Liverpool vs Brighton: Lady luck, black cats and Kloppmobiles

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By Simon Meakin

Since my last blog, we’ve kept our long unbeaten Premier League run (and our long unbeaten run against City at Anfield) going in ultimately magnificent style last week. Although, it has to be said we rode our luck a bit early on. And, I’m trying to remember whether there is some sort of grammatical rule about the maximum number of sets of brackets allowed in a single sentence – (I’m not sure my old English teacher “Hipster” Hothersall would be approving of this).

Salah’s goal in particular was fabulous, evoking memories of the goal my Dad used to rave about above all others in the 1970’s, Terry McDermott’s famous header in the 7-0 demolition of Spurs.  Watching it again it’s amazing how similar they are.  For David Johnson’s raking crossfield ball and Heighway’s sublime cross just insert Trent and Robbo.  It’s the first thing that came up when I typed Terry Mc into YouTube. 

I didn’t even type the “Dermott”.  Although I clearly needed to include the “c” as disgracefully when I only typed Terry M he’s shunted down to third place behind a bloke playing Boogie Woogie piano at St Pancras station and some sort of American TV Evangelists with what appeared to be the world’s worst Irish accent (despite coming from Dallas).  Neither of this pair of jokers I wager ever even managed to get on to the subs bench v Spurs.

Crucially, we followed the City win up by somehow dredging up yet another win against the odds at Palace.  I’m not sure what the opposite of running over a black cat is but I’m sure Klopp must have done it recently.  Maybe he found a squashed black cat in the road while out cruising the streets of Formby in the Kloppmobile (most likely with the windows rolled down, Wayfarers on and listening to “Summertime” by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince while on the way to Waitrose) and took it to the vet? 

Whatever it is, Lady Luck seems to be smiling on us.  The old adage says that winning while not playing well is the true sign of champions, but I’m fairly sure that champions also manage quite a lot of winning while playing well too. It seems ironic that the only team we seem to have beaten relatively comfortably in the last couple of months has been City themselves. 

And, given the insane schedule we’ve got coming up in the next month, the lads could surely do with a few more relaxing, less emotionally draining wins (the sort where Van Djik can slap on a face mask and some cucumber over his eyes, put a big towel on his head and whack on some whale music with twenty minutes to go).

I’m hoping that Brighton will be one of those games.  I couldn’t write this preview without commenting upon what was obviously the most exciting fact about Brighton growing up in the 1980’s.  The fact it had a nudist beach!   When it was announced that it was opening it was the most mind bogglingly exciting thing my schoolboy mind had ever heard of.  I immediately set about trying to figure out how to suggest a family holiday to Brighton and then to somehow “accidentally” chance upon the Swedish women’s beach volleyball team, who would just happen to have chosen the very same day to forsake Malmo for team practice right next to our deck chairs. 

It wasn’t until many years later when living in Sydney, that I did finally get the chance to stumble unexpectedly onto a nudist beach (on more than one occasion in fact) only to discover that your average nudist turned out to be a lot more old, male and wrinkly than in my fevered teenage dreams.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog I’m also a Hereford fan and the mere mention of Brighton brings back painful memories of the crucial do or die match on the last day of the season in 1997, when the loser would go crashing out of the Football League into Conference oblivion.  I missed the game as I was in Australia at the time.  Specifically, I was visiting a German speaking village outside of Adelaide (I’d taken a day off from tracking down naked men on nudist beaches). Instead of finding an Oompah band and lots of thigh slapping Bavarians, or even a young Jurgen Klopp cruising around rescuing black cats, I somehow managed to find a pub full of Brighton fans. 

This being back in the dark ages, I also had to try and follow the game on the BBC World Service in the middle of the night.  A World Service which incorrectly kept telling me that Hereford were winning until after the final whistle. I have to apologise to the poor German girl who woke up in alarm thinking Adelaide was suffering an earthquake following my string of expletives when I finally found out we’d gone down.

I’d like to think it was some sort of Sliding Doors moment where had the World Service been right, I’d now be faced with split loyalties as Hereford were preparing for their visit to Anfield and it would be Brighton who were looking forward to the visit of Farsley Celtic.  Gwyneth Paltrow would be playing the role of the Farsley coach driver trying to work out quite why she’s faced with a fifteen hour round trip to the south coast in the National League North.

