Football is driven by cliché. From the frankly laughable ITV and ESPN punditry to the dressing rooms at Stevenage, via playing fields, slums, 5-a-side halls and back gardens, hackneyed phrases are summoned and applied to every facet of the game. One of the silliest of these is the notion of applying more than 100%. Everyone does it, and I'm pretty sure that John Terry once called for 1000% effort. But if the phrase itself has been mangled, then we should remember that it has only been so by people desperate to prove that they are busting a gut, that no quarter will be given and that, even if a team or individual have been found wanting technically, they will still be there, sliding for every ball, straining bone and sinew to ensure they do not lose, or let down team-mates and spectators.
We're a funny lot, us fans, and can be fickle, stupid, overblown and downright wrong in our opinions. But we bleed internally for our clubs and, often incorrectly, allow our days, weeks, months, years and moods to be defined by the performances of fallible human beings who wear the colours of the club we chose as impressionable children to support. We demand effort, skill and, above all else, we ask that these men wear the shirt with pride and play with, if not a smile, then with the chest out attitude that says 'I love playing for this club.' Often, we will afford some players more leeway than others. Our favourite sons are given the benefit of the doubt, while the workhorse central midfielder will be set upon like a wounded gazelle.
In this context, if the ‘big’ story of the week was the return of ‘King’ Kenny to the helm at Anfield, then the saddening tale was writ large on the face of Fernando Torres. “Owen,” asked my stepson, “why doesn’t Nando smile any more?” “I think he wants to leave,” I replied. “I think he’s had enough.”
The rejection on his face was horrid to witness. Impressionable of mind, he runs his little legs off every Saturday morning as centre-half for Tonbridge Juniors Albion under-9s and he does it with Torres on his back. He will never, I imagine, ask for the name Lucas on his shirt, but the Brazilian has probably been player of the season so far. He may hit the odd misplaced pass, he may appear so far removed from the notion of Brazilian football that a DNA test is in order, but week-after-week and desultory performance after desultory performance, he has given every last bit of effort and looked happy to do it.
I can see that large parts of the country hope Liverpool founder, I accept that it could be a long time before the club resurfaces in the Top 5 and I’m prepared for you to call me a nostalgic wanker in the comments box below.
More maligned than the Con-Lib Government, he has grafted to win the fans over. Many supporters will not agree with me, but if Torres wants to go, make it quick. Get as much money as possible for him before this Iberian sulk drives his value down and use it to bring in players who are desperate to play for the club. I never expected to see Ryan Babel give more effort than Torres, nor did I imagine he would risk fine and censure for posting a picture of Howard Webb in a Man Utd shirt. 10 out of 10 for effort, but I can’t agree with the theory.
It wasn’t a great cup tie at Old Trafford yesterday, Liverpool were more committed to keeping the ball on the floor and going back to the basics of passing to the nearest man in a red shirt rather than lumping it, United barely got out of third gear, Gerrard had to go and I’ve seen softer penalties given. If Dalglish does anything it will be to replace the feeling of negativity that has stained performances, tactics and press conferences this season with one of positivity.
Isn’t Robbie Savage a prize plank? His tweet feed makes me want to pull one of my eyes out and chew it as the other watches. I can cope with his lack of punctuation and almost honourable commitment to making the exclamation mark his signature, but the nonsense he spouts is ridiculous. As Agger clipped Berbatov yesterday, he tweeted… “The game is faster now Kenny…” “He’s not actually playing you bellend,” was my retort.
‘The Magic of the FA Cup’ is one of the most overused and overblown phrases at this time of year, and if the top teams have, in recent years, used it to blood youngsters and rest stars for the apparently more important League and European campaigns, then we should thank the players of teams like Stevenage, Leeds, Doncaster and Leicester for searing performances against players who earn more individually than they do as a team. The reason I love the FA Cup is because it is a proper, balls-out, lose and you’re gone cup competition. There is no airs, graces, or protection of commercial revenue through group stages like we see in The Champions League.
Look at Sol Bamba for Leicester against Man City. Fit to burst from the off, the Ivorian centre-half scored after 50 seconds of his debut, could have had a hat-trick, made a mistake that led to a goal and guaranteed himself instant hero status with his never-say-die attitude. He’s happy to be a professional footballer. Torres may well have bigger fish to fry and a desire to return to a team in the upper echelons of European football and I can’t blame him, but he’s helping no-one, least of all himself, by stropping around and pouting.
Elsewhere, Chelsea regained their mojo, Tottenham thundered on, Fulham scored goals for once and Scott Laird was punched by one of his own fans after Stevenage had defeated Newcastle. What an asshole, if you haven't seen the clip then watch it. Apparently the 'fan' is going to hand himself in today, and the book needs to be thrown. Banned for life, charged with GBH and sentenced accordingly is the only solution. I shudder to think how many kids have seen that clip.
I can only apologise for using this column to, for once, bang on about the team I clearly support. I can see that large parts of the country hope Liverpool flounder, I accept that it could be a long time before the club resurfaces in the Top 5 and I’m prepared for you to call me a nostalgic wanker in the comments box below.
But I’m not prepared to accept a lack of effort. So feel free to have a go, just make sure you give it your all.
Give it the full 1000%.
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