By Anthony Stanley (TTT Subscriber Dannyluke10).
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
To say that 31st January 2011 was a JFK moment would, perhaps, be to be guilty of hyperbole. Unless, that is, you called yourself a Liverpool supporter. The end of this transfer window would prove itself to be dramatic and heart-breaking as, with righteous indignation shaded by a troubling, corrosive doubt, we bade farewell to a bona fide hero of the Kop. Fernando Torres, El Nino, Scourge of Vidic, the Golden One, was – after handing in a transfer request to engineer the move – leaving for Chelsea in a record breaking deal. And did it hurt; a candid pathos inducing betrayal, a bleak denouement where our dreams and fragile feelings, with shocking finality and vivid brutality, were shown to be made of straw. We felt cheated, genuinely cuckolded, as if our girlfriend or wife had decided to trade our fading looks for the hot (but shallow and slightly brain dead) next door neighbour. Something in all of us died that day.
A sun-drenched Anfield in late spring as Liverpool continue to chase the Premier League leaders, Manchester United. Jamie Carragher launches a long, hopeful punt towards the Blackburn Rovers box. It is speculative rather than cutting; a nothing ball really and Allardyce’s well-drilled defence will clear it with consummate ease. But then a golden-haired figure takes the ball on his chest with an air of almost childish nonchalance. There’s still no danger though as the striker’s movement has taken him away from the opposition goal; he can perhaps pull it back to the advancing Kuyt or pass it to the overlapping Arbeloa. Two Blackburn defenders are tight on the forward so even keeping possession may not be straightforward. But this is how a mortal striker would think. In one inspirational flash, Fernando Torres coalesces all of his majestic attributes. The ball bounces once before El Nino pivots, pirouettes and somehow, with the ball moving away from him and the goal, wraps his gifted foot around it and hammers it into the far top corner of the Blackburn goal. Anfield erupts as the ball nestles in the net and Torres jogs away, arms slightly bent with one finger from each hand pointing to the sky, a boyish grin illuminating his freckled face. He has just consolidated to his adoring public the rapidly crystallising opinion that this is the best striker Liverpool has witnessed since Fowler. This is a legend in the making, an Achilles of Anfield. And we worship, as one, at his alter. He is surely the best striker in the world and he loves the magic of the club. He gets it; who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Except he didn’t, did he? Torres left us jilted, swanned off without a backward glance, told us he was leaving us and then, as we struggled to come to terms with being dumped, jumped into bed with his new piece and gleefully told everyone we knew about it. It was the ultimate betrayal because we adored him so much. And we, after languishing in self-pity and alcohol -assisted catatonia, eventually raised ourselves from our sheets and, to the tune of I Will Survive, solemnly declared ‘never again’ and began to move on. This all took place in the space of a couple of hours but, looking back from this vantage point, it looked like it would take forever to get over. And I’m not sure we have, not fully anyway. No more would we embrace a hero, we would, from now on, be the ultimate purveyors of football’s newfound cynicism. We would shrug, remain aloof, impassive as granite, and exclaim over our post- match pints that it’s the club that counts; fuck the individual, no matter how talented. But maybe, just maybe, it has come to a stage where we’re ready to properly move on and rejoice in something special. Maybe it’s time to leave our heart open again, to take a risk and stroll forward in the knowledge that, sure, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to devastation, but equally, we refuse to deny ourselves the glory of genuine hero worship. Because it is not outside the realms of possibility – or probability – that we have a figure in our midst who, against all our better judgement, is deserving of that accolade.
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