Being: Brendan


(by Miles Shackley)

August 17th, 2013

The new season has begun. Liverpool Football Club are looking to build on a promising end to the previous season by coming out of the stalls at full pelt. But the off-season has seen the team facing up to the fact that their star player, the Uruguayan Luis Suarez, has made clear his intentions to leave.

In this, our first episode of Being: Liverpool 2013/14, we speak exclusively and in full to Manager Brendan Rodgers, who is unequivocal in his assessment of both the off-season and Liverpool’s triumphant opening to the campaign.

Y’know, we’ve always said here that no individual player is ever bigger than the club. OK? That goes for Luis, it goes for Stevie, it goes for Phillipe. What we’re trying to do here is get the club back on track and to do that, you have to keep your best players.

Luis owes us. He owes us a bit of loyalty. We stood by him when he didn’t dive, we stood by him when he wasn’t a racist, and we stood by him when the Chelsea lad made a meal – no pun intended – of running arm-first into his teeth. We’ve always said “Luis is our problem, we’ll deal with him our way, whilst giving him the love and support of an errant child”. Although there were one or two challenges in that match against Chelsea that I wasn’t happy with, so if you look at it that way, perhaps we’re the victims in that sense.

But that’s what we’re trying to do, in a way. Ultimately, no player is bigger than the club as I’ve said, and certainly if someone like Jay Spearing had done that, or Stewart Downing had done that, or Jonjo Shelvey had done that, we’d have reacted in exactly the same way, regardless of their financial value to the club. We’d have put our collective arm around those young lads – and I’d have been first in the queue, believe you me – and said “we’re in this together and there’s no way I’m going to ship you out over this”.

Y’know – I haven’t always been manager of Liverpool. I’ve managed other sides, and when you’re a young manager doing exceptionally well when compared to your peers, you’re going to attract attention. So I know what these lads are going through. But I’ve always said “you have to have integrity”. Y’know, ultimately, the first person you have to face in the mirror every morning is yourself, and if you can’t do that – say for example you promise commitment to one club and then two weeks later you’re managing another – then you’re the one who has to handle it, at the end of the day.

I’ve said from day one, Luis Suarez is not for sale and I stand by that, which is why I keep saying “not for less than what we sold Torres for”. That’s basically a dare. You get your Arsenals, your errm… you get your Arsenals coming in with their stupid bids. Insulting bids. And that’s an insult to this institution. Y’know, it’s one thing to bow down to the whims of a man who’s convicted of racist comment, biting opponents, a self-confessed diver and the like, whilst insisting that he’s not bigger than the club. But for Arsenal to come in and think they can trigger a release clause by offering £1 over the ‘discussion clause’? That’s an insult to this club. I think Arsenal need to have a long, hard look at themselves.

I understand why other clubs might be interested – Luis is one of the best players in the galaxy, hence all the interest – and I certainly understand why Arsene might be interested given his record with young talent, but that’s an insult. And we’ve gone back to them and we’ve said, ‘he’s not for sale, not for any price. Under £50m’, and that’s when you find out who’s serious about your boys and who’s just offering them kola cubes from the driver’s seat of a clapped-out Volvo.

So I’ve asked for three things. I’ve asked for a bit of common sense in the transfer market from our peers, I’ve asked for more access to the young lads in the youth team as an aside, and I’ve asked for Luis to say ‘sorry’ to the rest of us. And it’s the third one that’s most important. Even if he doesn’t mean it – and that’s critical. These fans who turned up here today against Villa – they’re not stupid. They were there at Stevie [Gerrard]’s testimonial, and they sang Luis’ name, because they know he’s one of us. They know he’s a part of the fabric of this club. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being: The Manager at Liverpool Football Club, it’s that the lads who turn up week in, week out to Anfield, with their funny accents and their fashion sense – they know the score. They know it better than I do. They live and breathe this club, they have done for their whole lives, and if they’re singing and chanting Luis’ name then you think to yourself “hey – maybe, just maybe, this kid is bigger than the club”.

Of course, there are dissenters. We saw that at Celtic a few days ago, when some of the ‘powers that be’ had to mix with some of the less savoury elements of the fanbase in economy class and got both barrels after Luis said he wanted to leave. You expect that. Liverpool is a massive club with a massive fanbase, and you can’t keep them all happy unless you’re winning every game, which is what we’re close to doing.

