Monday, September 12, 2011

Liverpool reborn with the coming of a King

With the arrival of Kenny Dalglish last January, Liverpool FC has begun to show signs of recovery after a number of years in turmoil. The Gillett/Hicks years will be synonymous at Anfield with the demise of the club both on and off the field. A very public bitter feud between the two co-owners, involving former manager Rafa Benitez, threatened to drag the club into oblivion. The eventual forced sale to New England Sports Venture (NESV) and the appointment of Roy Hodgeson signalled a new dawning for the club. But the best laid plans don’t always pan out and, to the joy of the Kop faithful, Dalglish finally got the job he craved.

The acquisition of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, soon after Dalglish’s arrival, and the departure of Fernando Torres marked a changing of the guard at the Pool. The desired impact was not seen straight away. Thanks to the backing given to the manager this term, the shoots of revival have begun to show. Early close season signings of Adam, Downing and Henderson have helped to strengthen a lacklustre midfield and given it a more familiar flavour. All three are hard-working grafters, and although they will not set the world a light skill-wise they are the type of determined players that Liverpool need.
The change in style, attitude and focus that King Kenny has brought means that there is now potential for development at the club. A shot at winning the title may be just out of reach this year but a more realistic target of a return to the Champions League is believable. The reality for many Liverpool fans is that the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City will be pushing for the title this whilst Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs will be fighting it out for the fourth Champions League spot.

This will be no easy task, as even at this early stage, the Premier League looks to be shaping up for a very competitive season. Liverpool though are showing all the signs of a team on the up. They have signed some decent hard-working players and they have a good batch of young lads like Kelly and Flanagan coming through. But the truth is they are just not strong enough to be title contenders this season. They will push hard and at some stage may even be close to the top of the table. The lack of depth in the squad will eventually mean that when it comes to “squeaky bum time” they will have fallen back. Dalglish has won the league before, one of the few remaining managers left in the league who can boast that achievement. Given enough time he will bring Liverpool back within touching distance of the title thanks to his own inspirational and clever managerial style but also helped no end by the financial backing of the clubs new owners. If he can actually turn all this potential and backing into a league title remains to be seen. What can be seen though by everyone who knows football is that Liverpool are coming back.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ireland suffers world cup meltdown …….again!

After watching Ireland play USA in the Rugby World Cup my mind is immediately drawn back to France 2007. That couple of weeks brought tears to my eyes as we watched Ireland embarrass not only themselves but also the entire country.

Like someone finding out that their lover was cheating on them we felt betrayed. Ireland were at best desperate. It was the same old story of trying to force the game. Moves that at this stage should be cemented into the team’s game-plan are not coming off with no one seeming to know what the next person is going to do. Time and time again whenever a break would be made the Irish player would find himself isolated or at best poorly supported. A lack of belief or a lack of fitness led to the likes of Ferris and co. making line breaks only to find no one on their shoulder for the offload. After watching Sonny Bill Williams and the All Blacks showing how effective the off load can be you would think that the Irish would be a bit wiser.
Next week’s match against Australia is the most important game in Irish rugby arguably since the Grand Slam wining final against Wales in 2009. Victory against the Wallabies means a likely quarter final match up against Wales and then a possible semi-final against either France or England. Any of these opponents are beatable which means that the path to a World Cup final is laid out in its simplest form.
The highs of 2009 have barely been reached again under Declan Kidney and a lot of questions are being asked about this team’s psychological preparedness for this tournament. Ireland do not seem to be playing with any sense of cohesion or coordination. The backs lack creativity, the forwards are not communicating properly and for some reason the half backs are lacking the self-belief that has made the likes of Sexton, O’Gara and Reddan into household names.
Ireland have to rediscover that form. After the disaster that was 2007, rugby lost a bit of bit of its appeal to me. I was like a spurned lover. I didn’t want to get hurt again so I kept my emotions hidden and swore that I would never get too worked up over Ireland’s chances of the Six Nations or even beating France! Then 2009 came along and there is videos of me crying singing Fields of Athenry in the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, hugging two northern lads I had never met before ( and completely ignoring my long-sufffering wife who had actually paid for the trip!). So this World Cup finds me once again back in the same position as last time but with a slight difference; in that I am scared shitless to start believing again in case we get dumped on.
I do honestly believe that on their day Ireland are good enough to beat anybody and even go as far as progressing to a World Cup final. And I know I am not alone in that belief, even if few will admit to it openly. But as far the team getting over this mental block, I don’t know. Ireland will have to look deep down inside of themselves and ask those questions. Lads like O’Gara, O’Driscoll, Murphy and O’Connell and others are probably looking at their last World Cup. If they want to go out with heads held high then it better happen in the six day turnaround to next Saturday.

I swear to god my nerves can’t handle this anymore…..