It’s been long forgotten because of what came next, but ‘going again at Norwich’ is exactly what Liverpool did during their remarkable but fatally flawed title bid of 2013/14 – but they almost didn’t.
In the week which followed the dramatic 3-2 win over Manchester City at Anfield which seemed to put them on the cusp of glory, all was not well with the Reds.
Jordan Henderson had been sent off in the closing moments of that game and would miss three of the remaining four matches of the season, Luis Suarez had been very fortunate to stay on the pitch the same afternoon and wasn’t quite at his best, and we started to see the first glimpses of the injury problems which would cripple Daniel Sturridge’s 2015/16.
When Sturridge was ruled out of the Norwich game there was talk of Iago Aspas or Victor Moses coming into the team, but Brendan Rodgers went with Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen to replace the forward and the suspended Henderson. A defensive move? If it was, no-one told Raheem Sterling.
Four minutes into yet another must-win clash (Liverpool had just faced 10 of those in a row and won all 10), Sterling picked the ball up some 25 yards from goal and crashed an unstoppable effort past John Ruddy into the top corner of the net. He ran off and into the arms of Rodgers. Here were Liverpool going for it again. Anything looked possible.
But after Suarez got his customary goal against the Canaries the visitors started to look nervous. Simon Mignolet flapped at crosses, Jon Flanagan had his worst game of the run-in and Gary Hooper snatched a goal back. Liverpool were rocking.
Enter Sterling again.
After intercepting a loose pass midway inside his own half, he hared toward the Norwich goal.
Suarez made an intelligent run across him but Sterling just kept going and going, ignoring the Uruguayan and the nearby Lucas and eventually striking an effort which took a fortunate, looping deflection before beating Ruddy. Nerves were settled. Emphatically, joyously settled.
Robert Snodgrass pulled another one back to make them jangle once more, but at the full-time whistle no-one had earned this victory more than Sterling.
A week on from scoring the opener in that win at home to Manchester City, here was the teenager again coming to the fore as the key man in a title race. He was showing such maturity.
Yet it will be a Manchester City shirt he’s sporting in the upcoming season following behaviour which many would say is far from mature.
The whys and wherefores of the move have been picked over over and over again, but whilst there is understandably a sense of giddiness at Liverpool given the exorbitant fee they are receiving for a player who stopped coming into work last week, losing Sterling really is no cause for celebration.
That 2013/14 run-in showed just what the youngster was capable of when placed in a team with talent and a purpose. Freedom was extracted from even the most pressurised of situations because of the confidence with which the team played, and Sterling thrived in that environment.
There is no reason to believe that he won’t do the same thing at City.
Those claiming that the 20-year-old won’t get into Manuel Pellegrini’s team or isn’t good enough to justify his fee are indulging in a strange revisionism which has in all likelihood been brought on by the method of his departure from Liverpool.
Of course the fee is huge, but so is Sterling’s potential.
He didn’t outgrow Liverpool as much as move too fast for them, something he did to great effect that afternoon at Norwich and on others during that giddy run-in.
Last season was different. It was a toil from which no-one really emerged with much credit, least of all a manager who had long since stopped embracing Sterling on the touchline.
He couldn’t be that same free-spirited sprite he was in 2013/14 when there was a line to lead in a team staggeringly short on goalscorers, and when Sterling wasn’t seeing his hard work financially rewarded as much as others were, a rift set in.
Common consensus seems to be that he should have knuckled down and got on with his job, but Liverpool were too slow to reward him for his performances, and are foolhardy to think that their club is vastly different to any other.
There more attractive options both financially and in a sporting sense, and like everything else he does well, Sterling wants to experience them as quickly as he possibly can.