A Long Ride, We’re In It Together

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By David Rice @davidjrice83

The talking points will give you fits. The little moments that could have been, the reason you lay awake at night.

Liverpool once again had a chance to extend its lead over Manchester City and have come out of a match in something of a less than ideal position. The last time out, when City narrowed the gap to four points and delivered our first loss of the season, it was a difficult but seemingly easier pill for many to swallow than Wednesday’s draw with Leicester. You go into games like City knowing even the best of teams may lose there and we did.

That’s not to say there weren’t hoards of our support that were apoplectic. Of course there were, we’re all living on the safety rail of the Empire State building. Or at least that’s what this season has come to feel like at times.

Most of us though, were able to recognise the level at which the match at the Etihad was played and how boss it was the Reds held a four-point lead in the new year.

But on Wednesday, from the moment the Foxes pulled level at 1-1 on the cusp of halftime, our support across the entire planet seemed to melt down in a way that resembled tougher times.

Maybe it was the way the goal is scored, the ever-reliable Andy Robertson committing a foolish foul and our defence going to sleep on a set piece the way it would have in seasons gone by. Perhaps that it came on the stroke of halftime and the team didn’t respond in that second half.

I wasn’t at the match, but in scanning social media feeds it didn’t take me long to verify what I was hearing on television. The crowd was dazed and the sense of doom among all in attendance was tangible. I looked around my local pub and saw that it was palpable there as well.

As scarred fan bases go, the face of our support looks about as gnarled as Al Capone’s left cheek. Our collective PTSD from a pair of false dawns over the last 10 years has created some nasty habits, none more disheartening than the constant feeling of “here we go again” rather than defiant belief in this team’s ability to pull through a struggle and emerge with our first title in 28 years.

This feeling persists despite them showing us they can grind out a result, that they can overcome adversity. From the road to Kiev to this title challenge, Liverpool Football Club, from the owners on down to the players has shown it can and will do what it takes to win, and if they fail, they’ll get right back up and go after it again. This season is proof of that. They could have laid down after Kiev, could have felt sorry for themselves. Instead, they were making improvements to the team within days are walking a path few Reds teams have over the last two decades.

What about us though? Can we take another heartbreak? Can we take another taste of high drama? Can withstand yet another time where Liverpool just couldn’t do it the easy way?

We can moan about referees, but if the years have shown me anything, it’s that they’re a bit like lucky bounces. Some days, they’ll go your way, some days they won’t. Perhaps a lack of luck in recent years is part of our scarring. The fact that it has suddenly gone on our way at times in 18/19 has us feeling as though we’ve amassed some kind of karmic credit and this year the chickens are coming home to roost. A feeling that it’s our time to get the breaks. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way the universe works.

Some will focus on blown calls, the weather, the state of the grass. We can get lost in all the things we can’t control and ignore how good Leicester City actually are, which by the way pretty damn good.

If there is one thing you’d think we cannot debate, it’s the basic principles of math that say a five-point lead is better than the four point lead we took the pitch with on Wednesday night. But this is 2019, reality is subjective and history means nothing.

I’ve been trying to beat into my friends’ heads for nearly 4 months one simple concept. You cannot view the success of this Liverpool side or measure its quality by using City’s last campaign as a measuring stick. By that standard, City themselves are failing miserably at reaching their own high bar.

Historically speaking, we are on pace for a point total that would guarantee a Premier League title in the vast majority of seasons played. The fact that we’re doing it an era in which a point total well into the 90s may not be enough is evidence enough that the luck may not be on our side.

But to hell with the refs and their missed calls, that’s not why Liverpool didn’t emerge victorious on the night. Bin the weather talk, they had to play in it too. The same goes for the pitch. And the negative bullshit you read on social media? Bin that too.

This side may require a bit of luck before it’s over, but more often than not they’re going to require just one thing, for us to persevere through what promises to be an immense challenge with them. Nights like that are nervy, it’s why you buy your ticket. It’s why you crowd into pubs and fly halfway across the world incurring thousands of dollars, pounds, yen and euros worth of debt along the way. For the nervy moments, for the drama and the emotional thrill ride that comes with it.

Scars leave marks for eternity because the moments that make them are significant, life changing. You never forget them, you wear them like a badge. And nothing, no matter how cathartic or joyous, ever truly makes them go away. Liverpool winning a title may help you think less of it, but it will not heal the scars of 13/14, or 08/09, or the pain you felt in Athens. It’s not fair to task the men trying to achieve this with that.

This side is currently carrying a burden that other title winners in recent history haven’t had to bear. When Chelsea drew with City at home in late January of 2015 and carried a five-point lead over the defending champions into February, the pressure heaped upon them didn’t compare to that which these Reds face. They weren’t expected to heal a nearly three decades old festering wound.

Knowing the stakes is enough for the players. Knowing you know it is enough. There’s no point in not believing, in watching with dread like a miserable wretch. In not throwing your whole being behind these lads every moment they’re out there and believing they can do the unthinkable.

When these 14 matches are gone and you’ve processed them and celebrated or bemoaned the result, there will be nothing left except remembering how you felt throughout this experience. Ask yourself, how do you want to remember it?

By David Rice @davidjrice83

 

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