Mails: Bill Shankly would have celebrated fourth

Date published: Monday 22nd May 2017 9:00

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Fourth IS success to Liverpool in 2017
I clicked on this morning’s mailbox with a deflating sense of anticipation. As a Liverpool supporter yesterday was a great day; we confirmed our deserved place in next seasons’s Champions League and with it put down a marker that Jurgen Klopp is making, real tangible progress. Yet I still expected to find people having a dig at ‘celebrating fourth’.

I was surprised to find it was one of our own ‘supporters’, however. For the record, prefixing this kind of criticism with “don’t get me wrong: it’s an improvement on last season and should be a draw for better players” simply highlights the hypocrisy of it. Yes, Shankly did say that 1st is 1st and 2nd is nowhere, but the game is almost unimaginably different in the modern era.

In that era, 1st really was everything. There was no top four, no diluted ‘Champions’ league (where the majority of teams have not finished 1st) and trophies were king. Like it or not, the game has changed beyond all recognition and the widely accepted view is that in order to move beyond the level of European also-rans you need to be qualifying for the Champions League in order to attract players who will only move to a club who play at that level.

I hate this about modern football, but it is what it is. At the end of Jurgen’s full season, it was absolutely imperative that we achieve this milestone to mark the progress we have clearly made. As soon as it became clear we were out of the title race the focus became ensuring Champions League qualification so that the upward mobility could be continued.

And yet. When we achieve this aim with a convincing 3-0 win at home we are meant to be restrained and not celebrate emphatically unless we have won the league. Ridiculous.

I could understand if Steven Gerrard had come out in full kit doing loops of Anfield on an open top bus ridden by Kenny Dalglish, Sammy Lee and the ghost of Big Bob, but as far as I could see our players, staff and fans were simply enjoying the end of a long, hard season and for achieving their (adjusted) aims and securing the excitement of Champions League football for next year.

Yet this is nauseous? I agree with you on the contrivance of the Terry thing, but come on. From what I could see inside the ground yesterday there was no wild celebrations, just the usual joviality you get at an end-of-season home game. Players’ kids on the pitch, photos, all that.

I find myself wondering/saying this a lot recently but I wonder who a lot people bother watching modern football, other than waiting for the first opportunity to mock your own club and hark back to 60s football. Like it or not, finishing fourth this season represents success for Liverpool, and while our ultimate medium-long term aims should and I’m sure are to reclaim the title this is normally (excuse Leicester) achieved through constant building and progress.

In closing, yesterday was the most exciting final day in years despite there not being an awful lot riding on it outside of the three clubs fighting to qualify for the ECL. Not only that but Liverpool smashed Middlesborough off the park to secure our place at Europe’s top table for only the second time in eight years. I can’t get my head around how your most pressing thought as a Liverpool supporter would be to write a letter to F365 complaining that we celebrated.

Gary, LFC


…Dear God if I ever hear that stupid quote again I may explode. First of all it’s from a different era of football so it makes zero sense in today’s ultra competitive league where you have six extremely strong teams and secondly it completely misses the point of football.

If we were to follow this sage advice there would be no celebrating avoiding the drop, derby victories or even winning games or scoring unless we were at very top of our league all season because apparently that’s all that matters.

Football is about emotion as much as it is about success and if a team celebrating a tangible step towards potentially being more successful is something to be annoyed about then I honestly pity you.

This isn’t Arsenal celebrating par/stagnation like we’ve seen in the past, this is a club with a relatively new manager achieving something many thought they would be unable to and taking just a little time to enjoy it. That’s all. No need to get bent out of shape.
Vinnie, Dublin


On the myth of Shankly
Invoking Shankly to claim that Liverpool finishing fourth isn’t an achievement? No. Not on. Missed the point of Shankly’s career completely.

Shankly is a club (and frankly should be considered a football) legend, the man who apparently genuinely believed he worked for the fans rather than the owners, and the man who laid the foundations for Paisley and his successors to build the mighty tower that was Liverpool FC in the mid to late 70’s and 80’s.

But he ‘failed’ a lot too, by Jon Cardy’s definition. With Liverpool he won three league titles, one old money division two title (at the second or third time of asking, depending on if you count half-seasons in charge as a full go), two FA cups and one UEFA cup. He was at the club for 15 years, and in the time he was in the first division finished 5th or lower nearly twice as often as he finished a champion. He is a legend, but by his own supposed standards is surely a failure too.

