In light of my favorite soccer club firing their manager, yesterday, I was feeling a little inspired by my disappointment. So, I wrote an editorial piece and submitted it to Soccer Report Extra, the site run by Bobby McMahon of the Fox Soccer Report. He was kind enough to publish it – “A Merseyside Malaise.”
Here is a bit of background that contributed to my desire to write the piece.
I have been a Liverpool FC fan since I was a teen. I still remember the day a friend returned from a trip to England with a poster of the league championship squad from the mid ’80s. There was Kenny Dalglish, then player manager with a host other legendary greats of the era. That poster hung on the bedroom wall for years after each of my two brothers took over that same bedroom in my parent’s house, right next to another ancient poster of Pele from his Cosmos years.
My relationship to the club deepened in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster in ’89. Back then there wasn’t a lot of soccer on television and what was shown I often had to watch in Spanish. Yet every now and then ESPN might show a match and at that time there was no better club in Europe. I would be glued to any match I could watch, mesmerized by the likes of John Barnes, Ian Rush, John Adridge, Bruce Grobbelaar, and Peter Beardsley. In fact, I used to swear my Glaswegian college coach, despite that coach having been a reserve player for Manchester United in the George Best days, was a dead-ringer for Beardsley.
If those moments forged my relationship with the Merseyside Reds, then it was tempered upon my graduating high school. I was lucky enough to play on a team of American kids heading off for a complete dismantling in a host of European youth tournaments. One of the stops was a week in West Yorkshire, where we played a number of matches and little time to see much. However, we got to spend one day in Liverpool, at Albert Dock, along Merseyside, but most importantly we toured Anfield.
For a kid who grew up near Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park, I already understood sporting grounds as modern cathedrals. Still, Anfield for me was that magical stadium moment, climbing from the stairwell under the stands only to be blinded by the vivid sea of green that looked like a billiards table. Plus, for an American kid who had never seen a true professional soccer ground, it all seemed majestic.
Thus, when Kenny Dalglish returned a year and a half ago to save Liverpool from the brink, after particularly dismal period, I was truly optimistic. However, I must include that I thought Roy Hodgson was horribly mistreated but probably mismatched as manager at the worst possible time. Plus, as disappointing as things have been and in spite of the mistakes that were made, I absolutely think that Dalglish should have at least gotten until Christmas to show whether he could complete an epic turnaround.
He has not forgotten how to manage a team, no matter what criticism he might deserve. Truth is the players are most to blame in this season’s ill-fated campaign. If anything, Dalglish may have overestimated his new recruits mental toughness. However, moving to a prestigious and demanding club like Liverpool would ratchet up the pressure on any player.
So, I knew Dalglish getting fired was a real possibility, but I hoped that it wouldn’t happen. What concerns me most is that everything at the club seems up in the air and living in the Boston area has made me less confident than ever that Fenway Sports Group has a genuine plan to re-establish my favorite club to the elevated status it once held across England and the Continent.
Like I said, it all inspired me to write something that I hoped would be read.