Friday, April 19, 2019

DISPATCHES FROM THE OTHER SIDE 20



Notes on the 2018-19 title race with a different perspective. Writing with (and about) the enemy. By Henry Jackson and Simon Curtis

And On and On It Goes



18th April 2019 It feels like an entire season has passed since we last spoke, such has been the drama on show.

Football, bloody hell.

As expected, City reaching the FA Cup final was about as obvious as my horse in the Grand National falling at the first fence. I genuinely forgot the match was even happening, which either says a lot about the competition itself these days, or just how dominant City are against the lesser teams.

If that was low-key, so much else that has happened has been unforgettable.
Twenty-four hours before City sauntered past the Seagulls I was an emotional wreck once more. Having required a fluke of an own goal to get past Tottenham the previous weekend, the trip to Southampton was proving an equally galling experience. Shane Long scoring seemed entirely predictable - he scores once every five years and it’s always against Liverpool - and a raucous St Mary’s was loving the thought of ending their opponents’ title hopes.

Then Naby Keita popped up with one of those goals you don’t know has gone in, due in part to an initial lack of celebration and iffy commentary from the increasingly poor Martin Tyler. Relief. As the minutes passed, Jurgen Klopp turned to two of his most trusted generals in Jordan Henderson and James Milner - two men who have to put up with morons calling them the ‘Brexit Midfield’, and whose absence from the starting line-up had been celebrated. Some fans don’t deserve them.

The duo turned the game on its head, particularly Henderson, and both and he Mo Salah’s goal celebrations were the best of the season (so far). The win felt huge. A routine victory over Porto followed - I’m suddenly getting used to routine wins, which has not been a part of Liverpool’s vocabulary for many years now - while City toiled at Tottenham. It still felt like Pep Guardiola’s men were favourites to progress, though.

I hadn’t seen that game pan out because it was played at the same time as Liverpool, but a lack of a City away goal surprised me, as did Ederson’s sloppy error. Is he actually THAT great? Am I just being knee-jerk?

Focus was swiftly back on the Premier League in no time, and what I would consider City’s first test in what felt like a year. I was foolish to expect another present from Roy Hodgson, however, as his Crystal Palace side insipidly lay down and allowed City to cruise through proceedings. When were they last even in third gear in a league game?
Job done for City at Selhurst Park. Photo: Mike Hammond

Luka Milivojevic’s goal back did at least test the champions’ resolve briefly, but their game management was superb late on. It was a case of “over to you, Liverpool” yet again at the final whistle. Christ almighty! Again?

This time it was Chelsea hoping to end the dream and I was terrified at the thought of Eden Hazard taking to the Anfield turf, such is his penchant for turning into Lionel Messi there. But Liverpool got the job done in a match with immense pressure on them once more, in a game they would not have won in years gone by. Henderson was again influential - what an incredible boost it has been using him higher up the pitch - and Sadio Mane and Salah did the business in front of goal.

I say in front of goal, but Salah was virtually standing inside Goodison Park when he hit that shot, the bloody one-season wonder! That result will have hurt City, I know it will. So will the Southampton game. And mentally hurting your closest rivals is essential in any title race, as I have experienced so often the other way round, from Freddie Ljungberg to Federico Macheda.

As you were, then, in the title race, to semi-quote a City-supporting hero of mine. If City have been serene in the league, Liverpool have been exactly that in the Champions League knockout stages, and their 4-1 win in Porto came despite not even playing well. It was almost embarrassingly easy, barring an early burst from the hosts. This is the best Liverpool team I have ever seen. I keep telling myself that so not to take this all for granted. Trophies or no trophies this season, they’re a joy, and they are only getting better The ease at which the Reds were progressing meant I had more than an eye on the City-Spurs game, as the most remarkable opening 20 minutes unfolded. Another Ederson mistake?

It was mind-blowing football from both sides, barring David Silva, whose form seems to have fallen off a cliff. What has happened there? Before Christmas he was being spoken of as possibly the best foreign player in Premier League history - great player, but that’s a stretch - but now City look like they would be better off without him in the side.