What we tend to forget, especially those of us that, like me, weren’t yet born in that era, is that Shankly wasn’t saying his memorable quotes with the weight of history or absolute truth in mind. He wasn’t being entirely serious when he said Liverpool reserves were clearly the second best team in Merseyside and the country – certainly no more than Mourinho is when he says, well, pretty much anything these days. Shankly wanted to entertain the fans at every opportunity, and intended his famous ‘football’s much much more important than life and death’ (I know that’s not what he actually said, I’m trying to be brief) quote to be tongue in cheek. Even at the time he was saying stuff like that he worried that football had become too important to too many people. It’s all in his biography.

So no, the real Bill Shankly wouldn’t be disappointed with Liverpool celebrating a return to the CL. He’d be right there celebrating it too, were he still around. Also, stop throwing the club’s history in its face when it does have some success in these lean years. We’re all aware Liverpool are not the footballing colossus they used to be, and continually beating everyone with that stick is not going to help us back on any kind of perch in any way at all. Like Jurgen said, ‘history is great, but it’s only for remembering’.

Liverpool are clearly starting to go places again, but it’ll be a while before we get there. Please can we not complain about the route taken when we’ve only just started properly moving? At least give the current team a proper chance before you condemn them as unworthy successors to a figure and era that’s more than half myth.
Matt, LFC


What’s wrong with hope and joy?
Jon Cardy managed to spectacularly miss the point with his email this morning.

Being a football fan is about hope isn’t it? Would you rather be in with a shout of winning the Champions League or the Europa League? I know which one I’d choose.

I agree with you about John Terry though. Bit try hard.
Mike, Nuneaton


…Jon Cardy’s mail this morning has highlighted the sad and growing trend over the last couple of years of people deciding that joy should not be freely expressed. No, instead, other people’s joy should be expressed proportionally based on ones own view of the achievement.

This is a ridiculous notion. Joy is a subjective feeling enhanced by a collective. You go to a comedy show and a comedian tells a joke. Some laugh a lot, some not at all and the full range inbetween. Should we walk around the auditorium explaining to people the appropriate amount of laughter for that joke is X and could you all please laugh the appropriate amount?

If Chelsea win the FA Cup next week should they ensure that there celebrations are 25% less enthusiastic than they were for the more important act of winning of the Premier League?

Yesterday, after a gruelling 38-game season, Liverpool achieved something they’ve only managed to do once in the last eight years and qualified for the biggest tournament in club football. They aren’t going to win a trophy this year but this is a reward for their effort so let them f*cking enjoy it as much as they want.

I agree about the John Terry thing though.
Morgan Emmett – Arsenal


…Jon Cardy = miserable b*stard. What’s wrong with celebrating a position when that position gains you entry into Europe’s top competition? I despair sometimes – yes trophies are great too, but why can’t 4th be celebrated as equally as winning a trophy? It’s an achievement that has a prize attached to it – you’re a misery if you see otherwise and resent others for taking some joy from it. Why are so many people so bloody miserable!
Jay, LFC


John Terry: Grade A
I read John Nic’s article on John Terry’s substitution and I wondered how I’d feel if I was a Chelsea fan. Would I think it was a lovely gesture to a great player? Probably not.

Wayne Rooney did the clap the corners thing as he was walking off yesterday – what’s wrong with that as a goodbye?

I can’t fathom the thought process of a man who thinks of such a thing, followed by “That’s a great idea John, you are as clever as you are handsome”.

What a grade A knob head.


…Does anyone remember Tony Adams’ last appearance in an Arsenal shirt?

No? And why should you? Adams, like Terry could, retired in a double-winning season.

I was at his testimonial against Celtic in which the Arsenal fans chanted ‘One more year’ at him.

Adams’ exit spoke of a man, who left the stage with dignity, Terry’s spoke of a man, who is a complete and utter tit.

I really, really, really hope we piss on Terry’s chips this Saturday.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Chelsea are growing on people now…
I used to hate ’em…but I really do like Chelsea…now. Now that absurd w***** is out of the picture.

