I've been reluctant to dive into the fray on Liverpool since the FA Cup Final. That result, as I predicted, basically ruined the campaign for Reds, leaving the club with only a paltry Carling Cup victory upon which to hang its hat. Sure, that was the same Carling Cup that I reveled in a couple months ago. The same Cup that I wanted to believe meant something substantial enough to make up for a poor as fuck league record, especially when combined with the prospect of an FA Cup victory on the horizon. While I would have punched someone squarely in the face for calling me on it at the time, it's pretty obvious that my optimism surrounding the Carling Cup was little else than face-saving by a fan desperate for something to cheer for. Pathetic as it may be, this is how I roll. It's called a coping mechanism, asshole.
In any event, it's all behind us now, and I'm certainly done with taking on a positive outlook through which I might salvage a little bit of pride and optimism. None of this is made any easier, of course, by the absolutely inexplicable events at Anfield that have transpired since that FA Cup loss to Chelsea and since the Reds closed out their season with a wimper against Swansea.
Even considerably attentive soccer fans may have paid little notice to the firing of LFC's manager Kenny Dalglish last week. After the incredible end to the Premier League season (Man City taking the crown by way of two late, desperation goals in stoppage time) and the even more incredible end to the Champions League (Chelea victorious at the "neutral" site in Munich, defeating the de facto home side in penalty kicks after a 120 minute 1-1 draw), King Kenny being let go by Fenway Sports Group is of little moment to most fans of the game. On paper, it was nothing more than a middling club firing its manager who, while achieving some recent success, could not get it done on the pitch from week to week.
Fans of Liverpool, however, know that the firing was much more significant than that. They know that there is a reason we all feel like a not insignifcant part of our collective soul has been ripped out. Kenny wasn't just a manager, he is an institution. As a player, he appeared in 355 league matches for LFC, scoring 118 goals along the way. This is the same guy who played striker for the club at the time of it's most consistent dominance that the numbers involved sound like they must be wrong - league champions 7 out of his 14 seasons as a player, for starters, as well as multiple Cups along the way. Not to mention his two Manager of the Year honors after he took on the role of Player-Manager in 1986 - a five year reign that saw the Club get three League Championships (finishing second in the other two years) and two FA Cups.
This is a guy who, as a player and manager and, in essence, the best example of the greatness that can be Liverpool football, deserves the utmost respect from LFC fans and, more importantly, LFC ownership. A week removed, with the Club reeling and having apprently lost its bearings, his firing is nothing short of a slap in the face.
To put it in perspective - as Scizz often requests when I'm going on and on about the Beautiful Game - imagine if Gilbert Perreault (you know, a player who was actually good... *cough* *Lindy sucks* *cough*) was the coach of the Buffalo Sabres, or if Jim Kelly were coaching the Bills. Also, imagine that either of them had, as a player, actually brought a championship or two (or SEVEN!!) to Buffalo, as opposed to just years of hard work and marginal success. And, finally, imagine that they were fired after only one season as coach, with absolutely no plan for a successor in place.
I know, right? FUCKED UP BULLSHIT. We would go goddammned berzerk. Which, as it happens, is exaclty what has happened with Liverpool fans this past week. And if the reports are to be believed - that the Club is reaching out to any and all viable candidates for interviews and that many top talents have already bowed out with a "thanks but no thanks" refusal - this mess is not getting better any time soon.
That said, as a fan of this Club - a club that we're told is an example of the rich tradition of English football and that has far-reaching influence globally - the situation post-Dalglish is simply untenable. No successor in place? Not even a clear vision of what kind of manager is being sought? So, instead of Dalglish - a manager who, at the very least, can still instill a sense of pride in the "Liverpool Way" and who motivated his squad to two Cup finals - Liverpool's American ownership has left the club in the lurch, lacking in any clear sense of direction, leadership and, sadly, prospects for the future.
As of now, the only leadership at the Club comes in the form of Ian Ayre, who was hand picked by former American owners Gillett and Hicks. Forgive me if references from some of the worst sports owners in recent history don't make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Going up the ladder, the situation doesn't get much better. Sure, FSG brought championships to Boston fans who had been pining for them since 1918, but they're also the same guys who let Theo Epstein go and who have allowed the storied Red Sox franchise to devolve into the tire fire it most certainly is.
(Which begs the question, as an aside -- WHY DOES THE FA ALLOW AMERICANS TO BUY EPL TEAMS?? Maybe they just like watching us fuck it all up as some sort of cathartic exercise in Britain's post-imperialist age. I think I may be on to something there.)
It wouldn't be hard to draw not-so-subtle comparisons between Fenway and Anfield to bolster my fears of the future of LFC, but that's a depressing task for another depressing day when I actually care to research the inner workings of a baseball team I utterly despise. It's probably enough to say that the greater universe of Liverpool fans are, with very good reason, feeling a dreadful sense that the Club is spiraling out of control and that we may yet be in for another half decade of depressing underachievement.
In a week's time, or so we're told, there should be a short list of managerial candidates, and maybe then I'll hop back on here to talk about how good or bad or wretched each of them makes me feel. Until then, I'll just sit with the realization that Liverpool, the supposed bright spot in my sports world, may be sinking to the shitshow status of my Bills and Sabres, and that it may be a while until I start to be optimistic about them again.