THE Reds travel down to Reading for today’s game against the Premier League’s bottom side but it might be the travelling Kop who come away with most credit. At least from their fellow Reds.
For Liverpool the season is growing closer to being declared over, European qualification becoming an increasingly unlikely outcome. For Reading there might just be a sense of there being something to fight for – if not top flight survival of the club then personal survival of some of its playing staff – meaning Liverpool could be caught cold.
The fans won’t be caught cold. There’s a lot to debate about the whys and wherefores of the problems with the atmosphere at most Liverpool home games but if anything the Reds that travel to the aways are getting louder than ever. Today might just be another party and it might not matter how the result goes.
There’ll be a brief pause in the festivities as those who travel south today remember those who travelled east 24 years ago and never came home. Monday is the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and it promises to be an emotional one in a slightly different way to usual because this time the truth, or most of it, is finally out there.
The bit that isn’t out there is exactly what part Margaret Thatcher played in what is now proven to have been a cover-up. She held meetings the night of the disaster and in the days that followed, she told civil servants not to welcome the Taylor report because it had a go at the police, what else did she do? The families want all papers released now, including any that Thatcher and her servants might have held back by whatever excuse they could get away with.
Even without the part her government played in the persecution of the families of the victims, not to mention the survivors, she did damage in other ways to Liverpool and its people. Some of those defending her for various acts will try to excuse her by saying that one wasn’t down to her, it was one of her cabinet, or whatever excuse comes to mind. She was the boss! She was in charge of these people who, let’s face it, were doing whatever they thought she’d want them to do. She shaped them that way – and pretty much always had the final say on what they did anyway.
It’s hard to find anyone in the north with a good word to say about her, even those who aren’t happy at the idea of parties or getting “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” to number one are, in many cases, citing the old unwritten rules about showing respect when people, however bad, die. To many of those whose lives were ruined by her policies they feel as much respect for her as the front page of the Daily Mail and its ilk would feel for Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden or Colonel Gadaffi. If anyone could be arsed we’d look for their coverage of those deaths – would we find their pages filled with respect?
To us she’s a bitch and that’s all there is to it. Some of us were directly hurt by her actions back when she was dictating her rules to the country, others are too young but have heard all the painful stories about soup kitchens, families being split up in the hunt for work, being treated like scum.
We could go on – you can probably sense that – but back to today. Some good banners are promised for today’s game – if Reading’s owner doesn’t send out orders to block them from being brought in – and there might even be some fireworks.
On the pitch the fireworks might come from Luis Suárez if Brendan Rodgers gets his way. The Uruguayan won’t be concerned that FIFA are investigating how he reacted after Chile and Nottingham Forest’s Gonzalo Jara “grabbed his genitals”. Perhaps the question FIFA should be asked by the Uruguayan FA is how would they react to that kind of attention?
For many Liverpool fans, and indeed many fans of club football, maybe he shouldn’t have even been there to get that attention. International breaks interrupt the flow of the league season and often leave clubs short of their best players when they come back injured or worn out. Rodgers was asked if the Luis Suárez off day against West Ham was down to tiredness, something he denied. “Luis is fine and he isn’t tired, this is a guy who I’ve seen all year and I’ve got big admiration for him.
“He’s a player who travels a long distance for internationals but when he comes back he always displays that sheer will and desire to play for this club. He’s a boy who has played magnificently for us this season. He has been brilliant in nearly every game.”
“What the West Ham game showed is that he’s human. From time to time he will have an off day; it was just one of those games where it just didn’t go for him.
“What you get with Luis Suarez even on an off day is seven out of 10 because of his work and his intensity; it wasn’t down to fatigue, just a natural consequence of what happens as a footballer. He won’t always be at his magical best, but even when he’s not at his best he’s still contributing.”
Suárez starts today; Rodgers has picked a side with just one change to the one that started against West Ham. Stewart Downing, who went off early due to illness, is on the bench with the player who replaced him that day, Daniel Sturridge, starting in his place.
Whatever happens today it’s going to be a day of remembering and it might well be a day to remember.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Sturridge, Suarez, Coutinho.
Subs: Jones, Coates, Skrtel, Shelvey, Suso, Assaidi, Downing.