I used to despise everything Chelsea stood for – the nouveau-riche glory-hunters, the obsession with becoming the Man United of the south, the money, the sackings, the whining, the loanees, in fact pretty much everything. With Terry being pretty much the embodiment of everything bad about Chelski.

My views have softened over the years, only to be hardened every time Terry or Lampard would appear. But in fairness, Abramovich has stayed the course, didn’t just do a Jack Hayward and bugger off when he lost interest in his plaything, and the players they have recruited have blended into a proper team, rather than the Harlem Globetrotters approach of the early days.

Hazard is a sublime footballer, Costa is pure theatre and they are a good watch all round. However I think Conte is the star of the show. Great manager (obviously), but where Klopp has a slimy self-awareness about all his playacting, Conte is just like one of us – a genuine fan that totally and unashamedly loses it. Really endearing, and surely football at the heart of it should make you smile … for whatever reason.

So I can probably enjoy watching Chelsea even more next season, so long as they end up runners up to a certain team in Red!

Oh, and Sky, PLEASE don’t bring him into the fold. Pretty please!!!
E.T. King (MUFC)


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An alternative reality
Picture it, Sunderland players, keen to undermine Moyes, decide for one minute only, to tiki taka their way through minute 26. John O’Shea collects the ball and for once in his life, doesn’t need to hoof it, he looks up to see 9 Sunderland players ahead of him presenting for the ball, the keeper’s on too.

Then, it begins to dawn on Chelsea what’s happening. Terry, at the opposite end of the pitch, seethes as he watches Costa not bother to close down O’Shea, as he holds posession for 10-15 seconds, before playing a one-two with Pickford. Terry would sprint the length of the field to win back the ball and put it out. By the time he gets there, time is short, the 26th minute is almost elapsed and that’s when it happens, he sees the ball rolling to Rodwell and he launches himself towards it but Rodwell lets the ball beat him and Terry’s already committed.

The whistle blows and Rodwell is rolling in agony. Red Card – J Terry (26′) flashes across the live texts. Unsure of what to do, the Chelsea players look at each other stunned, John doesn’t flinch instructing them to form two orderly lines.


Ciaran O’Falluin (the comments section figured you’d like this)


Man United’s finishing is the only real problem
On United’s “ammo” and goal scoring, even a brief statistical analysis of Mourinho’s United suggests there’s been significant improvement from van Gaal. Immediately before Ibra’s injury, United had an xg for of 1.56, and xg against of 0.68, compared to 1.18 and 0.94 respectively under van Gaal.

The finishing has been terrible all season, hence low goal returns and our finishing sixth, but United have struggled in one discrete area this season (which is easily trained on), unlike under Moyes and van Gaal where underperformance was endemic.
Chris MUFC


Next year could be Man United’s year
First off, a huge congratulations to the four clubs that made the Top Four. I don’t care for all this tribal rubbish in football so credit where credit is due. They were the top four on merit. As a United fan, I’m not going to get into the debate over Trophies/6th v No trophies/2nd with Spurs fans, simply because it’s pointless until after Wednesday as we’ve got to actually win the EUROPA cup! And the other thing with that debate that makes it pathetic, football fans are fickle and if the roles were reversed, so too would the viewpoint.

As for United, yes I’m not going to lie. I was hoping for a title challenge and/or be in the mix come the end. But with a definite “Top 6” 6 was never going to go into four. Two clubs with big managers was going to miss out (apologies to Everton fans, your club probably make it a top seven – but I think you’re where Spurs were 2-3 years ago so plenty to hope for if you hang on to players and buy well in the summer). United’s reasons for missing out, in my opinion, are simply down to not scoring enough goals. Turn a few of those 1-1 draws in to 3-1 wins and we’d have made it. Taking a look at the league table shows our goals for column is again awful when compared to those above us.

Seeing the first comfortable win yesterday in a while, I can think of two conclusions:

1 – The young players had no pressure hanging over them so played with more confidence knowing a risk or two wouldn’t be the end of the world if it led to a goal going in against them. Did the pressure get to the club over the season?

2 – By having the chance to show what they can do, did the young players play with more passion and will to win and do well? Does this mean a lot of the players at the club are too settled, knowing they are on large contracts and have ‘made it’? If so, Mourinho needs to sort that out over the summer and bring in players, either from the youth set up (highly unlikely as that’s not his style) or bring in players who do care.