What occurred in those dying moments at the Etihad summed up why we love and hate football in equal measure. For Spurs fans it would have been one of the most exhilarating moments in their history, while for City it was the opposite of that Sergio Aguero goal in 2012 - a goal I celebrated wildly, incidentally

It was cruel and it was also funny. I don’t hate City in the slightest, in fact I barely even dislike them, but the tribalism that exists in the current game makes it impossible not to laugh when it happens to a team that has so much to shout about. As a pessimist, I am now deeply concerned about the impact that defeat is going to have on the title race, though.

For starters, I have almost written off Saturday’s mirror image fixture at the Etihad, such is the fatigue Spurs will be suffering from and how revved-up City will be. Guardiola will not allow anything other than a huge performance and I predict a very comfortable win and some angry, determined post-match celebrations.

This team is far too special to slink away into the bushes and never return this season - Liverpool’s Champions League chances have been greatly enhanced, but their title dream has been damaged. Many will disagree, but I’ll be the one saying “I told you so” next month. Either that or I’ll be the drunken, incorrect lunatic who can’t speak because Liverpool have been crowned champions and I’ve been in town for days on end. The Reds have Cardiff on Sunday, with Neil Warnock still holding a grudge because Rafa Benitez once rested players at Fulham before a Champions League final, which helped get his Sheffield United team relegated. Could do without out it, if I’m honest. Sick of pre-match narratives.

He will be revelling at the thought of damaging Liverpool’s title chances, as well as trying to pull off a miraculous escape act, of course. It should be an away win - if it isn’t, Klopp’s men don’t merit being champions, quite frankly. We will reconvene on here after next Wednesday’s Manchester derby, which I am equally convinced will end in three points for City, with Man United both not good enough and likely to not be quite as up for it as usual, shall we say.

You’re not kidding me, lads, there’s no way you’re going to give it your all when Liverpool are hovering so ominously waiting to swoop. Prove me wrong!

 Henry Jackson


18th April 2019 –  “Please be ‘Spursy’, Spurs”, my co-correspondent had implored last time out. He was talking before the Liverpool-Spurs game not the Champions League couplet City and Spurs have just enjoyed, but all in all, I thjnk we can safely say Spurs were about as Spursy as can be, losing coquettishly at Anfield after looking like winning, beating City strongly in their home Champions League game, then somehow surviving that tumultuous night at the Etihad that some of us are still recovering from.

I have again been watching Liverpool very closely for cracks. Psychological, architectural, physical, any kind of fissure will do. After a while you becomea kind of, let’s call it what it is, “expert”. Is Van Dijk limping? Klopp looks worried or is it me? Origi’s coming on!  Ian Rush looks like he’s wet himself …..
Every time I think I see one, a crack in Liverpool’s armour, someone – Henderson, Mane, that little goblin Salah turns up with a mortar board, an implement for applying putty and a dollop of said paste and covers the bloody thing over. Hey presto, no cracks!

It is clearly long past a joke.

If Tottenham was painful to watch, with Sissoko’s immaculate brainfart in front of goal and Lloris’ joke goalkeeping, Southampton also provided hope, only for it to be snatched away. Character aplenty from Liverpool but a slightly soft underbelly that keeps getting them into sticky situations in the first place.

The same thing seemed to be happening in the home game with Chelsea, where Hazard prompted and probed and Chelsea went about their business in a cautious but solid enough fashion. Then, bang, two goals in a flash, one from Salah that appeared to be hit from the far side of the moon and Chelsea were gone, sunk, trampled down.

Punch drunk, the Londoners rallied.

Still they had time to hit the post and miss a presentable chance (both at the foot of Hazard). Once those two had passed without incident, Liverpool could play out the game calmly and appropriately for all present. Porto on the European front provided almost as few problems as they had the year before, the Portuguese fizzing an early chance just over in the return leg and then being caught out by the quick break, quick thinking, decisive football that has typified Liverpool’s season.

