I have been following international soccer since the time I was a school boy. In the 1980s, when there was no satellite television, I could never have my fill of newspaper pictures of matches of first division football league matches in the UK. Liverpool used to be on the top of the league in that period. I fell in love with this legendary soccer club.
I clearly remember "Crown Paints" being plastered on the T-shirts of the Liverpool players as it was their sponsor at that time. Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, John Aldridge, John Barnes, Steve McMahon... the list of Liverpool stars followed passionately by this young fan was endless.
The club appears to have been gypped as it has paid obscene amounts of money for players who have flopped massively.
The 80s were the golden period for Liverpool. They won six First Division football league titles. But since the last title, won in 1989-90, there has been an almost eternal wait for another win. I find it astounding that a club of Liverpool's stature has had such a drastic change in fortune. The club is yet to open its account since the Premier League was set up in 1990.
As a disappointed fan, let me try to put a finger on the causes for the decline in the fortunes of what was once a powerhouse. While Liverpool was brimming with talent in the 1980s, somehow the tap went dry in the 90s. Steven Gerard is the only prominent face fans recall in terms of home-grown talent. He too blossomed only in the late 90s. Barring Stevie G, as he is lovingly called by millions of fans across the world, there is hardly any name which can be proudly shared.
Since the dawn of the Premier League, the best Liverpool has managed is only the second spot—four times. Their downfall has resulted partially from the emergence of Manchester United as a key force, managing to win 20 Premier League titles till date.
While strong teams such as ManU, Arsenal and Chelsea have had sound ownership, Liverpool has gone through troubled times, with its ownership changing hands several times. None of the past owners showed signs of doing what was needed bring back the glory days. Though John Henry II, the current owner, seems better inclined, he does not have the time to personally look into the running of the club.
The most annoying thing has been the club's penchant for buying grade B and C players. You don't have to look hard to spot players such as Andy Caroll, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Bruno Cheyrou, and, most recently, Mario Balotelli and Christian Benteke. The list is endless. That puts a big question mark on the club's scouting process as well the selection committee. The club appears to have been gypped as it has paid obscene amounts of money for players who have flopped massively. Since this has been happening every year, it is easy to conclude that the selling clubs take Liverpool for a ride as they see the club's desperation in taking over the mantle which once was its own but has now gone way beyond reach.
A team can be built only around experienced players. It's not a kindergarten where you keep buying young players in the hopes they will grow up to be Stevie G...
Another intriguing thing which I have never understood is the club's desire to buy young talent. I am sure the reader would agree that a team can be built only around experienced players. It's not a kindergarten where you keep buying young players in the hopes they will grow up to be Stevie G and Michael Owen one day. The club has failed terribly on this front. The right approach, I feel, should have been to build a team around experienced hands and groom young talent rather than chasing them in the hope they will be stars in the future.
While ManU, Arsenal, Chelsea, and, now Manchester City have pumped in money consistently and have always targeted the best, Liverpool has been happy with its ill-advised spending, both in terms of budgets sanctioned and quality of players bought.
Luis Suárez, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso are among the handful of players Liverpool can boast of as stars who have caught the imagination of fans. They too have gone for greener pastures after a few seasons. Clearly, the club is not able to hold on to its star players. This is a worrying aspect. Over the years, the club has lost its stickiness where bigger clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, etc. have snatched away its stars. The lack of top four finish has really hurt the club in terms of attracting the best talent. In some cases, the club's location has also affected the players' interest in it. Alexis Sanchez, for example, joined Arsenal.
Also, like-for-like replacement for players has not happened. Little wonder the club has got into a rut. It is yet to get a scorer as prolific as Luis Suárez. While the club has been scoring freely this season, it needs a player who singly scores 15-20 goals a season. Much was expected of Daniel Sturridge, but he has flattered to deceive and has only been regressing consistently.
I was hoping this would be the year when Liverpool would be crowned champions again and the 27-year wait would finally come to an end.
Jurgen Klopp has proved to be a ray of hope as the team plays attacking football which has been a joy to watch. But that too has hit a wall as the team has been goal shy in the last six-seven matches. The hard work Klopp demands has taken a toll on the players. They seem to be unable to cope with the rigours of the game. The team which was at the top in November is now not even in the fourth position and is fighting for a spot in the Champions League.
The quality and depth of the squad were laid bare when the team had to play eight matches within a month; it could notch just one win in 2017. This has resulted in a gap of 10 points with leader Chelsea. Liverpool has been dumped out of FA and EFL cups and a Champions League spot is its only realistic hope.
Liverpool's recent loss to Leicester City is very damaging. It means that in order to qualify for the Champions League, they will have to win all their next 12 matches, while also hoping the other top four teams lose some of their own. So far, Liverpool have been their own worst enemy so they will need to be very disciplined.
As a die-hard fan, I was hoping this would be the year when Liverpool would be crowned champions again and the 27-year wait would finally come to an end. From the going so far, this season looks like an unachievable goal. But I sincerely hope the club management will leave no stone unturned to attract the best players. Should that not happen, we would see the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, among others, being snared by bigger clubs.
One would hope the club looks within to identify issues and address them, not needing a fan to highlight them. But then what are die-hard fans for? We cannot abandon the object of our devotion. We owe it to ourselves to help our beloved club to rise phoenix-like from the ashes.
And yet one has to admit that time is running out for the club and so is the die-hard fan's patience!