And in a way, we have been winning, to be fair, during the pre-season, and I put that dissent down to the fact that Liverpool fans – being the most knowledgeable fans in the game – knew we were going to lose at Celtic, our first and only pre-season defeat, and were ‘pre-actively’ voicing their upset about it and taking it out on Luis who was what I call ‘The Escape Goat’.

I guarantee that if we’d won at Celtic, they’d have known it was going to happen and would have been talking more glowingly about Luis. Fans are fickle by their very nature, and sometimes you have to put up with that – even I’ve had to put up with that, and I’m manager of the seventh best team in the country, which tells you something.

But moving away from Luis for a moment, we were pleased with today. I thought there was a lot of passion, a lot of movement, and the lads did exactly what was expected of them. I mean, you talk to people in the game about Stoke and you know what a good side they are – Stevie was saying himself halfway through last season how they were pushing Everton, who somehow finished above us again despite not being as good as us. So for a true professional like Stevie, who I’ve just rewarded with a new contract in a fantastic piece of business for the club, to say that, you know how hard it’s going to be when you face them.

But to be fair, we’ve gone out there and we’ve picked up a comfortable 1-0 victory against a side with a new manager – and you always worry about the ‘new manager effect’, and Mark Hughes’ recent record speaks for itself, to give him credit. We’ve perhaps ridden our luck at times – Stoke were possibly unlucky to miss that penalty, and to hit the bar, and to have one cleared off the line in the first half, despite not really threatening at all, which was testament to how well we played. And you have to ask yourself three things, ok?

First thing [points with thumb] who just brilliantly bought the keeper that saved the penalty? Second thing, whose idea was it to keep the same framework for the goals albeit to the scales dictated by the Football Association. Third thing, who picked the defender that cleared the effort off the line? OK? You see where I’m going with this?

And that’s my point. I see myself as the conductor, here. I’m like the man in the suit with the baton, I rehearse behind the scenes with my musicians, or players, during the week – and the media don’t see that, so they don’t see the incredible amount of work and effort that goes into getting Stevie to hold the brass section together. They don’t see how I get Daniel Agger to control the percussion, or how I instruct Paulo how to be a virtuoso violinist. They don’t see that. But the proof of the symphony is in the hearing, and I’m like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, in some ways, although the ‘dark’ bit implies I don’t know what I’m doing.

And if that’s the case, answer me this. If I don’t know what I’m doing, how is it that we were the first side to score this season, the first side to win this season, the first side to save a penalty this season, the first Liverpool side in two years to be ahead of Everton at this stage of the season, the first Liverpool side to top the league in I-don’t-know-how-long, the first side to play in red this season…y’know, I could go on. But I won’t. Because ultimately, I’m just the conductor of the orchestral manoeuvres. And what that means is that, sure, I take the credit when we win, but if we lose – well, how many conductors can lead the Dresden Staatskapelle without their star trumpeter for the first six symphonies of the concerto? And that’s what we’re trying to build here.


Being: Liverpool: Part: Deux

Another installment of the eerily accurate Being: Liverpool courtesy of Mr Miles Shackley.

Joe Garston : Things have improved since the last time we spoke. There’s finally smiles on the faces of folk. A home draw with Stoke, and 1-0 v Reading. Onwards and upwards, the direction we’re heading. A win in Europe is always nice, a derby next Sunday should serve up some spice. The Bitters, we call them, they reckon they’re sound. We’ll grind them to sawdust in their own wooden ground.

Narrator: The fruits of Brendan Rodgers’ recent toils are finally beginning to bloom. After a shaky start to their Premier League campaign, Rodgers team have managed to hold a gritty Stoke side to a goalless draw at Fortress Anfield, and seen off Reading’s strongest side with a 1-0 win. The points tally clocks up and, with it, Liverpool’s position begins to soar. The club is now nestled in 12th spot and averaging more than a point per game. It is comfortably placed to begin its assault on the holy grail of fourth place in the Premier League, a position which will ensure qualification for the qualifying rounds of football’s greatest trophy, the European Cup. It’s a trophy that the club is no stranger to, having won it five times – once when they were the second best team on Merseyside, the third best in the northwest and the fifth best in England. No wonder it is a trophy upon which so much stall is set.