My own thoughts are that too many players aren’t actually good enough. People will point to Mourinho and say he should be able to improve them, but if you’re not good enough, and they get paid a lot, no manager in world football will get them playing better. The three years after Fergie left saw poorly planned transfers with players brought in that were either not needed, or didn’t work out. Last summer, at least, there was a feeling the four players brought in were thought out. If this can carry on I am hopeful. Although talk of Rodriguez worries me as he feels less like a Mourinho signing and more a Woodward ‘glamour signing’.

I know this sounds like throwing more money at the problem, but by changing managers every year or two, we have to accept that this will happen (no club with the sponsors we have will be happy building a team of youth players and risk being further down the table). I think the goalscoring problem is down to United not having enough players who can score goals. Plenty of “1 out of 3” or “1 out of 4” players but apart from Zlatan (and potentially Rashford) no 1-2 or 2 our 3 players.

Spurs have Kane, Alli, Son, Eriksen. City have Aguero, Jesus, De Bruyne. Liverpool have Firmino, Mane, Coutinho. Martial should be scoring more. Mata scored some goals. Mkhitaryan saved his for Europe. Both they are more creative than goalscorers. Pogba would have been player of the year if just half of the chances he set up were actually scored! Looking at the players we have, I just don’t see goals like I do with the teams in the top four. This for me, is the main problem. Resolve this and I believe as our Liverpool friends would say “next year can be our year”. I think United are finally at that level of hope now…

Finally, it could also just be that we’ve had our time at the top and nothing we do as a club will bring us back to the top for a while. It happens. Throughout history clubs have success then it ends and a new club takes over. Look at Italy and see where both Milan clubs are and remember how successful they have been there.
John ‘I think I’m at the acceptance stage of the 7 stages of grief!’ Morgan, Kingsbury


Another synecdoche
Lovely mail about the 4-3 and it’s ridiculous importance despite being the first game of the season. My vote for the synecdoche is the early 0-0 between Liverpool and United. Man Utd came with one of the most expensive teams in the history of football but decided that not losing was enough. Symptomatic of their 25 match unbeaten self-destruction, they gave away possession (35% a new record low) and only had one shot on target against a team that they were very much competing in the league against. Ultimately United were not good enough against the big teams in the league, whilst Liverpool got an early lesson that breaking down 10 men is not as easy as skinning Rob Holding.
KC (Wonder if Mourinho regrets it come Wednesday night?)


Everton should sell Barkley
Everton fan here. To answer your question about Barkley, personally I think if he’s not signing a new contract then he should be sold. I back Koeman on this. I don’t think he’s worth the money Everton would likely get for him which makes it make even more sense. I like him, think he’s a good player and there was a time when his potential made him a player Everton could feasibly have built a team around. But, now 24, he never quite fulfilled that potential despite the fact he now appears to feel he’s playing below his station.

Sure it’s nice to have homegrown players, but I don’t think they should particularly be shown much more loyalty by the club than any other player who’s being paid money to play for them. Maybe he will take the next step somewhere else, but I understand if Koeman doesn’t want to take the ‘maybe this season he’ll shine’ risk on him any more.

So yeah, I think if he doesn’t want to sign a new contract then sell him, use the money to target a similarly valued player like Sigurdsson (sorry Swansea) for the short to mid-term and build the long-term around Tom Davies instead. A player who could still very much fulfil the tremendous potential he shows.

Any Everton fans, or fans of other teams in similar situations for that matter, agree or disagree?
Will (that’s if anyone wants him of course) Wymant, EFC


…People are starting to realise that although we sing ‘We’ve got a Diamond” in regards to Ross, we’ve actually ended up with is a Cubic Zirconia.

At first glance it can look impressive, but over time you realise the quality and value just doesn’t compare.

The general feeling for most Blues is that we want Ross to achieve the potential he shown at an early age or reach the expectations we, as fans, have put on his shoulders. He one of our own, he’s overcome adversity in re: leg breaks, but at the age of 23 we expected SO much more.

In recent years we’ve rubbished claims about his football intelligence, or argued the fact as to why Deli Alli was getting ahead of him for England. Bobby Martinez had us believing the ‘phenomenal’ hype.

