Christ, it goes on and on…………..

17 01 2010

Behold this wisdom;

Article taken from here.

(To take this article seriously you need the following essential background knowledge; This week Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup, this has never happened before)

George V asked on his deathbed: “How is the Empire?” Supporters of Liverpool Football Club are asking the same question. In both cases, the answer, “It’s not what it was”, doesn’t quite cover it. Is the correct answer: “In a state of irreversible decline”?

What is left of the Liverpool Empire has taken a further and prolonged battering this week. The last consolation prize was kicked out of their reach by Reading, a club Liverpool would scarcely have noticed when they were ruling the waves. Reading beat them in an FA Cup third-round replay at Anfield on Wednesday. Liverpool are now out of the FA Cup, out of the Champions League, out of the “big four” in the Barclays Premier League and out of the Carling Cup, too.

Unbeatable Liverpool have been beaten again. They are the team who once had the secret of all sporting empires: continuity. They had a sound boardroom, a judicious succession of managers steeped in the same great tradition and a dynasty of players. It seemed inevitable that Liverpool would carry on for ever: a 1,000-year Reich, the natural champions of England and Europe.

Now look at them. They are not suffering a dip in form, they are continuing to deteriorate. If you leave aside the great and glorious fluke of Istanbul, when they won the Champions League in extraordinary circumstances, they have been in serious decline for at least a decade. While rivals gloat and Liverpool supporters adopt their default position of self-pity, one poor result follows another with dreadful inevitability.

I suppose the results are not bad for a half-decent Premier League side, which is what Liverpool are. But they are a calamity for a great sporting empire, and that is what Liverpool were. Like the nation in which they have their being, Liverpool must deal with everything the modern world can throw at them while carrying the burden of a vanished imperial past. For Liverpool, that past includes 18 league titles, seven FA Cups, seven League Cups, three Uefa Cups and five European Cups. Liverpool once painted the footballing map red, as Britain once painted the real map pink.

The problem for Liverpool is not what they might achieve, but what they have achieved. They must live with the terrible truth: that all empires decline and fall. To steal a phrase from Roy Fuller, the poet, ridiculous empires break like biscuits. This rule operates on fast-forward when it comes to sport. Real empires break over the course of a century or two; sporting empires do so in a single season or a few weeks.

Manchester United took over from Liverpool as the natural champions of England; they, too, have been hustled out of the FA Cup this season and they didn’t even get a replay. This is a failure; once again, the world looks at a United blip and examines it for signs of terminal decline.

It was Leeds United who beat Man United. Leeds have also had their time as an empire, they, too, have fallen on hard times. If we look across the history of sport, it becomes clear that every successful organisation is standing on the bodies rather than the shoulders of giants.

The West Indies cricket team, now the Australia cricket team, the Wigan rugby league team, the England rugby union team, Ferrari, British middle-distance running — all these were once unbeatable and looked as if they would be unbeatable for ever. All have declined and fallen. Each one has broken like a biscuit.

It is true that such declines are simply part of the natural process of events. But why are they part of the natural process of events? Why can’t a sporting organisation stay on top for ever? We know that success brings success, but why does this glorious, self-perpetuating process always come to an end? Why can no one avoid it?

Sometimes the ground shifts beneath your feet. The things that make an organisation successful become outdated. You wouldn’t build a successful Premier League team on a parochial manager, a bunch of gifted Scots, a few Irish and the odd Englishman, but it was good enough for Liverpool at their most successful.

Nor would you build a successful team on the finances of the local builder, butcher or brewer, as football teams did in the past. There is value in stability, but there is danger in sticking to the past. There is value in change; there is danger in the wrong kind of change. How is anybody supposed to know the difference?

Decline often begins with changes of key personnel. All athletes have short careers and Manchester United’s comparative falling-away this season is mostly put down to the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo. Liverpool’s failings consistently occur when Steven Gerrard and/or Fernando Torres are unfit.