Brendan: Stuart. Glad you could make it. Don’t be fazed by the cameras, they’re just here to get a feel of the club members behind closed doors, so to speak.

Downing: I know boss, I’ve seen them around here the last few weeks, and I’m a professional footballer, so I’m used to a bit of an audience!

Brendan: OK son, some of that is debatable so don’t get lippy. OK. I’ve called you in here today to remind you of a discussion that we, as a team and as a family had together a few weeks ago, OK? At the start of the season. OK?

Downing: Right.

Brendan: OK, so – you remember the chat we had with the three envelopes, when I said each one contained the name of an individual that would let us down this season? Well, I want you to take this envelope. OK?

Downing: OK.

Brendan: Open it up, son.

Downing: OK, although I’m really not sure where… Oh. I didn’t think they’d actually have names in them. I, errr… I thought it was motivational. A rhetorical device, a tangible realisation of the intangible, ethereal potential for disappointment. Something to ensure that we, as players, or coaches or backroom staff – because you didn’t specify whether it was constrained merely to players and, as a club, we stand as one and if one fails, we all fail – don’t let our standards slip below the required levels that are inherent when you join a club of the stature and traditions of this football club.

Brendan: No son, we don’t deal in arbitrary rhetorical statements and questions in this family, OK?

Downing: I’m a bit hurt you thought… well, you thought I might be one of the people who’d let you down. I mean – is Jordan Henderson in one of them?

Brendan: Irrelevant. Doesn’t matter. Two points, OK? First point [uses thumb] – I’ve had my reservations about you, but after that goal against Anzhi, I’ve seen the player in you. OK? Before then, I was thinking I should have sent you to West Ham and kept Andy, OK? But it’s destructive to think and behave like that, which is why I’m sending out a message to the players I think might let me down that, when they don’t let me down, OK, that I do value them. That’s why I’m giving you the envelope. You’re no longer Stuart Mightletusdowning in my eyes. You’re Stuart Downing again. Footballer. Professional. Reliable.


Brendan: Well?

Downing: Nothing, it’s just you said you had two points.

Brendan: Good. You see? A good player is… a good listener and a good learner. OK. Second point – well played, son. Don’t take my previous criticism of a few minutes ago to heart. Learn from it. Live it. Love it. Be it. Develop from it. OK? Good. You’re a new player. Now let me look at you. OK, good. Let’s shake hands for a lengthy period of time and treat this as a new dawn, a new day, a new life for you. Are you feeling good?

Downing: er… to be honest, I’m still reeling a little bit.

Brendan: OK, good. Well played, Stuart Downing, come ON! [claps repeatedly as Stuart Downing leaves the room]

Narrator: It’s an insight into the mindset of how a true champion might operate. Brendan Rodgers has carefully crafted a fall guy at the club and then, in a brilliant piece of man-management, resurrected his career in a matter of minutes. Downing’s place, while never guaranteed, looks much more secure after a masterful goal against European giants Anzhi Mackhachkala which has earned him a reprieve in the eyes of the Manager. Perhaps this is the kick-start that might jettison Downing, a promising starlet yet to fulfil his true potential at Liverpool, back into regular first-team contention.

Brendan: That’s just a little glimpse into my methods, and what we’re trying to build here. What we’re trying to achieve. What we’re trying to fashion. What we’re trying to mould. I want my boys squabbling amongst themselves healthily. That’s competition. But I want them to feel valued, and I think you’ve just witnessed me valuing Stuart Downing. Stuart Downing will go into training today knowing that I don’t think Stuart Downing will let us down any more. He knows it, I know he knows it and, more importantly, Stuart Downing knows that I know it. And that knowledge is power, fundamentally. But caring power – not the power you see some managers like Alex Ferguson wielding, where players are afraid of making mistakes. What will that achieve in the long run? A team of winners? Or a team made crippled by fear? Not what I want. I don’t want a team of cripples. I don’t want my lads to go “Oh, I think I’ll try a Cruyff turn. Second thoughts, no I won’t, because if I do and I mess it up then Brendan Rodgers – top, top bloke though he is – might effin’ give it to me. I’ll play it safe. I’ll play the Allen pass”. No. I want my family of boys not to be scared of me. Not to be scared of trying new things with me. I want them to feel they can reach out to me, OK? To know I’ll be there to hold them when the going gets tough, and even when it doesn’t. OK? That’s how I do things. People at Swansea used to go “there’s madness to his methods”, and that was great. Not disrespectful, just a sort of nod that I play by my own rules, not the conventions. It was like a pun on the normal saying, and in many ways that’s how I see myself. I stray from the norm. I’m abnormal, if you like.

