, Liverpool will have to miss out on Europe next season, which I believe it not really a bad thing. It will give Kenny time to get his team together and begin a challenge on not only on the Premier League but also in the home grown competitions.
There was of course one incident that brought many a smile to people's faces yesterday. Several weeks ago there a young gentleman (I never did find out his name) said that if Liverpool looked as though they were going to lose their last game, he would do a streak onto the Anfield pitch. Yesterday if it is indeed the same young man, he did that and although it was only a bit of fun, it can be seen as another throw back to when Kenny sat on this throne the first time. Streakers were part and parcel of the game then and seen as part of the fun on a Saturday afternoon.
The day finished though with the players and their Children along with Kenny and his staff doing their end of season walk around the pitch. It was a great sight to see and watching the children run around certainly brought many a smile on faces that had become motionless.
It was a great sight to see at the end of a season that had started so badly and became filled with promise, only to end with a disappointing result which was aided by a very biased referee.
Now that referee has left me with a lot of unanswered questions, many of which really need to be answered and I suspect I will spend the summer trying to do so. I spent a while last night speaking to several senior sports journalists and they are also now of the opinion, that Howard Webb has gone too far and should not be allowed to referee certain games including ours. Several petitions have also been set up on twitter or Facebook by people who feel the same but I am not going to name them on here, because their titles leave a lot to be desired.
Whatever happens though, this season must now be consigned to the history books. We have our King back in place and with a lot of hope in our hearts, we know the future can only get better.