And now we must trust in Neil Warnock, of all people. I have to say (and I have to think it, in order to keep what is left of my sanity) that perhaps the slip will come in one of the bankers. Perhaps we have been looking in the wrong place all this time, just like Mrs Marple. Cardiff have been playing reasonably well of late, got no change from a good performance against Chelsea and were hard done by at Turf Moor too. Their win at Brighton showed guts and character aplenty and sets up this weekend’s home game with Liverpool quite nicely. It is of course the hope that kills you.

City, meanwhile, are forced to look into the eyes of those Tottenham players once more. What they see there will tell them what comes next: glassy-eyed tiredness? The bloodshot orbs of libidinous over-celebration? The glint of cocky one-upmanship? And when Spurs can focus after all this merriment and carnage, what on earth will they see in Mancunian eyes?

City’s season stands, still stands, on the edge of greatness. Winning their last six games of the season will mean securing an unprecedented treble of League Cup, FA Cup and Premier League. You can throw in the Community Shield – as we always used to, but are snorted at if we do it these days – to make it four, if you are brave. City won their last six/five league games in each of the title winning seasons of 2012 and 2014. Last season, five of the last six were won, despite no need to do so.

Can we now expect a solemn bout of righteous indignation from these City players, removed so cruelly from European competition? Should Liverpool fear what comes next, or hope for more slip-ups against the same Tottenham team that ruined the unreachable dream?

Only it cannot be the same Tottenham team. The energy it took to lose 4-3 on Wednesday will have flushed them out as completely as a tanker load of high octane laxative. The elation of what they achieved will have dulled the senses. If City can channel their anger, all should be well. As I was saying, it’s the hope that kills you.

The midweek shenanigans only serve to leave both clubs juggling an unwieldy dilemma. Liverpool now have the extra games to play, not City. And they must play them against Messi’s Barcelona. That will take a gargantuan physical and mental effort and may well be to no avail. Where does that leave Klopp’s men? City meanwhile are still walking the same tightrope as before. Drop a point, any point, in any game, and risk handing a crucial advantage to Liverpool. With Tottenham and United next, plus a tricky-looking trip to Burnley, the pressure’s on. Keep your cool and manage the games like you did at Selhurst Park, serene, smooth and successful, and the future is yours. Panic like you did in the Champions League and the roof comes in again. Only Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool, United and Chelsea have completed the double in modern times. Only United have done more than that, adding the Champions League to the double in 1999, at a time when City were heaving themselves past Gillingham to climb out of the third tier. No club has ever won all three domestic trophies (four if you etc etc…) in the same season. The secret for City and for Guardiola, busy choosing the right words of encouragement, is to forget as swiftly as possible last Wednesday night and focus on the glittering prizes and the place in the history books that await the brave and the nerveless.  

-       Simon Curtis


Thursday, April 4, 2019

THE ROCK-STREWN ROAD TO DAMNATION

It might be time for a few people to make their mind up about Manchester City and its fans.

I will first own up to a slight bias. I have followed the club since the mid-70s, through thin times and thinner times right through to times so thin, if they stood sideways on, you wouldn't have noticed them at all. Home defeats to Port Vale and Bury, away embarrassments at Stockport and Crewe that it is no longer particularly cool to mention.

There's a joke about how many City fans claim to have been at York, for a third division fixture that also went tits up (everything went tits up between 1995 and the turn of the century). If you're a serious Blue these days, you don't mention these games in earnest. They are a self-perpetuating joke, buried deep and out of the way, because we have moved on from that.

We don't want to be seen to be harking on about Macclesfield's muddy meadows and Lincoln's abysmal away end, for fear of it looking like a badge of honour, the grim sacrifice we made. There's the ripped up season ticket book thrown at manager Frank Clark during the home defeat to Bury. The gallows humour as we beat Stoke 5-2 on their own patch, but still descended to the third tier of professional football because Port Vale and Portsmouth had both managed improbable away wins. There were the Ipswich fans (Ipswich fans!) with the sheet stating "You are the weakest link. Goodbye." as we dropped again. Ipswich, I ask you. And now there are Huddersfield and Burnley fans, whose grounds we packed out in the 80s and 90s, when times were bad, with away followings as big as anything the locals had seen, asking "where were we when we were shit?". Not a hint of irony. Not one hint.  