Narrator: In the dressing room, the talk appears to have had the desired effect, as Stuart Downing replays the conversation with club captain and champion of fair play, Steven Gerrard, while they ready themselves for an intense training session.

Downing: ….said I was no longer Stuart Mightletusdowning in his eyes.

Gerrard: er… well that’s obviously a good thing isn’t it? I mean, he’s… he never had to do that, like. He’s just done it to give you a boost, like. Not saying you don’t deserve it and that I think you’ll let us down like, because you won’t, but just saying that he could’ve kept the envelope til the end of the season and said ‘Stuart, you let us down, you’re off’, but he never. He obviously thinks you’ve got it, like. He obviously thinks you’re a part of the long term here.

Downing: Yeah, I suppose so. Just looking at the envelope, it’s not got my name on it. It was only written inside, on a piece of paper. How did he remember which envelope was the one with my name in it?

[Gerrard looks at the camera with pleading eyes and, almost imperceptibly, shakes his head at its operator]

Lucas: Your name was in one of the envelopes? Wow. That is… a surprise. I mean, I’d have thought Jordan might –

Gerrard: [whispered urgently] he’s coming. Shh!

Henderson: Alright lads – has Mr Rodgers said when he’s naming the team yet?

Gerrard: No, mate. The season’s still a bit of a way off yet, we’ll let you know once it’s started.

Henderson: Great, I’ll just nip out for a jog. Can’t wait, it seems like ages since I last played.

Gerrard: Yeah, we were just thinking that, too.

Narrator: Tommy “Thomo” Thompson is the club chef. As football becomes more scientific, and matches are won and lost by increasingly minuscule margins, top clubs look to harness every possible advantage they can to give them the edge over their opposition. Whereas in the past, a footballer’s pre-match meal was likely to be the British dish of “pie and chips” – a calorific, energy-dense savoury pastry filled with meat and gravy, served with a portion of French fries – nowadays it is far more likely to be something a bit more posh, like pasta, or salmon, or salmon pasta. Tommy has been head chef at Anfield for thirteen years, having previously worked in the catering industry at Archbishop Beck, a former local centre of educational excellence.


Tommy: Yeah, it’s a bit different. I used to just lash anything on a plate for them gobshites and tell them they could like it or lump it, but you can’t really do that with the likes of Suso and Sahin. They’re more used to Tarte au Gratin and that sort of stuff – you know, food with foreign names and that. If I served them egg and chips they’d only eat it if I wrote “pommes frites avec oeuvres” on the menu HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Do I eat the food? No, Christ no. Have you ever had carbonara? It’s like hot cream soup with bacon floating in it. I’d rather just have beans on toast. Alright, Luis? Luis? Alright, Luis, lad? Done your favourite today, lad. Luis? Just saying, I’ve done your favourite today. Just – just get us a couple of goals against The Bitters eh, lad? Luis? Never heard me. Yeah, but no – I don’t touch this, myself.

Narrator: Thomo is referring to the forthcoming derby match, which pits Liverpool against their traditionally inferior city rivals, Everton. Everton enter the game in slightly above-average form, having lost just once this season but with a far inferior change uniform which features much less colour than Liverpool’s. However, Liverpool have had something of a psychological hold over their rivals and have won more trophies than them and are just basically better than them, notwithstanding their current teams and the gulf in class between the two sides’ performances so far this season. It’s a massive game for Liverpool. A cup final without a cup. At stake – civic bragging rights, something the fans are desperate to hold on to.


[Cut to fans, walking the streets]

Fan 1: It’s Everton’s cup final, this. If they win it, they reckon they’ve had a successful season.

Fan 2: Yeah. It used to be the Friendly Derby until they started getting all bitter about the fact they’re shite.

