Tenuous 'revolution' should not be televised

Posted by Kristian Walsh

At a club with the history of Liverpool's, it is inevitable that the eulogising of it will creep into cliche. No European fixture at Anfield can be mentioned without prefixing it as magical or wondrous; no reference to its support can pass without acknowledging its supposed steadfast commitment and voice.

A walk along the no-doubt hallowed corridors of Liverpool's Melwood training complex taps into that psyche. On the walls sit words from some of football's finest, graffiti upon the soul. Rafael Benitez speaks of how special the Kop is. Johan Cruyff gets gooey-eyed over You'll Never Walk Alone. Fernando Morientes shares details of a phone call to his father as he takes in the Anfield atmosphere.

This romanticism can be infectious. Supporters inside the stadium bring banners of all shapes and sizes with quotations from philosophers, musicians and Hollywood. Supporters outside the stadium regurgitate the words of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish, using them as footballing muses and mousemats, guiding them through their day, month, life.

There is nothing wrong with that. Football is becoming increasingly obtuse, and the harsh reality of supporters being considered consumers and paying preposterous ticket prices needs balancing. Liverpool's quixotic, sentimental outlook can be a fine antidote, even if it is cliched.

But it can also act as a detriment.

When Luis Suarez was embroiled in a race row last season, an incident that hardly could have been worse was somehow perceived as such because it happened at a club with such lofty stature. When Benitez unfolded a sheet of paper and read out 'facts' at a press conference halfway through the title race of 2009, he was labelled as cracking up, for this was not the behaviour of a manager employed by an institution so celebrated.

If Brendan Rodgers did not realise such intricacies of managing Liverpool, he will now. He is not simply an inexperienced manager taking over a club to reverse their flailing fortunes. There is not enough snap, crackle and pop to that; it does not stir the emotions, make hair stand up on skin or cater to the cliché. It needs something far more dramatic.

This is Rodgers’ revolution, the latest in a long line.

After the Rafalution of Benitez comes just a plain old revolution. Not a week goes by without reference to it. A victory keeps it moving onwards in full flow; defeat brings it to a grinding halt, heralds a false dawn and draws a steely blade towards the change so drastically sought for. No wonder the weight of expectation strains Rodgers’ shoulders with such force.

But this is no storming of the Bastille; no tsars have been overthrown. Even in football terms, the wheel has not been reshaped drastically. Rodgers took over Liverpool in eighth in the Premier League, not the eighth tier of English football. His squad is in need of renovation but still possesses a number of internationals, though confidence must be built from a very base level. But there is no revolution taking place. There never was.

It can be argued that Rodgers asked for this at his first press conference as Liverpool manager, when he pandered to those desperate for self-aggrandising banalities. He would fight for his life, he would fight for the city and its supporters, he would do his utmost to bring success to Anfield. All while sounding a little bit like Shankly.

But he never promised a revolution. He even distanced himself from calling it as such. The only revolution targeted was by Fenway Sports Group, but their intention to reshape the structure of the organisation was quickly rejected by Rodgers, who wanted sole control of all footballing matters.

Yet the rhetoric from many observers, including myself, immediately pointed to Rodgers’ Red revolution. Maybe it was his unveiling press conference; perhaps it was the statesmanlike tone of voice. It might simply be the abominable amusement alliteration affords to headline writers everywhere.

It is time to disregard all thoughts of a revolution and strip back the romanticism. Rodgers is not the messiah, but he is not necessarily a very naughty boy, either.

Regardless of the result at Zenit on Thursday in the Europa League, people will still react as if this supposed revolution is in full swing or stopped forever.

How apt such viewpoints will come in a game where 90 minutes only represents half-time, in a season when conclusions are drawn too early and too vigorously. How apt it will come in St. Petersburg, the city of three revolutions. Three more than Liverpool should expect.

This is not a lowering of expectations as some will cry, but a realisation that most revolutions involve bloodshed. Benitez and Dalglish were not afforded the time to fulfil the landscape-changing prophecies from others, nor will Rodgers, unless his remit is redefined quickly.

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