By Simon Meakin
Simon Meakin reflects on a sombre couple of weeks for the Reds, but looks ahead to this weekend’s game against the Cherries, with positivity and a few fruit based gags.
There is an unusually sombre tone to this week’s review. Black clothes have been donned and heads bowed in mourning. Somewhere in the distance, a church bell rings amongst much wailing and crying (I’m imagining a scene in an old Italian village in a film by Fellini or one of the old Italian masters here – not that I’ve actually seen any Fellini films, unless he did Ghostbusters?).
Yes Liverpool are officially having their first blip of the season with three defeats in the last four games (and the one win being a very scraggy one and mostly thanks to Fabianski having a blip or two of his own). It’s actually come as a bit of a shock to lose some football matches. It’s like a throwback to the old days (2018 – so long ago that Theresa May was still Prime Minister and Ed Sheeran was in the charts) when we used to lose football matches several times a season. This might be what it must feel like supporting any other football club. I’m not sure I like it.
Our treble dreams are over, our Champions League hopes are in the balance and our 22 point lead in the league has suddenly been whittled down to, er, 22 points having played a game more. So it’s time to stop the rot (and at the same time hopefully set a new top flight record of 22 consecutive home wins – which does indicate that it’s perhaps not the biggest lot of rot that ever needed stopping).
So, maybe it’s timely that Bournemouth are next up. A team that we’ve never lost to at Anfield and checking back through the record books have only ever failed to beat at home once (a 2-2 draw thanks to a late Josh King equaliser, apparently, although I can’t say it rings many bells).
We haven’t exactly played Bournemouth that many times to be fair so that unbeaten home run doesn’t exactly rank that highly in our glittering list of achievements (did you know we’ve also won six European Cups for example?). Which does also mean that I don’t have a huge amount of famous games against them to reminisce about. Nor can I wax lyrical about childhood memories of the Cherries, which turned out to be a complete load of cobblers when I’ve checked back.
Although mentioning their nickname has set me off thinking about whether they’re the only football club (nick)named after fruit? There is, to my knowledge, no football club nicknamed the Bananas, the Pineapples or the Melons. Cue Benny Hill type fnar fnar at the mention of melons as that is of course one of about thirty thousand nicknames for ladies bosoms in the English language. I mention that purely so I can reference the old Jasper Carrott sketch where he simply unleashes a stream of euphemisms for various rude bits. I tried (in vain) to find it, just so I could hear him say ‘leading the llama down the lift shaft,’ in a Brummie accent – surely the best description of the act of luurrve ever? (Beats Barry White any day).
Blackpool are nicknamed the Tangerines, but I think that’s more to do with the colour than the fruit. Quite why, when ‘Right chaps – what shall we call ourselves?’ came up as agenda Item 5 at some board meeting, they decided to go down the fruit-based avenue would be best, is anyone’s guess, never mind the fact that they then decided to go for the one that’s always the worst one on any fruit machine? Where they looking to recreate the sudden fleeting rush of excitement of getting three cherries, only for it to immediately turn to disappointment as you realise that you’ve only won 20p?
Bournemouth also happen to be the only Premier League club I’ve never seen Liverpool beat, or indeed play (although I’ll hopefully be putting that right on Saturday). So, sadly I have no amusing first hand anecdotes to share. My main memory is of that time a few years BVD (Before Van Dijk) when no lead was too great that we couldn’t chuck it away and turn 3-1 up and cruising with 15 minutes to go into a 4-3 defeat. Although looking at the team sheet from that day, Clyne and Lovren appear to be the only actual defenders in the team. So lord knows what formation we were playing.
Lallana was the only sub used and looking at the rest of the bench you realise how far we’ve come in the last few years. Moreno, Klavan, Woodburn, Ejaria and some unknown 18 year old by the name of Trent Alexander Arnold, who was still 10 days away from his Premier League debut. Whatever became of him?
On a more positive note, my favourite memory (and if I’m being honest my only other memory) is of Salah’s goal against them at the Vitality Stadium last year when he managed to leave half the Bournemouth side dumped unceremoniously on their backsides (almost my favourite goal of last season, but just pipped to the post by the same player’s exocet missile against Chelsea).
Salah seems to love playing against Bournemouth, having hit seven goals in five games and never failing to score against them (unless he made one of his ultra-rare appearances in a Chelsea shirt against them). So I’m banking on him to silence the clanging chimes of doom, apply a coat of top notch rot-stopper and lead us back to the sunlit uplands of winning lots of football matches by leading their defence a merry dance again, bagging a couple more for his collection in a vibrant much improved performance for the Reds. Cherries squashed (maybe into some sort of yogurt or jam). a 3-0 win with Firmino getting the other one.
That will set us up nicely for another big European night at Anfield, where Klopp sticks his 10p into the machine gets three bells and hits the jackpot. £4, a place in the quarter finals and a little Monday night trip to our old friends from Walton to look forward to.