By Simon Meakin
Another weekend, another home game and Simon Meakin is back to run the rule over a tricky clash between the Club World Champions and Wolves. Sit back and enjoy.
It is impossible to win the League by the day after Boxing Day! It is impossible to win the League by the day after Boxing Day! It is impossible to win the League by the day after Boxing Day! I need to keep telling myself this.
No matter how enormous our lead is, no matter how many times my non-Liverpool supporting friends tell me “it’s in the bag” and notwithstanding the fact that it was any other team this far ahead of us I would have given up hope by now. I am not calling it that we’ve won the league. What I am calling is that in my opinion this is the best Liverpool side I have ever seen. Going back forty years. Better than any of the title winning sides.
To go to our nearest title challengers a few days after arriving back from Qatar (possibly with a bit of Christmas dinner and some port and cigars in between) and to blow them away in their own back yard (where they had not lost all season remember) was simply imperious. And as for Trent he can be crowned player of the season now as far as I’m concerned.
Oh and did I mention Qatar? Aside from everything else I now have the privilege of previewing the world champions. It may be a glorified friendly to some but I’m delighted to have won the World Club Championship. It’s about the only trophy we’d never previously won after three failed attempts (under various different guises). OK we never won the Cup Winners Cup but that’s been an ex-Cup for more than 20 years.
I don’t ever want us to be in a position to win the Leyland DAF Cup (or whatever they call it these days) and I was never quite sure exactly what the Watney Cup was. Even more intriguingly I remember once reading a Rothman’s Football annual many moons ago (do they still exist? I assume that’s one more thing the Internet consigned to the dustbin along with the High Street, the Echo Pink Un’ being sold in the pub on a Saturday evening and quite possibly Razzle) that Chester once won the Debenhams Cup. I’ve never heard mention of this mysterious trophy before or since and no-one else ever seems to have won it or even played in it. Maybe it’s something that only came to me in a fevered dream? Or a mysterious artefact with great power that you only hear faint whispers about in certain bars in the Congo and can only be claimed by surviving a three day trek through the jungle, pits full of snakes and a large rolling ball shaped rock just the perfect size to fit in a smoothly contoured tunnel with no uphill bits or sharp corners?
Anyway good luck to Chester for managing to do all that. As for us, it’s on to the Wolves game. Another tricky fixture as this lot are no mugs, as they have just demonstrated. As well as doing the double over City they have beaten all the rest of the “Big Six” at least once since they got promoted, beaten our Under 12’s in the FA Cup and are closing in on a Champions League spot despite the supposed burden of playing in the Europa League with a small squad. We did win 2-0 at Molineux just before Christmas last season but Wolves were probably one of the best teams we played all season. That victory probably more than any other at that time gave me the belief that we really were the real deal.
What else of Wolves? They’ve got a famously distinctive kit (I like teams that have a kit no-one else has) and used to be quite good. A very long time ago. My ex-boss was a Wolves fan. I can remember him coming into the office in a state of great excitement one morning as for the first time in his life he had actually found someone who was a glory hunting Wolves fan (well someone’s Dad anyway). This guy was apparently in his nineties and had no connection with Wolverhampton but started supporting them in the 1950’s because they used to win everything. It might be hard to imagine for a Liverpool fan where half of Norway seem to support your club but for most clubs there is no such thing as a glory hunting fan (well bar Chester following their Debenhams Cup winning exploits obviously).
Wolves were also the second side I ever saw play at Anfield back in 1979. The Red Machine won 3-0 (same score as my first game against Norwich – I was still to endure the shock of us actually conceding a goal at this point) and the history books tell me it was through two goals from Dalglish and one from Ray Kennedy.
The opposition line-up included Crazy Horse himself, Emlyn Hughes and future Sky Sports Anchorman legend Andy Gray (Stay Classy Richard Keys!). And also, apparently, Geoffrey Palmer (what that Geoffrey Palmer? Did they also have Dame Judi Dench on the bench? (although Dench on the Bench – could be a good idea for a TV show – Dame Judi visits various parks, sits down and reminisces about the golden era of parks, while shouting at you to keep your ball off the grass, Choppers and white dog poo – up there with Monkey Tennis that one).
Anyway, despite this star studded Wolves line-up, the main thing I can remember was standing next to a woman who seemed to be covered head to toe in Alan Hansen badges and spent the entire match on the verge of hysteria screaming “Alan, Oh Alan” at the top of her voice every time Crazy Horse, or one of his hairy-arsed Wolves team-mates threatened to so much as slightly mess up Alan’s beautiful locks.
The other thing the history books tell me about the Liverpool line-up that day is that it was the the classic line-up I remember as a kid. The one I could recite in the school playground from 1 to 11 without blinking an eyelid. Because it was probably the same line-up as every single other week. None of this namby-pamby squad rotation, squad numbers up to 66, names on the back of shirts stuff.
At a push we’d bring David Fairclough or Sammy Lee off the bench. They were probably totally knackered by the end of the season (those team bonding sessions down the pub probably didn’t help either) but it didn’t matter because every other team was just as exhausted.
So on to the match then. I’m expecting this to be as tough a game as last season’s Christmas encounter. Yet another hard fought 2-1 with a bullet header from Van Djik to win it following a Mane equaliser late in the first half. That speedy Traore chap, thinking he’s still playing Man City, to put them ahead. Leaving us sitting pretty at the top of the table as the new decade beckons, Lords of all we survey. Even if I live to be 150 we will never, ever be this far ahead at the turn of the year again. Enjoy it while it lasts.