Fellini, Fruit Machines, Salah and Stopping the Rot


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.

Liverpool vs Watford: Gary Lineker’s crisps, Elton John’s dress and Roy Wood’s merry Christmas

By Simon Meakin

Liverpool get ready to host Watford at Anfield this weekend, so it’s time for another sideways look at the weekends game. Simon Meakin does not disappoint.

Okay.  Now we’re getting into dreamland territory.  A 14 point lead over City is, lets not beat about the bush here, HUGE.  No team has ever come from that far behind to win the League Title, apparently.  Although whether this is one of those 1992 was Football Year Zero, nothing that happened before the Premier League ever actually happened type of stats I’m not sure.  I also don’t know whether this factors in the days of two points for a win (you try overhauling a 14 point deficit when that means the team above you has to lose seven more games than you – or come up with an unfeasible amount of draws).  Referring back to my Man City blog post (or is that blogpost?  Where can I find a millennial, snowflake grammar pedant please?) how far back where we at Christmas in 1981? 

That was also an exceptionally cold winter, so it may be we had a few games in hand at that stage (in the days when top flight pitches didn’t resemble bowling greens and under-soil heating wasn’t de rigeur – I seem to remember the Baseball Ground in particular spent half the season resembling either the Mississippi Swamp-lands or the Siberian Tundra).  I was living in Shropshire at the time, where the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in England was broken twice in the space of six weeks. 

The memories of playing in defence against Wilfred Owen Primary School, wearing just a thin short-sleeved top in what was basically an away game in Narnia, is still burned into my brain (we lost 5-1 despite having Guardiola-esque levels of possession due to the fact that once they had broken our high press (or in less high-falutin’ terms, got over the half way line, they simply waltzed through our frozen solid back four).  Even the time I took an overnight coach through the Andes which no-one bothered to tell me effectively meant travelling in a mobile fridge-freezer on wheels and my coat and sleeping bag stuck in the luggage compartment didn’t come close.

Anyway, back to the game this weekend. We are at times playing some glorious football.  The goals against Everton were an absolute joy to behold (Okay, the Everton defence was also an absolute joy to behold from our point of view).  The ball from Trent, the ball from Lovren and Origi’s touch, Mane’s pass for the first.  And the fact that three days later we cruised past Bournemouth with virtually an entirely different front six. 

Unlike the past couple of seasons we’re also not so reliant on our usual front three.  The goals are coming from all over the place.  When Keita scored against Bournemouth it meant that every single outfield player who had played a minute of football (bar the Carabao Cup teams) had scored bar Joe Gomez (although Klopp then messed that stat up slightly by then sending Curtis Jones on who astonishingly somehow failed to score in the entire 14 minutes he was on).

I’m not writing Leicester off by the way, before Gary Lineker takes umbrage and throws crisps at me.  The Boxing Day game is shaping up to be massive.  Win that and the Holy Grail might possibly finally be in reach. 

But, before then we’ve the small matter of Watford to beat.  I make it sound like that’s all we’ve got to do.  I suppose there is also the small matter of becoming Champions of the World, while simultaneously making sure our Under 12’s take out John Terry and his Villa chums.  And all this after a trip to Salzburg when we did our usual leave it to the last game to actually qualify for the knock out stages. 

I have to admit, I had the sort of horrible feeling about that match that Han Solo had when they ended up in the Death Star sewage system with the walls closing in and tentacled things trying to drown them (I always wondered as a kid how they actually got out of there.  There didn’t seem to be a convenient set of steps).  Luckily Red Bull didn’t have a be-tentacled danger-man, so we are safely through.

Watford themselves are clearly struggling and – on paper – this looks to be the biggest home banker of the season.  Particularly given our last three home games against them have ended up 6-1, 5-0 and 5-0.  The first of those 5-0’s happened to be my son’s first ever visit to Anfield, at the age of 8, to watch Mo Salah run riot in the snow and bag four goals (it was the first time I’d ever seen someone score four at Anfield as well, and he goes and manages it in his first game). 

This all happened when the country was in the grip of the “Beast from the East” (insert your own joke about some big ugly centre forward from Norwich or Hull because I couldn’t come up with one). I’d never given it much thought before but it turns out the Kop faces North East.  I can safely say it was the coldest I have been at a football match this side of Wilfred Owen Junior School (although watching Hereford v Wigan in a fourth division match at the old Springfield Park – featuring future Everton managerial maestro Roberto Martinez with a full head of hair – runs it close). I basically missed the last twenty minutes desperately trying to massage my son’s legs to prevent a full on millennial snowflake meltdown (given he was the temperature of an actual snowflake at the time he would argue he had good grounds to be fair).

Watford of course famously came steaming up from the old fourth to the first division in double quick order under the guidance of everyone’s favourite England manager, the late Graham Taylor (a man who must wish he had been knocked out of the Euro’s by Norway, Luxembourg, Equatorial Guinea, or any team that didn’t sound a bit like a vegetable). At least Roy Hodgson did the sensible thing and got beaten by Iceland and no-one ever remembers that do they?.  And not forgetting the stardust supplied by their Chairman.  Ladies and Gentlemen Mr Elton John!  In my mind I always remembered Elton sporting ludicrously oversized comedy glasses in pretty much every picture of the pair of them together. But, a Google search shows that Elton disappointingly seems to be wearing quite sensible glasses (maybe picked up in a two for one offer at the Watford branch of Specsavers after blowing all his money on cocaine and Wilf Rostron). 

One of the funniest interviews I’ve ever read was of Elton in a music magazine a few years ago where, he supremely grumpily reflected on his ridiculous lifestyle in the 1970’s, which veered from drugs binges, to needing a full-on articulated lorry to deliver him to his own birthday party dressed as Marie-Antoinette. His dress had been the size of a hovercraft. Then there was the time he turned up at a match one Saturday to find the whole ground singing “Don’t sit down, while Elton’s around or you’ll get a penis up the a*se (the kind of chant that might possibly get clubs in a spot of hot water these days, and quite rightly so). 

Today’s chairmen have a lot to live up to really. Although, maybe, dressing up like Marie Antoinette and getting a boardroom full of Japanese Salary-men to sing about penises might help Ed Woodward seal the deal with Manchester United’s new avocado partner.

Time to sign off for Christmas with the match prediction.  A third consecutive 5-0 given we’ve finally remembered how to keep clean sheets.  Weather a bit more clement (possibly a light drizzle). Salah restricted to just the three this time, Keita to bag his third in three matches and a free kick from Trent.  The club head off to Qatar (I’ll stick my neck out and predict no Christmas snow there) to be crowned world champions (where I really hope we get to play New Caledonia’s finest Hienghene Sport – although I somehow doubt it) and I’m heading off to whack on some Roy Wood and Wizzard, knock back some Bailey’s and have a row with the in-laws.  Merry Christmas!