I do have happier memories of a Brighton game when I was at Anfield on the last day of the season a couple of seasons ago.  A 4-0 walk in the park in glorious sunshine with Mo Salah scoring his 32nd goal of the season to set a new Premier League scoring record (for a 38 game season before you start writing in to correct me Mr Alan Shearer).  And Mo Salah’s daughter becoming surely the youngest person ever to score at the Kop end.  Checking back it also turns out that Dominic Solanke scored what, remarkably for a player we managed to sell for £17m on the basis that he was a striker, still appears to be his only ever goal in English football.

Anyway.  On to my match prediction.  Liverpool to repeat the scoreline of a couple of years ago and win 4-0, finally keeping a clean sheet at Anfield. Two goals from a fit again Salah, one for Firmino and Harvey Elliott puts down his copy of the Beano to come off the bench to break Mo Salah’s daughter’s record as youngest ever goalscorer at the Kop end. 

Jordan Henderson will be so relaxed he has time for a facial, a deep tissue massage and some boiled beetroot soup.  Klopp cruises home a happy man listening to Warren G on his in-car sound system and imagining he’s in South Central Blundellsands.

Liverpool versus Tottenham: Low Blocks, Split Strikers and Wagon Wheels

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By Simon Meakin

Simon Meakin returns to preview this Sunday’s clash with Spurs, gloat about getting the Leicester result spot on and deliver his verdict on this weekend’s result. As ever, it is a match preview like no other.

So we’ve dropped the first points of the season. On the glass half full side, we maintained our unbeaten start to the season (and we’re now 26 league games unbeaten since January). And, we demonstrated yet again that we simply won’t lie down and accept defeat with another late goal (and I’m delighted for Adam Lallana too. After all, he has been through injury-wise over the last few years), and once we equalised there was only one team who even looked remotely like they could win it (how often could we have said that about a visit to Old Trafford). Of course, we also denied United two crucial points in their relegation battle. Could be telling in May that!

But. But. But. There’s no getting away from the fact we were very poor for most of
the game, against a very average side. I’m not sure what kind of wheel Ole is
supposed to be at, but looking at United’s performances so far this season my best
guess is a Wagon Wheel (you knew it was always a good school lunchtime when you
opened your lunch box and found one of those circular chocolate treats within).

But, it is slightly worrying that we produced our worst performance since last time we
visited Old Trafford. Do we have some sort of mental block about playing there?
Scarred by too many defeats in the Fergie era? In a way it might be better if the
answer was yes, given we don’t have to play there again this season. But we’re still
six points clear at the top so any complaints can probably be filed away under “first
world” problems for now. Incidentally does anyone actually know where the second
world is? It never seems to make the news so I can only assume it lacks a decent
publicist (you know the sort of chap who tells it to don a Chelsea shirt and start
sucking someone’s toes just to get a mention after the Giant Pandas failing to mate
again on John Craven’s Newsround).

Before we move on to the Spurs game I’d also just like to put in a big shout to me
and my Leicester prediction. Not only did I get the result right, not only did I get the
score bang on, I even correctly predicted our winning goalscorer and the scorer of
Leicester’s consolation goal. I haven’t been in the club shop of late but given how on
fire I was with last week’s predictions (yes I know it was actually three weeks) it
wouldn’t surprise me if a whole range of ‘Big Red Combine Harvester’ memorabilia
hasn’t already been rolled out. For any new readers (for example I’d imagine Eric
Dier is likely to be reading this looking for red hot tactical insights ahead of Sunday’s
game – and let me say Eric, you’ve come to exactly the right place) please refer back
to my previous blog entry.

On to Spurs then (finally says Eric). This is the club who in my youth epitomised the term “Fancy Dan”. They had Ricky Villa, who sported the kind of revolutionary beard that could singlehandedly bring down fascist juntas, Glen Hoddle who rebelliously wore his shirt so untucked from his shorts, he almost looked like a particularly hefty member
of Pan’s People wearing a mini-skirt on Top of the Pops circa 1970, Ossie Ardiles – who
famously adopted the role of happy, clueless Manuel out of Fawlty Towers foreigner mispronouncing “Tottingham” on Top of the Pops, and Steve Archibald, who slightly less famously achieved the rare feat of appearing with two separate acts on Top of the Pops on the same night. He sang with both Tottenham and the Scotland World Cup squad – yes do not adjust your sets younger readers – Scotland once used to have enough good players (mostly ours it has to be said) to actually qualify for things (Christ knows what Yazoo and Altered Images or whoever else was appearing on that episode thought was going on). Oh, and Garth Crooks.

