Oh, what a time to be a Red!
Looking ahead to the new season, I cannot help but feel a sense of excitement and optimism that I have never felt before the start of a season. This time of the year is usually spent worrying about deadline day signings and looking enviously at other clubs’ purchases. And I’m loving it. Three cheers for Herr Klopp and Michael Edwards.
I’ll just do a quick rundown of my mood at the start of a season since I started following the Reds fervently, i.e., not missing any game come hell or high water. My first such season was the 2013-14 season which marked the beginning of my university years and explains the extraordinary amount of free time I had on my hands. Suarez was in the middle of his ban incurred for biting Branislav Ivanovic. I had very little expectations going into the new season. Infact, I was expecting a bloodbath which ended with the sacking of Brendan Rodgers. The three successive 1-0 victories that followed steadied my nerves and gave me a false impression of the durability of our defence. I especially enjoyed the victory against a Moyes-led Manchester United team, achieved via a towering Daniel Sturridge header. Mignolet, freshly signed from Sunderland, saved a penalty on debut against Stoke City to give us a 1-0 victory. Mignolet looked like a world beater that day and I was congratulating the “infamous” transfer committee for unearthing a gem. How wrong would I be proven on both those counts! That season still remains the most exciting and painful season that I have experienced while following the Reds.
The next season, 2014-15, remains an exercise in sadism. I look at following the Reds through that season as earning my stripes kind-of ritual. Suarez had gone and Balotelli had been bought (reluctantly) by Rodgers to replace him, alongside a surfiet of players including world-beaters like Aspas(came good for Celta), Markovic(still with us, sadly), Can(will play out his prime years at Juve), Manquillo(on loan and a very limited fullback), Moreno (erratic left-back, responsible for many traumas down the road), Lambert (lifelong Liverpool fan who just couldn’t score for us) etc. It’s safe to say that the mood was not one of optimism but pessimism. And, I was proven correct when Manchester City took us apart in the second game of the season. The annual 4-0 victory against Spurs included glorious performances by new signings Balotelli and Moreno, which lifted my spirits and hopes for the season. But Sturridge got injured before the end of August and in hindsight, our season was done then and there. What followed was eight months of utter drudgery and a grim realisation of having missed our chance to build on previous year’s advance.
The mood at the season of 2015-16 season was one of anger and bewilderment. Anger at Rodgers having survived the failures of the previous season, in general and the 6-1 shellacking at Stoke on the final day, in particular. Bewilderment at us being unable or unwilling to find even a single manager who was better than Rodgers. Transfer activity that summer didn’t inspire any confidence either. Our buys included a target man who didn’t suit our style of play (Benteke), a Brazilian our manager never really trusted(Firmino), a sub-par keeper(Bogdan) to challenge Mignolet, a young prospect ( Gomez) who could not be expected to help out in the present, and a couple of solid English professionals on free transfers (Milner, Ings). In short, nothing to set the pulses racing. The misery of the previous season bled into the new one and eventually led to the sacking of Brendan Rodgers. Jurgen Klopp was hired as his replacement and since then, each summer transfer window has been marked by optimism and excellent business all around.
The point of this article is to remind us of the bad times we have been through. Even now, I hear people feeling dissatisfied with our business because we missed out on Coutinho’s replacement and an additional centre back. Sure, it would have been better if we had signed Fekir(could still happen) and an additional centre back. But we should not lose track of the immense upward trajectory that we have been on under Klopp. For a reminder, just look at difficulties being faced by Chelsea in the transfer market due to being unable to provide Champions league football. At one time, they were the gold standard for transfer activity in my eyes. Now, they have gone through the farce of Conte overseeing their first few preseason sessions even though everybody knew that Sarri had been lined up as his replacement. Long may it last! Now, if only we could get out of the blocks quickly this season, we may stand a chance against City. Up the Reds!