A change in management can trigger decline. This is likely to happen to United when they lose Sir Alex Ferguson; it happened before when they lost Matt Busby. Liverpool established a tradition of loyalty and continuity — Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish — but by the end, their greatest strength began to look a weakness. So in came Graeme Souness with a new broom. Some blame him for creating a revolution when a few tweaks were all that was required, others believe that the decline was already unstoppable.

Outside forces can prompt decline. The disasters of Heysel and Hillsborough had a profound effect on Liverpool and preceded the resignations of Fagan and Dalglish. Liverpool’s self-certainty, the club’s belief in their essential rightness, was irreversibly damaged by these terrible events.

Then there is money. Ask Wigan; ask Leeds. Modern Premier League clubs are divided between the debt-crippled sides — Liverpool and United — and the sugar-daddied things that Chelsea and Manchester City have become. Right now, sugar daddies seem to be the way forward: but for how long?

Then there is the irrefragable truth that in sport, everyone is trying to beat you. Your plumber runs his business without needing to beat all the other plumbers in the Yellow Pages, but in sport if you are not beating the others, you are losing to them. And in sport you will always run up against people who are better.

And ultimately that’s what decline in sport comes down to. You keep on meeting people who are better.

Or better “on the day”, as footballers prefer to say. But if they’re Reading and you’re Liverpool, that day should never come. Alas, it always does.

Times change and so you make changes, but they’re the wrong changes. So you try to stay the same, while everyone else improves. Or circumstances change. Or your players decline and stay on a season too long. Or you change the manager. Or you don’t change the manager. Or, this being football, the money gets you. That’s football: in the midst of life we are in debt.

There are many reasons for a sporting empire to decline and very, very few reasons why a sporting empire should carry on for ever. The mystery is not that clubs such as Liverpool should decline, but that they should have ruled the world for as long as they did”

The author is spot on of course, no empire in human history has remained in perpetuity; the Mongols came and went, the Austro-Hungarians entered the dustbin of history after World War One, and Reagan saw off the USSR. In sport Real Madrid stopped winning consecutive European Cups 50 years ago. Stating the blindingly obvious is not wrong per se as some people don’t get this far. Just when you are tutting (in expection of something better from the chief sports writer of a broadsheet newspaper, you know enlightenment or something) you notice this molten bronze droplet of football knowledge;

Unbeatable Liverpool have been beaten again”

As someone with a soft spot for Liverpool I feel that I can safely state two things; (i) Liverpool haven’t won the league since 1990, (ii) Man Utd have replaced Liverpool as the dominant team in the League. I realised that these two ideas were facts several years ago so you could say that I’ve been following football quite closely. Can I have my turn as chief writer for the Times now? The present incumbant has taken so long to enlighten us mere mortals he obviously needs a break.

Out of the last 5 seasons (including this one) Liverpool have been knocked out of the FA Cup by a team from a lower division 3 times. For some reason this has been overlooked by everybody, why has realisation of Liverpool becoming not as good as they were suddenly hit home? Now it has everybody extrapolating a few defeats in key games into imminent meltdown. Because  enough people are saying it, it must be true. Ironically, during the last 5 seasons Liverpool have also beaten a lot of major European clubs but this is forgotten in the ranting and wearing of hair shirts. 

A lot of non-Liverpool supporters are relishing the situation that Liverpool are in at the moment of course.  That some people went to the trouble of making that page look realistically like the Liverpool website shows how much “sky-educated” fans are out of step with the way the Jet Set feels.  In football everything is now vital, you must believe everything Murdoch’s media tells you to and you must hate, hate, hate, hate. You don’t even need to go to matches any more, just hang around pubs watching TV in polyester shirts.

The Premier League is turning the Jet Set into grumpy old men; there used to be a time when people quietly accepted that their time in the sun had past, and beacuse football wasn’t that important they were allowed to, but that’s now a foreign country. Quiet contemplation and acceptance has been drowned out by the braying taunts of morons.

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