by Siobhan Carney
Crushing disappointment, bad decisions and a host of spirited performances: last Sunday’s edition of The X-Factor provided a number of surprising parallels to a football match that had taken place at Anfield only a few hours earlier.
Somewhat ironically, Sunday’s X-Factor show also included a clip of Liverpool fan, Gary Barlow, uttering the phrase, “I’m gutted”, whilst staring mournfully off into the distance. Had that episode been live rather than pre-recorded, you’d have been hard pressed to decide whether he was talking about the exit of one of the show’s contestants, or his reaction to Sunday’s result.
The match in question was, of course, Liverpool vs. Stoke: a contentious affair at the best of times and one which, over the last few years, has frequently been decided by that ever fickle mistress, lady luck.
Unfortunately, it’s not the only fixture which has left the red half of Merseyside cursing their bad fortune.
If lady luck can be said to bestow her dazzling smile on a select few then, over the last few seasons, fans of Liverpool football club must surely have thrown up their hands in despair under the weight of her perpetual frown.
Penalties that never were; penalties that weren’t but should have been; harsh reds, injuries, suspensions, beach balls and woodwork; the list of recent misfortunes is seemingly endless.
Over recent weeks, both Luis Suarez and Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, have openly discussed the team’s need to engineer a change in luck. Speaking before the Manchester United game, the usually pragmatic Northern Irishman was quoted as saying: “We haven’t had the rub of the green in some of the games but every day our spirit is getting better and stronger, the more we get to work with each other. You could see that in the last two games.”
Naturally, many will argue that every side has, at one time or another, been the unfortunate recipient of a freak injury, bad call or an unlucky break – “That’s sport” they say, “these things happen”.
They’re right of course. Sport, by its very nature, requires quite a lot of talent and just a little bit of luck. Sometimes you get the latter, sometimes you don’t. Even so, only the most myopic of football supporter would fail to concede that Liverpool’s streak of bad luck has lasted longer than most.
Take last season for example. Liverpool hit the woodwork a whopping 33 times during their 2011/2012 campaign. Had they converted the majority of those chances, they could conceivably have taken 47 points from those games – a total which surely would have put them in the mix for a top four spot. Fast forward to this season and, of the seven premier league matches Liverpool have played to date, they can rightly feel aggrieved at not having taken maximum points from at least three of those games.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda: football fans play this game more than most. Hindsight is a beautiful thing; the truth, on the other hand, is slightly uglier. Whilst Liverpool can legitimately bemoan their bad luck over recent seasons, they’ve also continually underperformed.
Unpalatable as it might be, the truth is you manufacture your own luck. Fortune, as they say, favours the bold – Brendan Rodgers’ decision to put his trust in the youth players is a bold decision, and one which has been vindicated by some outstanding performance by the youngsters. Now perhaps it’s time for the fans to put their trust in Rodgers.
A lot of talent and a little bit of luck. Liverpool certainly have the talent – the emergence of players like Wisdom, Sterling and Suso proves that. Now all they need is some luck. And, in the words of X-Factor’s Gary Barlow, perhaps a little bit of patience.