Fan 1: Yeah. All they ever talk about is us. They sing about us when we’re not playing them and it’s just full of venom. They hate us. We’re not even arsed by them. When we beat them, we don’t even celebrate. We just clap politely, because we expect to win. It’s like Sunday following Saturday, it’s just the way of things. That’s not arrogance, like. It’s just the natural order.

Fan 2: And they go on and on and on about all the so-called miscarriages of justice they’ve had to suffer against us. You’d think there’d been loads. Fair enough, there was the Bryan Hamilton one in ’77, and Hansen’s handball in the ’84 League Cup Final. And that disallowed goal that went in off Hutchison’s arse. There was nothing wrong with that one, like. Funny. But that’s abarrr it.

Fan 1: And that one with Wayne Clarke when they had that goal disallowed at the Annie Road end, when Houghton scored and was miles offside. And that time when we played them in the league and FA Cup in 94 and Abblett flattened Cottee and Nevin in successive games, and they never got a penalty for either. And the one where Stevie Gee went through Naysmith and near split him in two and the ref never give it.

Fan 3: Shithouse that Naysmith, la. Ugly bastard. Oh, and remember Owen slicing through Weir as well? Funny that, la. Gerrard gets away with murder against them, too. Remember the one where Hibbert fouled him outside the area and he ran on a bit and then collapsed inside the box. Wasn’t even a foul, but he gets the pen and Clattenberg’s gonna book Hibbert and Gerrard goes, “ey’are, that’s a red, that”, and Clattenberg goes “yeah” and changes his mind and sends Hibbert off.

Fan 1: Sound, that. And when Suarez got that Rodwell bellend sent off for winning the ball with a clean tackle last season. That was funny, that. His face, he looked like he was about to start crying. He was going “I won the ball! I got the ball”, and he did.

Fan 2: But that’s abarrrr it, though. It’s all they ever talk about. And once there’s a decision that goes against them, all they do in the days and weeks that follow is moan about it on the internet and in the papers, and on the radio. That’s the difference between us and them. We don’t do stuff like that.

Fan 3: Par for the course for them bitter, shitty ground, no history bastards.

Narrator: Liverpool fans have long and lucid memories. They rarely forget a perceived slight against their club. Ahead of the derby, comments by Everton’s current manager, David Moyes, have irked a proportion of their fanbase and one Liverpool player in particular. Moyes, who has ginger hair and looks old, recently contacted several national newspapers unprompted and, muffling his voice by putting a handkerchief over the receiver and talking in a faux-French accent, accused Liverpool pin-up Luis Suarez of single-handedly destroying the moral fabric of football both in England and on a global basis. He also suggested Suarez condoned the activities of Jimmy Savile, and voted for the Conservatives on purpose. As kick-off approaches, Suarez appears unfazed by the allegations.


Suarez: Who is he? Who is this little man? Look into his face. He looks all pale, like a fantasy monster, with his big bulbous eyes and his crazy-mad hair. His voice, it is all like Ken Dalglish, which I did not understand. He is a talking idiot. I will score a hat-trick. I will throw myself at his feet with my first, and the second is for the fans. But just you wait until you see what I do for the third. I take my shirt off in front of him and offer him street fighting, if that’s what he wants. Just me and him in the boxing ring. I will punch his lights off. I will tweet his daughter suggestively. That’s what I will do, but only if I score three, which I will. Only then will I confront him like a man. Until then, I will dive to the floor if this is what he expects. That will sting him. Then comes the Suarez Slam. BLAM! Like a man.

Brendan: OK, Luis – let’s just concentrate on the task in hand. We all know why we’re here, and what we’ve got to do today. So just remember what we’ve talked about this week in training. The key to beating Everton is to get in really close behind them. Get really close. Hold them, come at them from behind. In tight – you don’t want them turning, you don’t want to see their faces. Get inside them, get in their shirts, up tight and close, no holds barred. They want this badly, but you want it – you NEED it – more. Don’t let them get away from you. In tight, all the time. Do it in twos if you have to, just make sure you’re on top of them and make sure they can’t move. Hard and fast, again and again, keep pounding, pounding, pounding. OK? They’re there for the taking. Let’s take them. Take them roughly. For yourselves, for your families. OK? OK! Let’s go, come on! Oh, hang on. Group hug first. Group hug, everyone. Where’s Jordan?

Gerrard: Er…  not seen him, boss.

