Reds floating on Ayre of optimism

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When Liverpool lifted the Carling Cup at Wembley last Sunday, a general feeling and expectation arose that the club would be on the charge.

Whilst lifting the first piece of silverware this season was a major coup for the Reds, the general feeling on Merseyside is that finishing in the top four is the main aim for the club this season.

But, after seeing off Cardiff City, things didn’t go according to plan against Arsenal last weekend, and Kenny Dalglish’s side now sit 10 points off the fourth-place pace set by the Gunners.

A tricky trip to Sunderland, followed by a derby against Everton, suggests the next five days could prove to be massive for the Reds – and managing director Ian Ayre believes the mood is rightly optimistic despite the setback at Anfield.

"The mood around the club has been fantastic, as you would imagine. I think people probably underestimated at the time the significance of that win to us as a football club,” Ayre told the official Liverpool website.

"We've been through a lot in the last few years - our fans have been through a lot, everybody concerned with the club has been through a lot - and I think getting to our first new Wembley final had a lot of significance for lots of reasons other than just winning.

"In and around the city and the club, you definitely feel a spark and a spring in everyone's step and that's great because there are a lot of people who put a lot into it, and our fans definitely deserve it."

It’s potentially off-the-field rather than on it that the victory is most significant, with sponsors, owners and supporters all given a lift not just by the victory but the platform for ‘brand Liverpool’ to showcase their skills.

That the game was a tight and tense affair only added to the drama around the heavily favoured Reds, and drama isn’t something the team have been lacking in recent months.

The Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra affair left a bitter taste in the mouth of the football club as a whole, with their own personal sense of injustice isolating Liverpool to some extent.

But, the handshake that wasn’t lost what few supporters the club had over the whole issue, and put several senior people in a particularly difficult position.

You know there is trouble when ‘soccer’ is making front-page news in America, and as a shareholder in the club, the New York Times were far from happy with Suarez’s actions at Old Trafford.

The victory over the Bluebirds, to some degree at least, lifted part of the gloom that’s been hanging over Dalglish & Co, and more importantly gave Fenway Sports Group a small return on their big investment.

"We've always said the way we perform on the pitch has a direct effect on the way we perform off the pitch, whether it's sponsors, community work or other things,” added Ayre.

"We've had certain things that have gone on that people have put a negative slant on Liverpool - but this is a positive one and we should grasp it with both hands and move forward with it.

"On and off the pitch we need to be the best we can be. We're making great strides off the pitch, and now making great strides on the pitch. As long as those two things come together in tandem then the club has a great future."

There is no doubting that the club has a great future, as FSG have already shown during their spell in charge of the side that they are willing to make both big decisions (sack Roy Hodgson) and invest heavily on new players (Luis Suarez & Andy Carroll).

However, failing to reach the Champions League this season would be a setback after such great progress in the cup competitions, and Europa League football would not cover the financial rewards that come with being at the top table of football on this continent.

Defeat to the Black Cats would quickly burst the bubble Ayre is floating on, but back-to-back victories might just keep that momentum rolling. After all, FSG can't throw money at the club forever.

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