By Mark Cohen.
When Alisson stormed up the pitch in the dying seconds of a season which had needed a defibrillator weeks before just to stay alive, few could have predicted what followed.
Take that lack of foresight and add an order of magnitude because trying to predict the upcoming 2021/22 season is going to be virtually impossible.
This is because we haven’t watched football for over 18 months.
Yes, we’ve watched something that looks like football, and you could have been excused for thinking it was, but football, the one your father and your grandfather taught you about, is quite a different animal to the bastard thing you witnessed last season – the Season of the Plague.
Indeed, Season of the Plague is a superb epithet for Liverpool’s year, as we were indeed plagued. Attacked by injury, assaulted by substandard refs and zero-standard VAR, abysmal crowd-less stadia providing a depressing tableau, all the while being in the middle of an actual plague, with great human suffering and loss being the backdrop for an awful, awful year.
“At a football club, there’s a holy trinity – the players, the manager and the supporters”.
Bill Shankly’s famous quote on football was highly prescient for what he had realised, that football is an amalgam of more than just the twenty-two players on the pitch. Shanks’ idea that it is a positive feedback loop between the trinity he identified is so true in that the one certainly feeds off the other two, in perpetuity, and for good or bad.
It has become clear though, that Shanks missed a few things in his equation, and last season brought them into focus.
Football is indeed a trinity – on that part the auld master was right, but the components might rather be thought of as these:
- The Game
- The Ref
- The Crowd
These are the three elements that make up professional football, like the proton, neutron and electron of the atom it is they that give the English Premier League, and indeed all of professional football its core. Change any one of these things and you change football. It is not that football has a crowd, it is that football is the crowd. It is not that football has a ref, it is that football is the ref.
Ask yourself a question. How much of your experience in football involves the shrill of the whistle, the pointing of a finger at the spot, the raising of a red card, the gesturing of a hand towards the centre circle when the ball hits the net, the roar of the crowd?
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