In the aftermath of Liverpool’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion, two factions of Liverpool supporters fought in the dust for supremacy. By dawn, there was still no clear winner.
The massed ranks of the ‘We’re All Doomed’ squad retired to lick their wounds. The redoubtable officers of the ‘There’s Nothing Wrong’ brigade fell back to higher moral ground. Everyone else could only sit and wonder what ever happened to transitional seasons.
There is truth in the dogma of both camps, of course. On the plus side, Brendan Rodgers has cultivated a pleasing style of football while blooding talented youngsters and showing a willingness to embrace the traditions of the club.
If you could ignore the mental frailty, the reliance on a diminishing core of first class players, the lack of success against top half clubs, Oldham and the manager’s propensity to burble nonsense, this really would be a very rosy picture. That it is not is hardly surprising. This is a transitional season.
In fact, it’s Liverpool’s third transitional season in a row and with every summer of uncertainty, the challenge of restoring the Reds to their past glories increases in difficulty.
Four men have sat in manager’s seat in less than three years. That’s four different styles of play, six hopeful transfer windows and three seismic sackings.
It’s hardly surprising that Liverpool lurch through the Premier League with all the stability of a rubber duck in a Jacuzzi. What they need is for someone to take control, settle into position and slowly assert some authority. What they keep doing is freaking out and making dramatic changes.
This isn’t to say that Rodgers is definitely the man to revive Liverpool. We’re six months into the season and I still can’t decide if he’s a great manager with a sideline in PR, or a great PR man with a sideline in management. But I know that writing off this campaign and allowing him that transitional season is more constructive than yet another swing of the axe.
At the risk of sounding like Grandpa Simpson, we used to have transitional seasons all the time. Tottenham Hotspur, for example, were in one for over a decade.
When a new manager arrived, or when a team was promoted, there were limited expectations of immediate success. A season of retooling and rebuilding was generally accepted as part of the process.
There were exceptions. ‘Deadly’ Doug Ellis sacked Billy McNeill in 1987 and Jozef Venglos in 1991 after single seasons, but then the former was relegated and the latter only finished two places above the drop-zone. These days, even without that drama, a new manager is forced to prove his credentials instantly.
Look at West Ham, where there is already speculation over Sam Allardyce’s future at the club because of a poor run of form.
Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers are all presently showcasing just how difficult it is to bounce back from relegation. Allardyce did it in a single campaign.
However, with all of that TV money on the horizon, there is a sense that the club’s owners look upon him as an emergency plumber. They’re grateful to him for unblocking the loo and getting rid of that awful smell, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to invite him to stay for dinner.
The truth then, of this epic battle between Liverpool fans, is that both sides are mistaken.
There is something wrong at Liverpool, but they are not doomed.
They’re just in transition. Where that transition will take them is, of course, another matter entirely, but it’s probably better to wait and see rather than start the whole process again. Because if there’s one thing we can be sure of with Liverpool, it’s that constantly starting again, is precisely why they’re in this state.
Read more football opinions from Iain Macintosh