When Steven Ger­rard blazed a penalty over in the dying minutes against Black­burn Rovers on Wed­nesday night, unable to con­jure yet ano­ther one-man rescue act for the annals, Liver­pool looked done for. They lost the match 3 – 1 – but that missed penalty was a full-stop. A con­clu­sion to more than just 90 abject minutes, to more than the myth of Stevie G or Roy Hodgson’s ill-fated mana­ge­rial reign. It felt to all intents and pur­poses like the end of Liver­pool as a great foot­ball insti­tu­tion.

I can hear the Liver­pool fans scof­fing from Berlin. The history, what about the great history?“ they always cry. But it counts for little these days – Man­chester City for example are cru­elly reminded by a banner in the Stret­ford End that they have not won a trophy for 33 years every time they visit Old Traf­ford, but it is they, not Liver­pool, who are even any­where close to chal­len­ging for the Pre­mier League title.

Fer­guson: Knock Liver­pool off their fucking perch“


When Sir Alex Fer­guson took charge at Man­chester United, he claimed his aim was to knock Liver­pool off their fucking perch.“ The Mer­sey­side team were then the pre-emi­nent force in Bri­tish foot­ball, a club revered for their class, their unity, their swag­ge­ring play. Pass and move, it’s the Liver­pool groove“ went the song. But who now looks to Liver­pool for sty­listic cues?

As the cameras lin­gered mor­bidly on Roy Hodgson last night, the Match of the Day com­men­tator described him as beleaguered, bruised and bat­tered“ – and he was not wrong. Hodgson after this result – their ninth league defeat – is pro­bably already half-hear­tedly clea­ring his desk at Mel­wood. His tenure cannot con­tinue – even if he is not ent­i­rely cul­p­able for the doom engul­fing a club who has won 18 league titles.

The Pre­mier League era has left Liver­pool behind

None has come since 1990 – the Pre­mier League era has left Liver­pool behind. Even their oppon­ents at Ewood Park last night, have managed to win it once. No, Liver­pool have been a club in decline since the old cer­tain­ties of the Shankly boot room dynasty crum­bled: Sir Alex Fer­guson never kno­cked Liver­pool off their perch, that’s non­sense that,“ says Jamie Car­ragher. It was Graeme Sou­ness who did that, it really was. United were com­pe­ting with Nor­wich and Aston Villa for their first title – they weren’t com­pe­ting with Liver­pool, were they!“ Mediocre players joined the club in stag­ge­ring num­bers, tac­tical and tech­nical qua­lity nose-dived and only the occa­sional excel­lent aca­demy pro­duct (Steve McMa­naman, Robbie Fowler and co) staved off the rot.

Those Pre­mier League youngs­ters though have come through with less and less fre­quency, while the number of mediocre players on the club’s books has only increased – four in fact have been signed during Roy Hodgson’s time at the club. It is a start­ling rate at which to accu­mu­late junk players while the clas­siest, such as Javier Mascherano and Xavi Alonso, slink off to bigger clubs. Should Pepe Reina disap­pear to Arsenal or Man­chester United, or Fer­nando Torres to Man­chester City or Che­lesa, the decay may become insur­moun­table.

Phy­sical decay is a pro­blem too. Anfield is not what it once was: yes, it is a spe­cial ground, a potent symbol, and the only place Liver­pool can cur­r­ently win. But the boarded-up houses around the ground, owned by the club, hint at fatigue. The sta­dium cannot sustain any club who claims to be big“ – par­ti­cu­larly when the foot­ball being played there is now dama­ging atten­dances: 4,000 season ticket hol­ders stayed away from the weekend’s win over Bolton and tur­nout as a whole was down 10,000 on the average. If the club slides fur­ther towards the rele­ga­tion zone (they are cur­r­ently five points off last place), Liver­pool fans’ claims they are the best sup­por­ters in the world will be sorely tested.

Ano­ther title for Man Utd would break a Pre­mier League record

Some would say they already made a mockery of that claim against Black­burn, when they joined in the Rovers fans sin­ging, You’re get­ting sacked in the morning“ at Roy Hodgson. The fami­liar chants of Dalg­lish“ made an appearance too, indi­ca­ting just how badly Liver­pool are living in the past – an incom­pa­rable player Kenny Dalg­lish may have been and a tre­men­dous ser­vant to the club, but he has been out of foot­ball manage­ment for a decade. Owners New Eng­land Sports Ven­tures are right to be wary of fal­ling back on him when the club so desper­ately needs pul­ling kicking and screa­ming into the 21st cen­tury. On the other hand, whe­ther they have either the appe­tite, nous or money for such a long-term pro­cess remains a mys­tery.

After a punis­hing fes­tive sche­dule, and fol­lo­wing the 0 – 0 draw bet­ween Arsenal and Man­chester City last night, Man­chester United are in the box seat for the title. Should they win it, they will con­firm what was hinted at on Wed­nesday night by Gerrard’s way­ward penalty kick. The title would be United’s 19th and would see them break Liverpool’s che­rished record, usur­ping the Anfield club’s pre­cious place in England’s foot­bal­ling history as the country’s most suc­cessful club. Sir Alex Fer­guson would rub his hands with glee: Liver­pool defi­ni­tively, perhaps irrever­sibly off their perch. Mis­sion accom­plished. And little or no riposte from Anfield.

Die Titus-Fuss­bal­ling-Eng-zyklo­pädie
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die eng­li­sche Fuß­ball­kultur auf Deutsch

Folge 21: Avram’s lucky scarf
Avram Grants glück­liche Schal. Der West Ham Trainer hat ihn von seinem Kit Man Bob Oteng am Ende November bekommt und mit ihm, die beste Ergeb­nisse seiner Saison erreicht: Mit dem Schal, hat West Ham nur zwei von sieben Spiele in der Pre­mier League ver­loren. Dann ist Mitt­wochs Spiel gegen New­castle ange­kommen. Er muss seinem Schal nicht heute brau­chen“, hat der Kom­men­tator gesagt, als das Kamera auf Grant fokus­siert hat und das Spiel an 0 – 0 gestanden hat. West Ham hat end­lich 5 – 0 ver­loren. Hat Mütti Grant nie seinem Sohn erzählt: Ziehe warm im Winter an, Schatz“? Damit nicht seinem Schal eine Schlinge wird.