Monday, October 03, 2005

Lord Have Mersey

Stick with me on this one. Its another one of those tenuous analogies, you know, stretched and contorted more than the leading lady of the Chinese State circus. Its just that, watching Liverpool being gubbed by a Chelsea side who decided to finally shift up just a gear or so, and watching all those sad Scouse faces, moustaches drooping more forlornly with each cruel goal, and listening to those harsh cockney taunts, I felt like I was watching a sad Ken Loach type film about a 1980s Thatcherite pogrom.

The northern folk, all heart-on-the-sleeve Pete Postlethwaite melancholia, degraded and reduced by the brash, affluent City men, Masters of the Universe and bearing the heartless arrogance of Money. The downtrodden Liverpudlians, their identity tied with their club in a way Londoners don't know, no longer able to use it as a means of self-aggrandisement, European champions or no, in the face of the cold logic of mammon.

Ok, hang on. The single greatest commercial entity in football, and the pioneering exponent of Club as Brand thinking, is domiciled down the motorway from Liverpool in very northern Manchester. And Liverpool themselves, although relative financial lightweights, are still far from the football equivalent of a struggling colliery.

So the analogy was just a way of cloaking an anti-Chelsea rant in socio-economic commentary.

There, you got me.

My soft spot for north of England hard luck tales exposed, I won't challenge the strength of my objectivity too much in analysis of champions-elect Chelsea. Suffice to say, morals bad, football frighteningly good (not in a Brazil sort of way, more in a German kind of ruthless efficiency way), team spirit great.

For Liverpool this was all about harsh realities. You should never win a European Cup with Djimi Traore and Sami Hyppia in your defence. You generally need a goalscorer to win more football matches and a thirty-seven point deficit looks more like a target than a staging post this morning.

However, just as Liverpool's defeat of Chelsea in April did not prove their right to assume a sense of parity with the Londoners, so yesterday's result does not nullify the value of Rafael Benitez' project. What it does, however, is demonstrate the scale of that project, a task obscured in the eyes of many observers by the hullaballoo over One Night in Istanbul.

Chelsea's wealth, and the way in which Jose Mourinho has ordered his expensively appointed surroundings, means the task of becoming champions is now huge for everyone, which Liverpool fans must have known before yesterday. But there was a sense, given the closeness of their prior meetings, that maybe Liverpool were ready to slug it out with Chelsea. Hell, they were European Champions after all!

Winning the European Cup was good for Rafa Benitez, in the sense that it gave him a position of strength and bought him time to properly implement his plans. Yesterday's defeat might turn out to be just as useful, in demonstrating to those within the club, and in the stands, the exact gravity of his task.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Chelsea fan who has lived thirty five years in the North West of England, the sight of so many faces mirroring the colour of their replica shirts as their blood pressure goes up another notch with every Chelsea win is bliss...pure bliss.

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