Neutrality

It’s about time I wrote a blog post. I couldn’t help but be inspired by the fantastic sport on show this weekend. At the top of the bill however was the potential title-decider as Manchester City travelled to Liverpool on Sunday. 25 years have passed since the Hillsborough disaster and as Steven Gerrard led his team out to the roars of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone” you could be forgiven for believing in fate. After all, Gerrard’s cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest of the 96 to be lost on that dreadful day.

The first goal in this weekend’s all-important match came from Raheem Sterling who wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s eye a quarter of a century ago when the disaster unfolded. Neither was I. It didn’t stop me getting swept up in the emotion of the occasion yesterday. Neck hairs were vertical. I may be a neutral fan but occasions such as this strike a chord. Gerrard’s passion at the final whistle was an outpouring of his inner soul. I just hope we see more of the same in Brazil in 3 months’ time.

Image

Gerrard’s post-match speech upstaged by Sakho’s rubbish labyrinth-like hairstyle.

Liverpool let a two goal lead slip and it looked as if the Manchester City machine would roll the home-side over. However, A rare Vincent Kompany error opened a small window of opportunity for Philippe Coutinho who was phenomenal on the day. He angled a beautiful finessed shot beyond Joe Hart and the roof would have blown off Anfield if it had one. Liverpool held on and in doing so made a huge step in the direction of the Premier League trophy: they have one pinky fingernail on silver-plated immortality.

In stark contrast to Manchester City, this Liverpool team has a strong English core. As club-neutral this is something I wholeheartedly respect: Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge have all been monumental in the race for the title this season. Jon Flanagan, a born-and-bred Scouser, has given the Liverpool defence some steel. He is not scared to leave his mark on the opposition and shows a no-nonsense-never-say-die attitude that certain Arsenal should take notice of. I’m not sure how kindly the continental referees will take to Flanagan next year in the Champions League however…

I hope Liverpool go on to win the league. Fully aware of their defensive frailties, they have been the most entertaining team to watch this season: their ‘you may score but we’ll score more’ attitude has been a joy to watch. With Brendan Rodgers at the helm the club is going in the right direction. After suffering a setback in his early footballing career and being forced into retirement, Rodgers took on the role of youth coach at Reading and regularly visited Spain to research coaching methods. This has reaped rewards and may reap awards come the end of the season. It will be interesting to see them in the Champions League when the 2014/15 comes round. English teams have resorted to defensive tactics in Europe too much for my liking in recent years. It would be refreshing to see Liverpool buck this trend.

Roy Hodgson must also take note. These attacking talents must not be restrained come the summer. What a shame that Jay Rodriguez won’t be travelling. Southampton and Liverpool share a similar ethos with regards to footballing style. Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw should all make the plane and represent their teammate who must unfortunately watch from home. The cripplingly cautious Hodgson must let them play their natural game and they will surely flourish. With a potent Raheem Sterling at the tip of the diamond formation, England would be a fantastic team to watch.

I would opt for this formation:

england

The World Cup is just around the corner and I cannot contain my excitement. This weekend Mum bought me the official Panini World Cup 2014 sticker album. I love football sticker albums. Completing the 2003 Premier League album book is one of my proudest achievements to date. I recently scanned the entire album with the intention of doing a blog post on the stories behind the players and behind my completing it but I haven’t quite figured out how to get it up on my blog yet. So if any of the 3 people reading this blog hold the answer, please get in touch….

In other news, Bubba Watson won his second green jacket in three years. Despite golf not being my favourite sport to watch I can respect that he is a maverick sportsman with enormous talent. I would also like to mention that fellow Old Bristolian and now professional cricketer Will Tavaré, nephew of Chris Tavaré, racked up a century on his first-class debut for Gloucestershire against Hampshire in their Division Two tie yesterday. I hope that he goes on to achieve further success in his cricketing career.

 

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