Trophies Please... Will Carling Do?
Feature by Kieran Davies
Updated Saturday, 25th February 2012
Sunday afternoon will be a good day for all Liverpool fans, call it a hunch. We return to Wembley for the first time in 16 years and it has been six long years since we last adorned the Anfield trophy cabinet with any silverware.
Wembley used to be called ‘Anfield South’ by the likes of Hansen and co who were regular visitors to the venue. The focus seems to be more on Champions League qualification than winning domestic trophies but there is no silverware for a 4th, 3rd or 2nd placed Premier League finish and no side is ever guaranteed to win the coveted trophy. I think winning domestic silverware has been forgotten and is the bread and butter of any club. The stats contradict what was built as ‘The Liverpool Way’ by many great coaches, managers and players alike in the club’s history. Unbelievably only 3 of the current first team squad have won any notable trophies at club level. Obviously 2 of the 3 are Gerrard and Carragher with the other being Glen Johnson via an FA Cup win with Portsmouth. There are many great current Liverpool stars that seemingly deserve professional recognition for their effort for this club. Kuyt, Reina, Agger, Skrtel, Bellamy all would love nothing more than to enjoy the elation of winning a trophy in a Liverpool top. As would all the others but these have deep passion for the club we all love.
Craig Bellamy in particular will have an emotional day playing in a Wembley final against his hometown club and after losing close friend and international manager Gary Speed this year, will no doubt see this as a fitting tribute to his friend. I don’t think he will celebrate scoring in any traditional way as Cardiff City mean too much to him but I am sure in some low key way he will pay tribute all the same. He seemed to thrive against Man City playing against old friends and did put in a man of the match performance with a smile on his face. I am sure the same will be said of him on Sunday. Many of the current squad have shown their worth for this club but when the day comes to reflect back on their careers, trophies speak louder than stats. I am sure for all the talk of Cardiff being fired up for the final the Liverpool starting XI will also be just as fired up. After Arsenal’s humbling in the final last year, Kenny will make it clear with every player what the price is of under-estimating any opponent in a one off game. Leading the club he loves will no doubt still make the hairs stand up on the back of Kenny’s neck even after all this time and he will want to win this as much as anyone.
A win in the final irrelevant of opposition will be a positive for many reasons. Firstly it will be a good marker for Kenny that his transformation of the side is moving in the right direction. Secondly it will appease many players who want to be winning things where they ply their trade. Thirdly it will give FSG a positive to show their investment is making progress in the short term and not just the long and will definitely affect their attitude towards summer spending. Finally for the most important cog of any club... the fans. Irrelevant to what friends or work colleagues comment on the worth of the League Cup, every team enters it to win it. Nearly every one of the top Premier League sides went out this season fielding near first XI teams. Winning trophies is the recognition of consistency over a season and to be in that position you have to consistently win so this definitely proves as a worthwhile honour.
It can also work as a catalyst for the club’s season. Our next league game is at home against Arsenal. A win would not only mean doing the double over the Gunners for the first time in a long time, but will realistically put us back in the mix for 4th spot. We would go into our FA Cup quarter final with Stoke in a very positive mood and I certainly wouldn’t question a parading of the Carling Cup trophy pre kick off would surely unsettle the visitors as they warm up. The fans could replicate the atmosphere of the final and turn every game for the rest of the season to be treated as a cup final, something which has been lacking in us of recent seasons. Seemingly taking our foot off the gas when playing the lesser clubs and not achieving a return of points fitting of a Champions League qualifier.
On paper, Sunday’s final is a complete mismatch in all areas of the pitch but the players need to approach the game like they everyone is facing their toughest opposition in every position. The game needs to be started with ferocious intensity we have been famed for on European nights at Anfield. Giving our opponents no time on the ball to think, quick interplay and movement forcing Cardiff onto the backfoot. Amidst the pressure of appearing at Wembley this could all prove a bridge too far for the Championship outfit and they buckle under the pressure. One thing is for sure a cagey start by Liverpool will only breed confidence in the Welsh outfit. The starting line up is anyone’s guess but all players need to produce their A-game for 90 minutes. The season will be moving in positive directions with the FA Cup and Champions League qualification beckoning as the prize on offer for the rest of the season but 45,000 Liverpool fans would travel home happy that the club will be soon utilising the skills of the cleaner in the trophy room once again. Fans can only enjoy the day, cheer on their side and hope the players produce on the day.