But what exactly have we moved on to?

I can well remember the not so long ago day when almost every neutral harboured a soft spot for City, a soft focus version of the calamity that is the modern Newcastle United: dreadful owner, terrible buys, players who couldn't care less and results that made your hair fall out. Only Newcastle are still in there, just about, still top division, still competing in a flabby sort of way. City descended from the top flight in truly ignominious circumstances, blown southwards after protecting a 2-2 draw with Liverpool that served for nothing at all, bar relegation. The then manager Alan Ball, a small man with a squeaky voice who was almost totally side-tracked by an obsession for himself in an England 1966 World Cup shirt, continued a putrefaction that had set in years before. If fish rot from the head, City had been smelling a bit off from the seventies onwards, when Peter Swales, an Altrincham lothario sporting Cuban heels and combover, took control of the board in a low key coup d'etat.

Swales was a kind of electrical goods tsar from the southern suburbs. He had City at heart, but he was yet another Man in Football, who was extremely busy misjudging his own self-importance.

City's travails after this are well documented. Painful, colourful, blurred but ultimately with a happy ending. We all have the bruises to prove it. The happy ending sees the club in the fortuitous position of having been bought out by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. If you had mentioned this as a likelihood in the Parkside Pub in the nineties, you would have found yourself airborne without a window being opened first to allow free passage to the great Moss Side outdoors. It was a surreal development to the point of melting clocks bearing the face of Barry Conlon.

Things have trundled along pretty well since then. City's FA Cup semi-final date with Brighton at Wembley this weekend will be their 16th in the last nine years. And herein lies a bit of a problem.

Suddenly these things of beauty and charm that used to be so far from our reach that we could only dream what they might be like, are appearing at the rate of at least one a season. The Manchester City of Neil Heaney and Barry Silkman, of Phil Neal and the Whitely brothers, is suddenly awash with high fliers. Big match after big match and each one adorned with some of the most glittering stars in the modern game. Looking at the City bench during the home win over Cardiff - so routine, you felt the players could perhaps have played with their arms strapped to their sides or even wearing some kind of semi-permanent blindfold - and your eyes fell on a well-groomed rank of super-athletes that fair made the eyes water: Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva and Bernardo Silva. Crumbs, what happened to Paul Sugrue and Dave Wiffill?.

This, then, is the new City: fabulously well-endowed and gunning for an unprecedented quadruple of League Cup, FA Cup, Premier League and, whisper it gently, Champions League too.

And this is where people have to make their minds up about this club that has dared to be lucky and dared to soar with the eagles. Social media was just a pimply youth when City's demise began, but you cannot go anywhere without its shrill call today. The empty seats commandos are having their field day. City's extended stadium now shows one or two vacancies in certain less-heralded fixtures. Yet, when the club plays away, the invariably packed away enclosure is treated to a weekly dose of "where were you when you were shit?" from the home support.

They can't all be right. You cannot have it both ways.

1981: A cup semi final. The novelty of something that wouldn't happen again until 2010 and hadn't happened since 1970; 
a venue in Villa Park that was accessible to fans travelling from Manchester and from Suffolk; ticket prices that were affordable; kick off time (3pm on a Saturday) that allowed all to travel and to get home (despite 30 minutes of extra time) without having to book hotels in the capital with all the expected costs attached. Another era indeed.
Is the club heaving under waves of new fairweather support attracted by the success, who have little or nothing to do with Manchester and its environs and have not a single clue who the recently departed Bernard Halford was or what the sacred words The Shay mean to us all? Or is it more a question of a plastic club with no real support for big time football? Is it both? Is it neither? And who really cares anyway?