Brendan: Jesus, does he not know the season has started? OK, group hug. Everyone in together. And you, Raheem. Come stand by me, kid, that’s it. Nice and tight. That’s it. Nice and tight together. Now come ON, Liverpool! Come on, boys! [claps fervently]

[cut to montage of the derby match action]

Narrator: Goodison Park is a seething cauldron of volcanic hostility. The home fans are baying for the blood of Liverpool’s players. They will not be content with anything less than total destruction of the opposition players, their homes and their respective families. Liverpool players are openly booed and heckled, at times being put off their game. Yet against overwhelming odds and in completely unfavourable conditions, it is Liverpool who strike first – team heart-throb Luis Suarez fires across the Everton goal and the ball strikes the arse of an Everton defender and drops into the net. The away enclosure erupts like no other set of fans, and Suarez makes good on his threat, running 50 yards to throw himself in front of the Everton manager, whose cruel jibes clearly cut deeply. Minutes later, Sterling is cynically scythed to the ground as Everton struggle to make any impression other than a physical one on the game. From the resulting free kick, club captain Steven Gerrard’s peerless pass finds Luis Suarez, and the net ripples for a second time. Liverpool fans applaud appreciatively, whilst Suarez himself apologises to the now-rabid Everton fans for his occasional unsporting antics and jogs slowly to the half-way line.


With Liverpool bossing affairs majestically, it seems a case only of how many they will score. But completely against the run of play, goalkeeper Brad Jones, deputising for the regular Number One Pepe Reina, is threatened at knifepoint by an Everton player following a corner. In panic, Jones’ attempted clearance falls incredibly fortunately for an Everton player, who mis-kicks it towards goal. The ball deflects several times, mainly off objects thrown by spiteful Everton fans onto the pitch – including a car bumper, a fridge freezer and a small domestic safe – and nestles unfairly into Liverpool’s goal.


Despite the setback, Liverpool remain resolute. Time and again, Everton hog the ball and try to score. Time and again, Liverpool refuse to buckle, until they buckle again ten minutes later. Once again, a decision goes against Liverpool. Everton are incorrectly awarded a throw in – one of the most potent sources of goal assists in soccer. Whilst Liverpool players contest the decision, taking heed of the old adage to ignore the whistle and attempt to sway the official to change his mind by protesting vehemently, Everton players cynically continue to play football. One of their players kicks the ball hard. It hits another Everton player. His pass into the centre of the goalmouth is ignored by Liverpool players, who are still debating the appalling decision at the throw in. Another Everton player kicks the ball past Jones. Incredibly, the referee allows the goal to stand.


For the first time in the game, Liverpool are on the back foot. However, they defend heroically, like gladiators whose very lives, and the lives of those they cherish most dearly, depend upon it. In the face of overwhelming adversity, they hold out. Luis Suarez is the target of particularly brutal treatment time and again – first by a foolish Kevin Mirallas, who cynically places his left foot under Suarez’s in an attempt to get the striker cautioned and, later, by Slyvain Distin, who hatefully blocks Suarez’s attempted tackle with his Achilles tendon. Raheem Sterling is also targeted in similar fashion, with the referee first booking him and then almost sending him off for a straight-forward tackle, until club captain and spokesman of a generation Steven Gerrard steps in and corrects the decision for the errant official.


However, the show still has one final moment of madness to come. It is a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions. Liverpool are the show’s Othello, let down only by placing their trust in the villainous Iago, played by the referee and officials. Everton are a kind Roderigo, mainly because they don’t fit the profile of any other character but we’re desperate to shoehorn in the enormity of the tragedy and only Shakespeare will do that.


Liverpool are awarded a free kick after an Everton player boots Steven Gerrard. Gerrard, the club captain and role model for a generation of Koppites, floats a delightful ball into the penalty area. Sebastian Cowartieyers heads the ball square, and Luis Suarez pounces to sweep home the winner in the last seconds of injury time. Justice is done, and Liverpool appear to have won the match in its dying moments. But the officials have other ideas and, in one of the most shocking and scandalous pieces of refereeing in the history of football, the goal is disallowed. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and the game ends tied at 2-2, but Brendan Rodgers isn’t one to dwell on the decision.


