May 23 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, May 3, 2012
It’s been fascinating to watch Liverpool’s progress – and problems – this season. For starters, they fit the Manchester City mould as far as these parts are concerned.
• Roy Hodgson is the sensible appointment for England, bearing in mind the off-pitch tasks ahead. That said, he has players to convince given their initial public backing of Harry. And I fear Roy may be on a hiding to nothing similar to his time at Liverpool – especially given England are probably not good enough to make it past the Euro group stages.
• In the end, the most hyped ‘unmissable’ game of football since last week was actually quite missable, as a spectacle at least. And the funny thing? I still fancy United over City for the title…
• Last but by no means least, big congratulations to Southampton. Earning successive promotions remains a fantastic achievement – and what a record Nigel Adkins has: four promotions in six seasons. It will be fascinating to see how he deals with the Premier League next season. Needless to say, normality can return and I’d rather Blackpool get promoted in the play-offs than West Ham – although I fancy Birmingham to do it.
While Norwich took a point off Liverpool at Anfield earlier in the season, the Reds created enough chances during a high-tempo performance that night to have wrapped up victory long before John Ruddy’s last-minute save.
In fact, apart from Tottenham’s assured Carrow Road efforts just after Christmas, it would be Kenny Dalglish’s men that come second to the new Premier League leaders in terms of impressing against Paul Lambert’s men.
But no matter how much fans ask, you can’t play the same side every week – and no doubt Liverpool’s hard working and at times clinical Saturday evening display against a disappointing Canaries will have raised more questions that it answered.
The Reds are in serious danger of finishing behind Merseyside neighbours Everton for the first time in seven seasons. They are eighth in the table, still five points behind their lowest Premier League points tally of 54 in 1998-99.
It was the 1950s when Liverpool last finished outside the top eight of English football, which remains a possibility, while Dalglish’s results probably raise a wry smile with Roy Hodgson – who would still be Anfield chief if he’d been afforded the same good will.
Clearly winning the top division is the truest sense of excellence in English football – but it infuriates that finishing fifth should also be deemed a success, even over winning silverware.
Liverpool took Carling Cup honours – admittedly, only just – earlier in the season. On Saturday they face Chelsea at Wembley to see if they can double up with an FA Cup. It would be the eighth time the club’s name appears on the iconic trophy.
Even when their sides appeared at times to be struggling, the likes of Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson made sure they put every effort into coming away from a season with at least one piece of silver; one competition they could say they proved best.
Of course, Birmingham rather wasted their cup success last season – although I still hope their Premier League relegation and subsequent play-off berth proved coming away with a trophy is always worth the trouble.
And the same goes for Liverpool. Their season is already a success; they already have something the 91 other professional clubs in England would love to have.
A 2013 cup run has been mooted as Norwich City’s next step towards world domination – which for City be the stuff of legend.
Given Paul Lambert is already that, I’m not really sure what that would make him should he take Norwich there any time soon.
But for City, remaining in the top flight will remain the realistic aim for the foreseeable seasons.
How they go about that, and what happens in terms of City’s budget, debt financing and player recruitment will make for a very interesting close-season.
And on that subject, Dalglish may carry a similar view to the Norwich faithful.
“In the summer they spent money really well on players so I think Paul will be looking to progress again next year,” he said.
“I am sure he will be rapping on the door saying any money they’ve made should be spent on players to enhance what the players there have already done. The record he has got, there shouldn’t be much time wasted from the Norwich people in saying yes.”