Desmond Kane

Football wins if Brendan Rodgers leads Liverpool back to Promised Land

Desmond Kane

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In a flashback to the 1980s when it felt like Liverpool ruled the world, Graeme Souness has recently been busy revisiting the main theme of his pomp when reserves of trinkets were expected at Anfield. Not hoped for. Even prayed for when you consider some of the poor frazzled souls engulfing Brendan Rodgers and his team’s unheralded push for Premier League folklore in recent weeks.

Souness, the former moustachioed midfield enforcer from Scotland, was never one for praying back in the day. "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser," is a Vince Lombardi quote often attributed to a bullish figure who revelled in an astonishing haul of five titles, and three European Cups during only six years on Merseyside.

After last week’s 2-1 win over West Ham United at Upton Park that earned Liverpool a two-point lead over second-placed Chelsea in the death throes of the season, Souness reverted to type. "For me, it's for Liverpool to lose," he said. "You've got destiny in your own hands, you've got two games at home, against your two biggest rivals.

"It's not just the three points you take off them, it's the psychological damage you do to them..with the kind of football they are playing, you can see them going on and winning every game left."

But do this young, irrepressible Liverpool lot have it in them? Do they have the nerve? Do they have the “zeal, fire and hunger” that veteran American boxing pundit Larry Merchant quizzed fabled world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao about after his slightly surprising points win over Timothy Bradley in their welterweight duel earlier this morning?

Souness is not indulging in hyperbole. With third-placed Manchester City, four points adrift but with two games in hand, due at Anfield this afternoon, and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea paying a visit on April 27, Liverpool know that maximum points from their remaining five outings will see them clasp their first English title since the dawn of the 90s.

A 2-1 win over QPR on April 28, 1990 was the scene of the club’s last national success, two years before the inception of the Premier League.

This is all such a tantalising and unexpected prospect for Liverpool’s older and new-age followers. Happy days are almost here again.

For this neutral onlooker, it would be a welcome sight to see Liverpool reclaim the throne. Simply because of their stylish, healthy and invigorating outlook.

There remains something mystical about certain clubs in football. Liverpool have always carried an enchanting aura, but their departure from prominence in England remains fairly shocking. Especially when you consider that they have been exiled so long from the promised land.

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Like the time when Thatcher was axed as Prime Minister, there was as much schadenfreude when Liverpool's forcefulness passed away.

On Tuesday it will be exactly 24 years since Souness succeeded Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager, a year after his fellow Scot and former team-mate had overseen the club's last title.

Nobody thought way back then that Liverpool would be forced to sit so far away from prominence that fierce foes Manchester United would overtake Liverpool’s collection of 18 in the next quarter of a century by reaching 20 under Sir Alex Ferguson. Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds, Blackburn and City have all had the bunting out since then.

The renaissance is so fascinating this season because nobody could have seen them coming so close to ending the wait. Not this year. Not in this era of television largesse, and the big spend.

It would be wrong to paint Liverpool as plucky underdogs, that they are paupers in the Premier League. Not when the world's third best forward Luis Suarez is scoring goals for fun. He has 29 in the league and counting.

But in comparison to Chelsea and City, money has not been their God. Of the likely starting line-ups today, Manchester City’s wage bill stands at £226m compared to Liverpool's £131m. A friend of mine once commented that City’s ability to spend money was like their Abu Dhabi owner standing on a beach and picking up a handful of sand before tossing it into the sea. The beach represented City's funds.

But fortune has been kinder to Liverpool than fortunes. Good luck has worn a red and white scarf for 33 games of a grand campaign. They have goodwill on their side. A mixture of previously untested youth and rejuvenated experience has been as reliable as the vats of cash Chelsea and City have got giddy on.

Rodgers has turned to a squad of roughly 14 or 15 players since the turn of the year. They should have thumped Arsenal by three or four goals in the FA Cup last 16, but that defeat has been a blessing in disguise. It has lessened the burden on a squad already without European football.

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A slight tinker and tightening here and there is all that has been needed. Like last week at West Ham when Rodgers introduced Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva without disrupting the flow of the team.

Young English players have come of age under Rodgers because he knows what he is doing. They have played with a gloriously uninhibited freedom in their rise to the top.

They are a joy to watch, at times invoking the spirit of the night they mauled Nottingham Forest 5-0 in April, 1988 when John Barnes was one of the greatest players in the world.

Suarez assumes a similar lofty role in this side. The Uruguayan forward is a figure who is as close as it gets to uncontrollable. He is an honourable third in world football behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Liverpool remind one of Barcelona such is their ability to retain, reuse and recycle the ball, but there is variety to what they do. They creak now and again in defence, but that is only because their main five men press the game so high up the pitch.

Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson are so vibrant that City have to beware of playing the ball out from the back. For those who lament English talent, three of those five are from these shores.

Sturridge has contributed 20 goals, mostly from his own work. And there we were wondering why England could not produce world-class quality.

Not only is Rodgers a fine man-manager and forward thinking, the Northern Irishman is also a coach of real substance in improving what he inherited.

Rodgers has signed goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Sturridge and Coutinho, but the other eight were outed by predecessors Rafael Benitez, or Dalglish in his flawed second stint running the business.

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West Ham apparently forced the Liverpool team bus to park miles away from Upton Park. The hosts didn't water the pitch, and there was a lack of air conditioning in the dressing room.

But with leading sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters now on the bench - a figure who has helped British Olympians and world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan overcome their mental agonies - Liverpool are not dissuaded. Gerrard has commented that he appreciates the virtue of patience because of Dr Peters.

Liverpool's fans have had to be patient. Winning the title would be celebrated as a victory for Rodgers’ coaching philosophy.

It would be a victory for a captain in Gerrard who has carried himself immensely in embodying what is good about the world game. Perhaps most poignantly in these days of remembrance, it would be a win for a club and city scarred by some dark times.

A win and a timely tribute for the families of those 96 victims who perished at Sheffield's Hillsborough Stadium in the horrific 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

Liverpool lifting the Premier League trophy would be a triumph for football.

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