Will Tidey - Optimism is once again through the roof at Anfield
Published: 16 Jun 2011 - 17:58:49
This time last year I wrote about Liverpool's re-birth under Roy Hodgson. Joe Cole had just walked through the door at Anfield, and with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres both convinced to stay by their new manager, things were finally looking up on Merseyside.
Cole seemed exactly the type of signing Liverpool needed. Having been one of the few England players to emerge with credit from a dismal 2010 World Cup, the midfielder represented a homegrown talent with a point to prove. In many ways his plight echoed that of the club itself. Cole's recent past had been marked by frustration and underachievement, and he was in desperate need of reinvention.
When reports suggested he'd be given the legendary number seven shirt worn by Kenny Dalglish and Kevin Keegan, we let our imaginations run away with themselves. Cole was cast as Anfield's new messiah, Gerrard said he was "as good as Messi", and I wasn't the only writer to suggest Liverpool could achieve a top-four finish.
Not for the first time, I was proved emphatically wrong.
Cole's Liverpool career began with a red card on his Premier League debut against Arsenal, and in his next game he missed a penalty. The rest of the campaign he spent mostly grappling with injury or grasping for form. And he didn't even get the number seven shirt.
Hodgson's Liverpool reached the halfway point in the season having won just seven of 20 Premier League games and languishing 12th in the table. Torres looked like a man who'd forgotten how to play and long-suffering Liverpool fans were getting increasingly desperate.
Something had to give, and it did. Hodgson got the bullet, King Kenny returned to his throne and Torres was sold for £50 million to a Chelsea who presumably hadn't seen him play for a year.
Dalglish then proceeded to lead Liverpool on a charge back up the table. Pride was restored with wins against Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, and a sixth-placed finish was deemed a roaring success in the circumstances - especially with Gerrard missing the run-in through injury.
Optimism was already pouring back in when Liverpool went out and paid £20 million for Jordan Henderson - a midfielder Dalglish has called a "class act on and off the field".
With Dalglish committed on a long-term deal, the club promising more acquisitions and Gerrard set to return for the new campaign, it's little wonder talk of top four finishes and even a push for the Premier League title are filling the Liverpool messageboards again.
A year on from my spectacularly bad prediction I'm about to do it again. Next season will see a return to the Liverpool of old, and I fully expect Dalglish to lead them to a top-four finish and perhaps even pick up a trophy.
If they don't I can always make this an annual column.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
- Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey
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