Brendan: No. No, no. I’m not one for tallying these things up, or keeping tabs on it, because these things have a habit of evening themselves out. But, you know, you’ve got Jonjo being sent off against Man United, that’s one. And of course the penalty in the same game, two. And then there’s Luis here, that’s three. And it’s decisions like these that, you know – they ultimately cost teams points, and managers their jobs. Suarez at Norwich, four. And like I say, I try not to tally these things up but at some stage – Suarez against Stoke, five – at some stage someone’s got to look at these things and say, you know – “hang on. This isn’t right. This isn’t fair. These guys are getting hammered week in, week out, and it’s” – the penalty and sending off at West Brom, six and seven – “it’s down to us to fix it”. And that’s all I’m asking. I’m just asking for games to be fixed back in our favour.

Joe Garston: A rubbish start is all but forgotten, despite early form that was quite often rotten. Four games on the bounce have been and gone, and not one opponent can say “we won”. Would have been nice to bury The Bitters, but a draw puts an end to the early-doors jitters. Performance irrelevant, results were what mattered. Draws and scabbed wins against sides we once twatted.

Being: Liverpool: Director’s: Cut

This Is Not Football is giddy at receiving the first ever guest piece, written by Miles Shackley. Read on and you will understand why.

[The episode opens with a clip of Joe Garston, drinking a pint of mild in a nondescript shithole of a pub, staring wistfully out of a window. The look on his face suggests he’s a man reminiscing about a faithful old dog, or an elderly aunt taken cruelly early by a severe dose of The Clap. Viewers at home can almost smell the carpet.]

Narrator : Joe Garston is a massive fan of Liverpool Football Club, a club which plays football in the English Premier League, based in the City of Liverpool in the northwest of England. Joe is such a big fan of the club that not only has he supported it all of his own life, but he’s also supported it for a portion of some of his friends’ lives, too.

Joe : I like to think of myself as a bit of a philosopher, I suppose. I think there’s a lot of us like that out there that support Lipbewlfubbalclub. It’s what makes us different, and nothing like the fans of any other club in the history of any other sport, ever.

To me, Lyerbpyulefubbalclub is more than just a fubbalclub. It’s a way of life. Everything I do – everything we as fans of Libbubfubbalclub do – is in some way intrinsically linked to the success of Lerbyillfubalclub.

I think we all make a difference to this club. In every single thing we do – it’s transmitted to the pitch and the players and the game by brains and feelings, even on a day when we’re not playing. It’s all around us. It’s what we are. We are the faded red and grey of a King Kenny 1988 manager’s coat, the sound of ten thousand scarves dropped when we concede a last minute goal to FC Dynamo Knob’ead 1832, the smell of a cup full of shit flying lustily through the air. We are Lirbyerpulfubbalclupp.

Narrator: At Liverpool’s multi-million pound, expansive state-of-the-art award winning training ground and facility of Melwood in the gritty district of West Derby, manager Brendan Rodgers is in his expensive office which has oak panelling and a leather chair which spins around. It’s a far cry from his more humble previous surroundings at Swansea, which stank of desperation and Wales. Brendan is talking to one of his favourite players, young starlet Jonjo Shelvey, ahead of training.

Brendan: Jonjo! Jonjo, Jonjo, Jonjo. Here he is. Jonjo. I’m like the Lone Ranger and he’s my Jonjo. “Kemosabe”, he calls me. He doesn’t, he’s got more respect than that. For those of you who don’t know, this is Jonjo Shelvey. OK? He’s one of the best young lads we’ve got here – he is young, don’t be fooled by the skull, OK? Premature balding, sometimes happens. If… if a horse racing presenter… hang on… if a famous horse racing presenter ever got to a race meet a day early, she’d be Premature Balding. Clare Balding! That’s, er… sports. Topical. Anyway, Jonjo. You ok?

Shelvey: Yes, boss.

Brendan : All ready for the weekend?

Shelvey: Yes, boss.

Brendan : The hamstring’s not too tight, you’re not feeling it in training?

Shelvey: No boss, it’s fine.

Brendan: You want me to feel it for you? Kidding, I’m not Jimmy Savile. Which is a good thing, because he’s dead and no-one wants to be dead at the end of the day. But bear in mind, Jonjo, two points. First point [uses thumb to indicate point one] – even though he’s an alleged nonce, he’s still achieved more than you at this stage of your career. And that’s the benchmark I want for you. I want you to beat Jimmy Savile, if you will.