The answer to the last question appears to be "many people". Plus Dean Saunders, whose grasp on logic and the ins and outs of trying to survive in these straitened times is at best a touch weak. Dean is the type who thinks "500 pounds to see Tom Jones" is something you should do three times in the week, if they were to be his last concerts. Where you grab the 1500 big ones from is another matter and how you gather yourself to go again the following week, as football fans do, is probably best left to larger intellects to look into. Dean's brain works in a different medium; it only stretches so far and the fuzzy velvet of Talksport's microphones are probably - if truth be told - already a throwaway homily or two further than he should have gone.  

What might aid Dean, though, and Beccy from Huyton and Dan from Watford and Dwayne from Sutton in their pursuit of inner calm, is a passing knowledge of our great sport's history. For, the very commodity City are said not to have, is the one thing coming out of the club's ears. For good or for bad (and here comes the other argument), City have been around for a long time, many of City's fans have too, in greater numbers in fact than any other top flight club today.

It is perhaps symptomatic of a society that has spawned the foot soldiers of Brexit that so little respect is afforded. Football's tribal nature has always begot thundering one-eyed partisans, but we now have vehicles to spread this nonsense far and wide. As it travels, like a great off-white snowball, the untruths and bullshit roll with it, until the whole colossus is the size of a cathedral.

But it's not difficult if you think about it.

You do the maths. You look up where City's bedrock support hails from. You ask yourself why Liverpool and Manchester United have such swathes of international support. You fathom out why Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham can put prices higher than a medium-sized mortgage and still attract punters. You ask yourself why City fans, brought up on luke warm porridge and bacon butties, boo the gold-livery prawns of the Champions League You check how large City's crowds have been from the year dot. You take a glimpse at all those sepia tinted images of crammed grounds from the 20s and 30 and 40s when none of us were alive but Manchester City were registering record crowds. You find the answer to why, the worse City got in those fiendish 90s, the more fans followed them. You figure it out. And when you have, come back and we'll have a proper grown-up chat about it all.




Wednesday, April 3, 2019

DISPATCHES FROM THE OTHER SIDE 19



Notes on the 2018-19 title race with a different perspective. Writing with (and about) the enemy. 

London Falling

By 
Henry Jackson 
and 
Simon Curtis



3rd April 2019 Last time out we decided to speak about Luck.

That went well then.

As it turned out, we were a week early. Or perhaps a week late. Or maybe the best moment to talk about luck has not even arisen yet. Imagine that. God knows, there’s something creepy going on at Anfield that will make all those of a blue persuasion watching this title race break out in a cold sweat. Liverpool, like an eel in a plastic bag, just keep wriggling until they’re where they want to be.

At the weekend, Hugo Lloris became the fourth goalkeeper to pause for thought at the wrong moment against Liverpool when he gifted the points to the needy, increasingly scattered but grateful opposition. After Jordan Pickford’s improbable gymnastics to gift Divock Origi an injury time winner in the derby and Julian Speroni’s bout of without-the-oven-gloves-this-potato’s-way-too-hot for Palace in front of the Kop, last week’s shenanigans involving jittery Fulham custodian Sergio Rico had encouraged the Luck column.

Rico, in case anyone has forgotten, decided to bear hug Sadio Mane as the little Senagalese was making for the bus queue, ticket in hand. Whether decision-making is difficult in the frisky winds of England's capital city, compared to the lazy warm breeze of Andalucia is a moot point. What cannot be argued is that the confused Spaniard gave away a penalty as cheaply as Mark Francois mentions his  army days whenever he's lighting up our tv screens


Speroni contemplates the law of adhesion
And now Lloris, even more fortuitously, flaps at a weak header from Mo Salah, fails to hold it, instead patting it gently onto Toby Alderweireld’s boot. Time kind of stands still, thinks about its posture and its attitude towards salmon farming, then moves gently into Last Minute Liverpool: The Belgian stubs his toe instead of getting his body to react “normally” and toe end it into the crowd, and the ball dribbles apologetically into the Tottenham net. There are no minutes left to play and there is nowhere but a hole in the ground to park your head..

