Is optimism a dirty word?
I’d like to start this piece by telling you a few things about a boy called Liam, Liam is six-years-old, Liam is a massive fan of Liverpool Football Club, Liam went to his first game aged four, Liam went to every home cup game and Wembley last year, Liam’s bedroom is a shrine to Liverpool, Liam wakes up every day, puts one of his Liverpool kits on and either pretends to be Liverpool in the garden or plays as Liverpool on FIFA. In short, Liam loves football and adores Liverpool Football Club already.
Let me tell you a few other facts about him: Liam has no idea who FSG are, Liam has no concept of net spend, Liam has no idea where Liverpool come on the Forbes Rich List, Liam has no concept of agent’s fees and the intricacies of the transfer market, Liam loves the huge new stand but has no view on whether it’s a corporate sell out or if the extra revenue will help us in the future.
A few more things: Liam is bursting with excitement about the new season, Liam goes into every game believing Liverpool can and will win, Liam is excited to see all the new signings and Liam applauds the good things all players do, even if they’ve made mistakes before.
As you may have guessed, Liam is my son. Over the past 18 months it’s been my pleasure to start to introduce him more and more to the game I love, and the club I have adored since my dad instilled it in me at the same age. From spending so much time talking about Liverpool with him in the last year it’s been refreshing, and in some ways a real eye-opening privilege to see the game through the lens of a ‘pure’ Liverpool fan, one with naivety, a wide-eyed enthusiasm for the game, totally untainted by past negativities or who has become so heavily burdened by years of disappointment that they can’t even muster an iota of optimism for any situation.
I’m naturally an optimist when it comes to Liverpool, always have been and always will be. Some may say it’s stupid or wrong, in fact many do, but I subscribe to the philosophy that if things go bad there’s plenty time to be angry and dismayed when it occurs, why waste time and energy pre-emptively on such emotions before they are required? Watching Liverpool with my son the past 18 months or so has re-enforced this for me, it makes it possible to get back to the root of why I have enjoyed the game since I was a toddler, the goals, the highs, the moments, the possibilities and the blind faith that we’ve all had at some stage: Yes we lost, yes today was bad…but there’s always next week eh?
However, as I peruse forums and social media over the summer, I do so with a heavy heart. Every purchase has been dissected to the ‘nth’ degree in order to extract the minutiae of why it is underwhelming, unnecessary or flawed. Every player signed by others suddenly becomes the player we desperately needed, every second post/tweet/message refers to the things I mentioned earlier on: net spend, corporate greed, profiteering owners, wages, missed targets and so on.As I write this we are 11 days after from Liverpool’s league campaign kicking off, pre-season is in full swing but we are still in the abyss between seasons. For any football fan this should be the time for unbridled optimism. Our clubs have yet to lose a game, the blind belief that last season’s deficiencies have been addressed is still an actual possibility, the prospect that at least one of the new signings may turn out to be ‘that’ buy, the kind that goes on to become a folk hero or leading player is still alive and even the dreaded cliché ‘it could be our year’ cannot be unproven.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I totally understand, and in some cases share the frustration. And I completely appreciate that it’s a lot harder to be objective and positive when you are personally about to invest another hefty chunk of change into following your team for another 10 months, especially when you do so with a heavy heart caused by suspicion that it will be disappointing, or worse that it will drift by in a black hole of mediocrity.
But why do we allow ourselves to be like this?
On the 14th August a merry band of away supporters will descend on The Emirates, on the 10th September the doors to the newly extended Anfield will swing open for the first time this season. On both dates, the thousands of Liverpool fans who descend upon the game, and the millions watching elsewhere will all be cheering the team on, they will all want us to win, willing every shot to beat the keeper and ripple the net, applauding every good piece of play, trying to contribute to an atmosphere that will push the team on. In short, for 90 minutes once or twice a week, the vast majority of us once again become ‘Liam’.
As we break into the opponent’s half and we rise from our seats in anticipation, nobody is looking at the posh seats sneering at those we perceive are mismanaging the club, none of us are slating the player with the ball because we believe the signing is underwhelming and there’s no shout to resist passing to a player in space on the basis that we believe he was bought on the cheap. Instead, for that moment we are lost in the game, hoping that the chance is created and converted so we can all celebrate as one. In short: For a brief time we all revert to being that naïve child who watches for enjoyment alone.
So why then do we allow ourselves to get so stressed and pre-emptively depressed at all other times when discussing the game? What exactly is wrong with positivity, hope and belief?
In terms of Liverpool forthcoming season, I share some people’s concerns that we may have filled the problem areas I wanted filling, I accept our squad is still dotted with players who probably aren’t up the task, but I also have faith, faith in the manager. I don’t expect us to win the league, but even in an injury ravaged, fixture backlogged six months last season I saw plenty from Klopp to suggest he can get more from the existing players, and judging by those he is ousting I’m confident he knows the deficiencies as well as we do. With a full pre-season and a plenty training time, allied with some of his own signings and I’m confident we will see an improvement on last year, which is all I ask.
I don’t expect every blogger, podcaster, tweeter and poster to turn into a ray of sunshine on every aspect of Liverpool on the back of this, and it would be pretty boring if we did. I just urge people to stop once in a while and remember why you love the game, and remember that once the referee starts the first game all that will matter is the 90 minutes ahead and focusing on supporting your team and hoping for the best.
That’s why you became fans, that’s what keeps us as fans, so don’t let the other stuff constantly drag you down. Enjoy the season, enjoy the good bits and ‘Be more Liam’.