As a child, I have to admit I had a sneaky pang of jealousy at their Fancy Dan ways. Especially when compared to our slightly dour, get a goal and then let Hansen and Lawrenson pass it round the back for an hour approach (I may be slightly exaggerating for effect here). But, on the other hand, as a child I also got a lot of joy from the fact we used to win everything all the time as well. So, swings and roundabouts.

Returning to Steve Archibald, his other main claim to fame was that when Terry Venables took over as Barcelona manager he decided it would be a good idea if the first thing he did was to flog Diego Maradona to Napoli and replace him with Archibald.

For those younger readers still reeling from my explosive Scotland revelations this was the equivalent of selling Messi and replacing him with Danny Ings. Even more astonishingly ‘El Tel’ and Archibald then proceeded to win what was – at that time – Barcelona’s second title in a quarter of a century (the only other time being in 1974, when having just signed Cruyff from under the noses of Real Madrid. Allegedly, Cruyff refused to sign for Madrid due to their associations with fascist General Franco. Barcelona then famously went to the Bernabeu and dismantled Real 0-5 with Cruyff putting on a Total Football masterclass. So, there you have it. Steve Archibald. Better than Maradona. As good as Cruyff.

Right, now that Dier will have given up trying to follow this and gone off to look at Jan
Vertonghen’s wife’s Instragram account instead, it’s time to move on to the modern
day Spurs. Having moved from Fancy Dan, through to “Spursy,” to actually being
quite good – they now appear to be going through a mini-crisis (but at least have the
advantage of the media being a bit distracted by Man U having a bigger one). I thought I’d look back to the last time we played this lot. And after racking my brains for a while, it came back to me.

Oh yes! It was when we became Champions of Europe! For the sixth time! Has anyone mentioned this little known fact since? I believe we should put it out there (and not using the second world’s useless publicist. No. I’m thinking more like Kenny Everett’s Brother Lee Love and his enormous hands!). “We’ve conquered all of Europe. We’re never going to stop” “We’re the greatest team in Europe and we’re off to Auntie Bee’s!” (Sorry. That’s what I always sing to my son when we’re off to visit his Aunt. Who’s called Bee.

I’d like to think that’s what sealed the deal re him becoming a Liverpool fan. Even though I haven’t really explained the Rome 77 stuff and he therefore hasn’t got a clue why I’m singing it). Anyway, calming down after that moment of excitement, on to the match.

Having failed to turn up against Crisis Team A, I’m feeling a backlash in my bones, and a convincing performance against Crisis Team B. I’m going with 4-1 to the Red Men. Two goals and a man of the match winning performance from Bobby, a goal from Mane and an own-goal from Dier – who will have been thoroughly bamboozled by my talk of low blocks, split strikers and wagon wheels.

I’m predicting that Harry Kane will fall over, win and then score a penalty. So, it’s another week at number one for Klopp’s People, Ole dropping out of the top 40 entirely and Clare Grogan having to chase Steve Archibald out of her dressing room, after discovering him wearing nothing but a Womble costume!

Van Dijk, shotguns and flat caps: Can the ‘Big Red Combine Harvester’ keep chugging along?

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By Simon Meakin

Liverpool face Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City this weekend. Can Klopp’s Reds continue their impressive run? Simon Meakin takes us on a meandering run through Saturday’s big match, with the usual detours along the way.

So, the Red Machine keeps chug chug chug chug chugging along (borrowing the lyrics from the well known ditty “Big Red Combine Harvester,” as sung by my son at nursery school).  It was one of my favourites of his nursery songs along with one about being a pirate in the Irish Sea (whether this was of the Redbeard Rum type or Somali Pirates trying to hijack the Isle of Man ferry was never specified). 

But I’m now thinking that “Big Red Combine Harvester” is a football club nickname in waiting, and there is no reason why Liverpool shouldn’t claim it (better than trying to copyright the name of the entire City anyway).  As far as I’m aware no-one has ever clarified what type of Red Machine we are meant to be – internal combustion engine? Japanese Bullet Train? Toaster? So, I’m going to be the first. 

Is it the perfect metaphor for Henderson and Wijnaldum threshing in midfield? Do combine harvesters thresh?  What is threshing? Or, is it Mane, Salah and Firmino combining up front with Van Djik sporting a flat cap and threatening people with his shotgun, telling them to “get orf my land?” 