Shelvey: Yes, boss.

Brendan: Second thing. You’ll only do that by working hard, listening hard, and getting hard. Not in that sense, just toughening up. OK, good lad. Now come here, let me look at you. Good lad. OK. OK, let’s go. Good.

Narrator: Brendan has only been at Liverpool for a matter of weeks, but already he’s making his mark around the club. His philosophy is a simple one. “Be the person that makes the lives of every person you meet better, every time you meet them”. It’s not something he’s ever gone on record as saying, but it is a sentiment in keeping with the official Fenway Sports Group and its affiliates sponsored corporate philosophy for 2012. Underneath that gladiatorial, swashbuckling Errol Flynn persona, Rodgers… well, he just seems fat enough to think it. Star striker and team pin-up Luis Suarez is one of many who have been impressed by his hands-on approach.

Suarez: I could not understand the other manager. He was British, but when he spoke, it was like listening to a man throwing a brick into jelly, as we say in Uruguay. Brendan is different. He’s about having fair play. He’s about respect for your opponents, but he’s about winning for the club too. I have endured a very difficult few months in England and Brendan has backed me all the way and made me feel welcome. He phoned the referees for me a couple of weeks ago and was all “why don’t you give penalties for Luis”, and “they’re kicking Luis but he doesn’t get free kicks, which is wrong”. It was nice that he did this, and he has made it clear that in no way does he feel that anything I have done in the past has contributed to this state of affairs. So I won that one, hahaha! But joking aside, it was nice that he did that and I’ll probably feel bad if someone makes a good offer for me and I decide to leave. But for now, my heart is here.

Narrator: Liverpool is unlike every other club in the world, in that it has built a side not only on expensive foreign imports, and established and rising domestic stars, but a core of local homegrown talent. Players like club captain Steven Gerrard epitomise everything that local Liverpool fans, or “Kopites”, aspire to be, despite having no forehead. Younger charges such as Jay Spearing, who has been loaned out to Bolton, and Martin Kelly, who will probably never make it, are looking to walk the same path. Meanwhile, the club’s elder statesman Jamie Carragher was born in Liverpool but ironically grew up supporting local rivals Everton. Jamie, a known voice around the city, was keen to set the record straight about his “misguided” choices as a youth!

Carragher:“eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” [NOTE – subtitles likely to be required for southern states]

[Cut to pub from opening scene]

Narrator: The room is full of Liverpool fans, who have gathered around the television to shout at it as Liverpool face FC Magyar Milkman Select XI in the Europa League, which is a European trophy that sides who don’t win things can get into by virtue of getting to a final and losing, or by being a side that plays in the spirit of the game but doesn’t succeed in winning things. The faces staring at the television have been creased by moments of agony, folded with toothless grins of joy – these men have seen it all in their years of supporting Liverpool. Each has his own unique piece of history he’s eager to relay, a timeless moment enjoyed in the flesh only by those who were able to say “I was there. I was one of the lucky few, a ticket in my hand by fair means and, sometimes, foul. The costs were great – financial, emotional, spiritual. But I watched the unfolding of history in Rome in ’77, and the complete disintegration of logic and sanity in Istanbul in 2005 – and no price would ever be too great. For those days were days of majesty, days of lore, days that in their intensity and beauty would shame even Shakespearian poetry”.

Fan 1: FuckinTWAT’IIIIIIIMTHERFUKKINOB’EAD! Fuck’s sake, Lidlyeprule – you should have hit him on the halfway line. He’s run 50 yards there without a friggin’ challenge.

Fan 2: Fuck’s sake, these are worse than last season. This Rodgers is shite – at least Dalglish was a miserable twat. I knew where I was with that.

Narrator: Liverpool have lost again. The language is industrial. These are men’s men, saying things we won’t put into subtitles.

Joe Garston: “On days like these, you look around. Familiar faces in the ground. We’ve lost today, but never mind. These kids are young, their feet they’ll find. You pray and hope and hope and pray, tomorrow is another day. The faces here, they know the score. Two home defeats, one score draw. Surely Brendan’s got it in him, to get these lads all playing and winning. But then again, you never can tell. Pacts with the devil all end in hell”.