But now the contract debacle, combined with Koeman’s harsh (yet fair) criticism of his performances, has lowered the blue tinted glasses for a lot of Evertonians, and people are starting to ask the question is he good enough for what we want to push on and achieve? Would we be even arsed about him if he wasn’t a ‘Toffee that came from Wavertree’?

If someone was prepared to pay in excess of £40 mill for him, then Everton would have done VERY well.. but it wouldn’t be a guaranteed disaster, as being relieved of the pressure of playing for the boyhood club may be what Ross needs right now.


How does it feel in mid-table?
Now we’re at the end of the season which provided a new heights of mid-table mediocrity. I wanted to touch on my conflicted thoughts of appearing to join this hallowed group as opposed to being a yo-yoing club that across the last decade has felt the joys of promotion and scrapping for survival; but also the despair of going through periods of being quite rubbish and getting relegated (a few times).

So let’s take Stoke, West Brom and perhaps the Saints of this season as a few examples of well run clubs that are pretty safe from relegation but unlikely to challenge for Europe. Years of top flight football is great, playing the best teams in the land and seeing the best players (often for the opposition). A decent cup run can happen every so often and occasionally a gem of a player will be discovered for a season or two before heading off elsewhere ‘to follow their dream’. As a Saints fan I should be a very happy situation compared to where we were 6-7 years ago and I really am.

But after a while I can’t help but feel it’s all be a bit ‘meh’ as a fan, with a season that risks ending up with few lows but also little actual highs. Which, to me, means missing out on a lot of what it is to be a football fan. So perhaps, I think, it’s better in the long run to have a team that goes through these cycles of extremes of highs and lows that come with promotion and relegation?

The run of promotion from League 1 to Europe was magical as a Saints fan. Being a team on the rise and actually expecting to win and score goals each weekend is great; then the underdog mentality of scrapping to survive in the Premier League is fine for a season or two where each point is savoured and hard fought.

To take a more current example of a tale of two cities in the north east. Newcastle were pants in 2015/16, but won a hugely entertaining championship to bounce back in style and there is no reason they can’t carry this momentum into the Premier League. Perhaps Sunderland can do the same next season after several years of being pretty poor and just about avoiding the drop?

So I’m genuinely interested in any thoughts from fans outside the top six who may have experienced their club being at various of these stages? Perhaps I’m speaking **** and mid table mediocracy is the height of success?
Tom Saints (Puel is the definition of this mid-table mediocrity. An ok manager who is a safe set of hands and whether we keep him or move him on will show exactly how much ambition the club’s heirarchy actually has!)


On the cultured left-footer and non-nonsense defender…
As I watched Man Utd youngsters yesterday, seeing the impressive Eric Bailly throw himself into another tackle, I was sitting there thinking to myself – in true Charlie Nicholas fashion…

that’s a real no-nonsense defender. I then pondered if any other position on the field has ever been described as no-nonsense? Have we ever had a no-nonsense Deep Lying Forward play the beautiful game? Who would have a tactical advantage if a no-nonsense left winger come up against a no-nonsense right back?

The cultured left footer is another example, reserved to describe any naturally left-footed player capable of passing the ball five yards or more with 70%+ accuracy. Have we ever witnessed a player with a cultured right foot? Could a cultured right footer play in the same team as a cultured left footer? Is it advantageous to have a lot of cultured players or can there be too many cultured players on a pitch at any one time? How would UKIP supporters respond to so much culture on show on an English football pitch, particularly if there were also a couple of Diving Foreigners (no such thing as a Diving Englishman) flitting around?

It got me thinking to myself as I sat there, is there a similar moniker for each position and what is the optimal starting group of players. Here’s my attempt with substitutions starting out in a 352 formation (pretty sure someone can come up with better examples especially for Keeper and Strikers):

GK – Agile Keeper
CB – No nonsense Defender
CB – Comfortable in Possession
CB – Excellent reader of the game
RM – Flying Winger
LM – Cultured Left footer
CM – Ball Winning Midfielder
CM – Classy Midfielder
CAM – Diminutive Playmaker
ST – Diving Foreigner
ST – Instinctive Finisher

SUB1: Impact sub
SUB2: To retain possession
SUB3: To slow the game down
Barry (Cultured ambipedal), Armagh

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