Now that I’ve sorted our new marketing strategy (in your face Ed Woodward and your noodle partners) back to the football.  We’ve had two really tough, battling away wins since our last home game and probably ridden our luck a bit at times so hopefully a return to Anfield will mean a return to the sort of champagne football that Firmino delivered from the bench against Newcastle. 

But it’s not going to be easy against Leicester.  They are looking well placed for a shot at a top four finish partly due to the current inadequacies of most of the traditional “Big Six”.  And, Leicester have form in this area, taking advantage of the inadequacies of all the Big Six to famously win the league only four seasons ago.

Looking back it seems even more dreamlike that they actually did that.  No outsider has even come close to breaking into the top four since.  For years beforehand I’d been willing a small team to actually break the monopoly (or should that be sexopoly?  I’m now wondering what I’d find if I googled ‘sexopoly’?) of the same teams always qualifying for the Champions League. But none ever seemed to be able to manage the consistency to actually do so.

Rumour has it David Moyes still sends Collina Christmas cards

There is the exception of Everton, who forced us to go and win ‘old big ears’ in Istanbul, by qualifying for the Champions League themselves. Only for them to make an unholy mess of their one shot at glory.  Then there was a period when Charlton, of all clubs, used to make an unlikely annual bid for the top four only to fall to pieces every February.  And then Leicester not only did that, they went and won the bloody league. 

The visit of Leicester also means the return of Brendan Rodgers to Anfield for the first time since his unceremonious sacking. Actually, I’ve no idea whether it was unceremonious or not to be honest. Given it wasn’t actually me who fired him. It just seems to be the law that you have to use that word to describe sackings but nothing else. It’s a bit like how a bottle of red wine always had to be described as a ‘decent red’ – usually in relation to Alex Ferguson’s post match routine, when it was seen as an affront to the ‘great man’ if the opposing manager failed to turn up to his office post-match with said decent red. 

Is Klopp tall? Or, are we all just small?

I’m not quite clear what ever became of those managers who dared show up with some white wine (why do you never hear of a decent white?), a couple of G&T’s or a few cans of Lidl own-brand scrumpy (Ian Holloway I’m looking at you).

I’ve no idea whether Brendan used to turn up with anything (I’d imagine if he did it would have an umbrella in it). But I’ve always felt he has never got the credit he deserved from Reds fans.  Whether it’s because he took over from St Kenny, some of the pseudo- psychobabble he used to come out with in interviews. Or, is it because he is short and Klopp is tall? Is there a psychological caveman type thing subconsciously going on here? Or am I talking pseudo psychobabble bollocks?

Does this mean I should apply for the Leicester job, maybe? I don’t know.  But he took what was arguably the worst performing Liverpool side in 50 years (yes I know we got to two cup finals but points wise it was the worst season since we got relegated in the 1950’s, and the football was bloody awful at times. Within two years had taken us to an ace of the title.  There was an immediate improvement in the likes of Henderson and Stewart Downing (remember him?). 

That’s the mark of a good manager.  It’s not just about who you sign.  It’s the improvements you make to the players you do sign (or inherit).  This is an area where Klopp has been superb, Ferguson (grrrr) and his bottles of Rioja used to excel, and one of many areas where our chums from down the M62 seem to have lost their way in recent years.

So basically I think I’m saying this is going to be a tough one.  Leicester were after all the only team, bar Man City themselves, to take a point from Anfield last season.  So Big Red Combined Harvester 2 Leicester 1.  Firmino and Milner to score, Maddison (a player I’d be very happy if we signed) to get their goal and Klopp having to fend off awkward allegations about his sheepdog running amok savaging the local livestock down Anfield Road, in his post match interview.  . 

Liverpool vs Newcastle: Proroguing the Premier League, Syd Puddefoot’s record fee and Steve Bruce is not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy

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Newcastle have broken an age-old Geordie tradition, by not appointing a Messiah

By Simon Meakin

Simon Meakin returns with his completely unique take on this weekend’s clash with Newcastle United.

It seems like an age since the previous preview, thanks to the International break.  Normally, this is where having a second team to support usually comes in handy to get my fix of league action.  This was foiled by Hereford surely setting a new world record for worst team ever to have to call a match off due to multiple international call-ups. 