A match that had been turning irrevocably Spurs’ way was now not even going to render the Londoners a point. A minute before the aberration, Spurs third counter in as many minutes had left Moussa Sissoko closing in on Alisson Becker. Moussa is a strapping lad, full of bursting physical intent but, as he came closer to the goal, you could sense the terror gripping his brain, as he glanced three times towards the fast-supporting run of Son Heung-min off to his right, whose goal-scoring instinct would have allowed him a no-nonsense finish to torpedo Liverpool’s title bid.

Sissoko knew this but so did Virgil van Dijk, watching intently the Tottenham midfielder’s bulging eyes and quivering legs. Blocking his pass route to Son, Van Dijk took a monumental risk, forcing Sissoko to take responsibility for the goal attempt himself.

The Dutchman was right to risk. Sissoko hit his shot with the conviction of a man who knows his flies are open but daren’t look down and Liverpool were off the hook to mount one last high ball charge on Lloris’s goal. Bingo, that worked too. A succession of hopeful ballooned punts ended on Salah’s head. The weak header goalwards shouted “we gave up ages ago”, but Lloris had not finished. He had not given up. Patting the header onto Alderweireld’s foot, he watched as his handiwork resulted in Liverpool’s winner, the slick-haired Belgian immediately nailing the stooge role in this comedy coupling.

With this kind of thing going on, you were tempted to suggest they bring the next Brexit debate to Anfield, where it would be on the cards Michael Gove and Boris Johnson would miraculously fall into a big hole, David Davis might say something, one thing, coherent and Jeremy Corbyn would suddenly grow a pair of golden balls. Hell, we could go the whole hog and vote Julian Speroni in as interim Prime Minister. The entire mess would be cleared up in the space of, what, 94 minutes or so, give or take a minute or two for critical late votes to sneak in past an unsuspecting speaker.

Neither Brexit nor the Premier League title race is close to a conclusion. While one brings only pain and distraction, the other brings only pain and distraction.
Jordan Pickford's dinosaur arms


Watching City’s calm demolition of a desperate Fulham side and a supine Cardiff - already flattened by their own ill luck against Chelsea - while not even exiting second gear, the thought occurred that – for all Liverpool’s desperate bravado – it is far from inconceivable that this could all end badly for the Blues. Cool, calm and collected as they look, there are still trips to Palace and Spurs and United to negotiate. No doubt Stretford’s finest will be up for the fight, and Selhurst Park has been a notoriously twitchy venue down the years (and a tearful one for Liverpool too in this context, of course).  

Spurs have three games against City to put right their Anfield mishaps.

The flipside is City's imperious handling of matches, a kind of breathless gliding that exudes control and savoir faire. With Kevin de Bruyne showing glimpses of last year's form at last and Fernandinho strolling back into fitness, the only shadows hang over the young revelation Zinchenko and the old warrior Aguero. 

Chickens must not be counted, although this side looks capable of staying the course. 

Liverpool, worthy opponents along this ever-twisting road, are clinging on manfully. City have leapfrogged them again, but the next instalment is coming swiftly. Can Southampton put a dent in where Fulham and Spurs have failed? Certainly, no love is lost between the clubs as Southampton’s recent history as a feeder club to Liverpool has not gone down well with the locals. With points at an absolute premium, we can expect a riveting battle. Liverpool, nervy and disjointed of late, will be hoping their luck holds, but it has to give somewhere, sometime and St Mary’s looks as good a place for a change as any. 

Simon Curtis






3rd April 2019 –  “Please be ‘Spursy’, Spurs”. 

Those were the four words I wrote in the last instalment of this bias-fuelled take on what continues to be a thrilling Premier League title race. And my God Tottenham came up trumps. Liverpool have been magnificent this season, but recent weeks have seen dominant all-round performances replaced with shaky, unconvincing displays.

Every great team experiences such periods, so it is nothing to be ashamed of. The difference is that Reds sides of the past would have crumbled a long time ago now. This group of players are the most mentally resolute at Anfield in 30 years, though, led by a special manager in Jurgen Klopp.

