Given we’re talking about a team that contains players such as Craig ‘Poison Gnome’ Bellamy, Jay ‘Mini Boglin’ Spearing, Andy ‘Crystal Meth Pirate’ Carroll, Charlie ‘Dickensian Tramp’ Adam, Jonjo ‘Lord Voldemort’ Shelvey and Martin ‘Dear Christ is that even human?!’ Skrtel; I think it’s entirely fair to call Liverpool ‘ugly’.
In this context I’m not talking however about the questionable aesthetics of the current Liverpool players – but my word they’ve fallen a fair way since the Spice Boys era – no, today I’m referring to Liverpool as ugly for a far more serious reason.
A great football club, one of the most famous and (for want of a better term) best football clubs in the world has spent the past few months conspiring one way or the other to send it’s own reputation into the gutter. It all began of course with Patrice Evra’s allegations of racial abuse from Luis Suarez in October’s Premier League snooze-fest. I’m not going to get into the interminable and undignified shitstorm that has dominated the Internet chatrooms and comment pages for far too long, so I have no interest in discussing the original incident. (I will say this – fan myopia is getting out of hand). What I do want to reflect on however is the resultant action from Liverpool Football Club, action which I believe has been ugly, damaging, undignified and just plain wrong.
The cryptic press conferences from Kenny Dalglish, the statement besmirching Evra, the agonisingly ill-advised Suarez T-shirts…these can all perhaps be accepted on the grounds that they were standing by their man whom they believed had been wrongly accused. Personally, I can’t accept them though.
Liverpool FC are a massively influential company/brand. They have a responsibility to act in a morally upstanding and decent way – their players and manager are role models – not just for kids but for plenty of adults who through blind loyalty will follow them and act accordingly. It’s not one bloke sticking up for his mate down the pub, it’s a global brand and their PR bloke has not had the best few months. The racist idiots at Anfield who first racially abused Tom Adeyemi of Oldham and then got caught on Twitter making monkey gestures at Evra: the actions of Liverpool have directly contributed to those disgusting events. The people involved are clearly moronic scum, but the club created an atmosphere in their simple minds where that was acceptable and encouraged as a way to behave.
They could easily have stood by Suarez but just done it behind closed doors. Simply say to him – look, we believe you mate, and we’re all with you, but we have to play the game here and that’s how it is. To take it out in the open has dragged this situation out and escalated it to a dangerous level. Luis Suarez’s refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand is a perfect example of this ill-advised approach. He should have been under direct orders to shake the man’s hand – the man who he racially abused, lest we forget (you may not agree that he did but I’m simply going by the FA verdict). You don’t have to hug him like a long lost friend and invite him round your house for dinner, just walk past and extend your hand, it’s not hard. We know the two do not like each other, and the handshake ritual is pretty pointless, and he is a grown man entitled to make his own decisions – but with the inevitably incendiary nature of the omission, surely we can all agree it would be far better to just get it done.
In light of the subsequent apologies from Suarez and, even more damagingly in my view, Kenny Dalglish, it is apparent that the people who run this great club have seen enough. Apparently the owners, John Henry and his Fenway Sports Group, have read the riot act to them and I like that. These guys are not stupid, this is an investment for them and they can see the value of their investment crashing and burning before their eyes at this rate and action was needed urgently. In fairness it does seem that the club had also been misled by Suarez who claimed he was going to shake Evra’s hand, and surely now they will act in a manner more befitting of such an influential and historic institution.
I’ll be honest, in spite of how this may read, I really do like Liverpool. They are surely better than the way they have been conducting themselves of late, and I am certain that with the apologies and acceptance from United (far from blameless themselves) this ugly episode can be consigned to the past. A focus and improvement on on-pitch matters is needed, alongside the restoration of their reputation.
Once the reputation does get cleaned up, next step surely has to be some better looking players. I mean please, just one or two, they don’t even have to be Beckhams but in this modern age of HD, it just isn’t right…