Not content with cornering the market in St Kitts and Nevis players, in the hope they’ll be the new Belgium, they had a guy who didn’t even get the chance to come off the bench and kick Shaqiri on behalf of Gibraltar.  Although, checking the line-ups, ‘Big Shaq’ didn’t even manage to get on the Swiss bench in the first place (resist joke about him just being hidden behind some Micky Droy sized centre back or sitting under the bench) so I’m now wondering whether we’ve sustained yet another injury on international duty

Anyway the league finally returns and things are going pretty swimmingly so far.  Still top of the league, still with a 100% record and having defeated our first top six rival with ease.  If we beat Newcastle on Saturday that will be our 14th straight league win. 

To put that into context, in a century or so of trying, no team in the top four divisions had ever won more matches in a row, until Pep turned up.  It almost seems unfair that we won’t be able to count most of them this season purely on the basis that they happened last term.  Bloody rules!  Can’t Klopp just go the Queen and prorogue the Premier League?

The Mogg family pretending they like soccer ball

Newcastle aren’t in a good place though.  Man City got owners that desperately wanted to plough billions of pounds into an English football club, in order to distract from a record of human rights abuses back home. They also managed to break the only rule of English grammar that never gets broken, by having a country that forgot to put a U after it’s Q. One of these things convinced Jacob Rees-Mogg to make his kids support Liverpool in protest – can you guess which one kids?. 

Newcastle, meanwhile, ended up with a bloke who searches his employees underpants when they leave work, in case they’re cunningly trying to make off with the stock by wearing it.  Sadly for Newcastle fans, he doesn’t seem to believe in ploughing billions of pounds into an English football club to distract from underpants searches.  And, so a club who remarkably became one of only two English clubs to break the world transfer record since the 1950’s with the signing of Shearer (the other one being United’s purchase of Pogba – har har. How’s that one working out then United fans?) now find themselves shopping in Poundland – relatively speaking of course.

This is the Premier League after all, and they have just signed a player from a shop that if you were being picky must have actually been called Forty Million Pound Land (where you can also presumably buy a bumper pack of eighty million Duracell batteries or an old DVD of Andy Townsend football bloopers).  Mind you, all of that is not half as remarkable as discovering that the world transfer market was once shattered by Falkirk of all clubs, when they bought the excellently named Syd Puddefoot.

Syd Puddefoot: record breaker

In terms of matches between the two teams it’s impossible to look any further than the pair of legendary 4-3’s in the 1990’s.  Great though both games undoubtedly were, they did highlight the notoriously soft centre that prevented the Roy Evans era team really doing justice to the undoubted talent they had. 

I was at the second match and while it was brilliant celebrating the last minute winner, I remember the sick feeling immediately beforehand when we appeared to be on the brink of blowing a 3-0 lead, thanks mainly to David James apparently hammering Super Mario Brothers the night before (not an excuse you ever heard Syd Puddefoot come out with I’d wager).  That game was part of the run-in in 97, when we had a golden opportunity to haul in a stuttering Man United. If only we displayed a bit more steel.  So, bitter-sweet memories there.

Newcastle are of course famous for pioneering the unique “Messiah” management structure.  Some clubs might plump for Directors of Football, Head Coaches, or just plain and simple Managers.  Yet every time Newcastle sack their manager (so quite regularly) there is am immediate demand to find a new Geordie Messiah. 

They even had two of them one year and promptly got themselves relegated.  Presumably the Board have to draw up an all Geordie shortlist containing Chris Waddle, Jimmy Nail, Cheryl Cole and at least one of Ant and Dec.  Why is this?  Bolton never put the call out for a new Boltonian Messiah when Big Sam left them.  Florentino Perez doesn’t go looking for a new Madrid Messiah every time he has to fire the Real manager for not winning the Champions League. 

To paraphrase Tom Baker’s sea captain in Blackadder (the brilliant Redbeard Rum) when asked whether it was usual practice not to have any crew –  “Opinion is divided on the matter!  All the other Chairman say you don’t need a Messiah.  I say you do!”

Which brings us to the match prediction.  So far I’ve got a 100% record in getting the winning margin right.  But 0% in terms of the score or pretty much any of the scorers.  Anyway, I’m thinking Newcastle being in a bit of a mess will be counteracted by the fact that their latest Messiah is actually a naughty boy called Steve Bruce, who has a very annoying record of generally avoiding getting beaten by us.  But not counteracted that much.  3-0 to the reds with a goal apiece from Mane, Firmino and Salah – I’m really trying to make sure I get at least one goalscorer right this time. Oh, and a 14th league win on the bounce too. 

Oh, and a message to Mike Ashley. You have a woman’s purse (which you never open).  I’ll wager you’ve never had sixteen shipwrecked mariners tossing in it!