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.
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.
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. .