The Spurs game was another harrowing experience, in a match Liverpool did not deserve to win. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have consistently been the best side to visit Anfield in the last two or three seasons and they impressed again.
Liverpool had a chance to put Spurs to bed after Roberto Firmino’s opener, but as was the case against Leicester and West Ham recently, they got sloppy and allowed their opponents to equalise.

Then there was the Moussa Sissoko moment - an incident that drew comparisons with Eidur Gudjohnsen’s last-gasp miss in the 2005 Champions League semi-final second leg. It could be equally as big come May. As the midfielder raced through, images of Willian tapping into an empty net in 2014 came flooding back, and the dream was on the cusp of dying. Then Virgil van Dijk decided to show why he is the world’s best defender, closing off the space to Son Heung-min and forcing Sissoko into a shot with his weaker left foot, before he blazed over.

If that had been Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren or most other mere mortal centre-backs, Liverpool would have conceded, but Van Dijk is a true colossus. He didn’t panic, gambled on Sissoko missing and the Reds stayed alive. The last-minute own goal that followed was one of those ‘name is on the trophy’ moments for neutrals watching on, but I have experienced far too much heartbreak to ever be thinking that, Rival fans will be saying it is written in the stars that Liverpool will
be crowned champions in May - nice try with the reverse psychology, lads - but we’re not stupid. People were saying exactly the same thing in 2014 and during last season’s Champions League run. Look how they both cruelly panned out.

I mentioned last time that luck was going to play a pivotal role in the title race and there is no doubting that Liverpool benefited from it against Spurs, and have done numerous times this season. Hugo Lloris’ mistake can sit alongside the goalkeeping howlers produced by Jordan Pickford and Julian Speroni at the Kop end, and Toby Alderweireld’s subsequent own goal was a hugely beneficial moment. As stated previously, though, I firmly believe Liverpool are due some luck in a title race, biased though that may sound.

Let’s not kid ourselves about them having all the luck, though. Winning breeds hate, which is why so many are being left infuriated by ‘Lucky Liverpool’, but they have experienced plenty of misfortunate as well. Examples include: the ball being millimetres from crossing the lines against Man City, Vincent Kompany avoiding a red card in the same game and Naby Keita not winning a penalty late on against Leicester. I could go on.

Have the Reds been lucky? Absolutely. Is it the key to their title charge? Not in the slightest. If you think that, take up rugby. I’ve spent an awfully long time speaking about my own team when I should really be focusing on City, but everything is a little low-key and frustratingly easy for them at present.
Their fixtures seem eternally easy, there are no dramas whatsoever and they are serenely getting closer to achieving what would be the most remarkable of quadruples. I can’t remember the last City game I watched with any great interest, simply because their matches have been so routine and lacking in drama. The Fulham game followed a pattern that has become the norm this season: gift City an early goal and let them saunter through the rest of proceedings.

This is all one giant compliment to Pep Guardiola’s men, of course, who make everything look so ridiculously straightforward and barely even look like they are in a pulsating title battle currently. Bernardo Silva yet again proved to be an inspiration, and while Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling have been superb all season, the Portuguese has been the main man for me. He is the one I fear - the one who will keep producing big moments when others around him are
potentially flagging. What a footballer he is.

It is easy to put a pessimistic stance on any of the Reds’ remaining games, but the trip to St Mary’s does look awkward. It is a Friday night game with the whole country watching, and the home crowd will be fired up, particularly as they loathe Liverpool for signing all their best players in recent years. Saints have also won their last two games and remain in need of points. Get through that and it will be another significant three points for Klopp’s men, ahead of what becomes a far more taxing run for City.

They are in FA Cup semi-final action this weekend, which will likely be another one-sided win over Brighton - I will be more engrossed in the Grand National, summing up what the cup has become to me these days. We will reconvene next week, with the mouthwatering Champions League quarter-finals taking
place and City’s legs and resolve finally set to be tested.in those the final eight games

But for now, thanks for being Spursy, Spurs…

-       Henry Jackson




Other Tedious Stuff

Poets and Lyricists