On a Sunday evening, after all of the weekend’s Barclays Premier League football fixtures have been completed (barring any Monday night game), I often listen to one of the popular football phone-in shows, in which fans air their views regarding the results of those games.
On one such evening a few weeks ago, I was listening to the opinions of a Tottenham fan who was bemoaning a lacklustre 0-0 draw his side had been involved in, against opposition they had fully expected to beat.
He finished by stating that he was very worried that Spurs would get overtaken by Liverpool by the end of the season and would finish out of the places ensuring qualification for European cup competition next time round.
I remember thinking that this particular fan was being rather melodramatic and exaggerating the plight of his club in the light of a disappointing draw. After all, that result notwithstanding, Spurs had not entered into a spiral of decline and were playing fairly well overall.
Furthermore, at this time Liverpool were several points adrift of the London side and had played more games. On Sunday evening, as Liverpool moved above the White Hart Lane outfit into fifth place on goal difference, the words of that Spurs fan came back to me, as I marvelled at how they now may indeed prove to be prescient.
Liverpool’s fate is now in its own hands; although Spurs have played a game fewer, they still have to play Liverpool at Anfield. Moreover, after two successive high-scoring home victories, whilst keeping clean sheets on both occasions, the Reds now have a far superior goal difference to their London rivals, who must also visit Eastlands to play Manchester City.
A fifth-place finish and Europa League qualification is now a distinct possibility, and barring total disaster, Liverpool are virtually guaranteed a sixth place finish. This is one place higher than they finished last season and, should they win their remaining three games, they will finish with a higher points tally than they did in the last campaign.
Of course all of this seemed beyond the bounds of possibility only a few short months ago when the club and its fans were looking nervously over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
I don’t know if I am alone in this, but I genuinely worried that we may have finished the season in the bottom three. I couldn’t see any way out of the turmoil the club was going through, and only the fact that I could think of three teams (I won’t name them!) who were definitely worse, and therefore highly likely to finish lower, than Liverpool kept my hopes alive.
However, I will admit to being a pessimist, and all my non-Liverpool supporting friends didn’t even contemplate the possibility of relegation for my club, and even ridiculed me for suggesting it.
The pessimist in me also offers this as a final thought for rumination: when Kenny Dalglish took over as manager of the club, Liverpool were 19 points off the top of the League, and, as I write, they are now 18 points away from the summit.
The gap between them and Man Utd has hardly changed. Therefore, how much is Liverpool’s (comparatively) lofty position due to an improvement in the team’s performance and change of manager, and how much is it down to a drop in the standard of play of the clubs around us?
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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