Ahead of Sunday’s clash with – if the media are to be believed – the champions elect it seemed somehow appropriate to gauge the sense of expectation on Merseyside.
With that in mind I asked a couple of Metro colleagues – both of a red persuasion – to describe what it’s like to be on the cusp of greatness and their general thoughts ahead of the game.
Thanks are therefore due to Matt Ladson, editor of Thisisanfield.com, and Jamie McLaughlin, editor of EmpireoftheKop.com for managing to come back down to earth briefly to answer a few daft questions. And for what it’s worth I’ve followed their answers with a few thoughts of my own ahead of City’s biggest match since their return to the Premier League:
On a scale of one to ten how excited are you right now?
Matt – 11 – trying to remain calm but it’s not easy. Every positive result means becoming more nervous.
Jamie – 10
Earlier in the season some Liverpool fans were bemoaning the inability of the centre-back pairings to be rock solid. Has that been rectified now?
Matt – I wouldn’t say it’s been completely rectified but it’s certainly improved. The problem was that we changed centre-backs, full-backs and the midfield in front of them due to injuries. This run we’re on has seen some consistency for the first time; Johnson, Skrtel, Flanagan and Gerrard as the holding player. Only Agger and Sakho have inter-changed due to injury, and they are both naturally left-sided.
Jamie – No, I think Skrtel and Agger is best pairing but Sakho is a better defender than Agger if that makes sense.
Despite the wonderful eleven game winning run, are there any weak links? Mignolet? Henderson? (even though he’s unavailable on Sunday)
Matt – Henderson certainly isn’t a weak link, he’s actually going to be a big miss. He’s made Gerrard’s move to holding midfield possible, doing the running ahead of him. The weak link now, due to Sturridge and Hendo being out, will be our lack of options from the bench.
Jamie – Yes, full-back positions, Johnson is poor defensively and Flanagan can struggle against pacey wingers.
If Sturridge doesn’t make Sunday, who will replace him?
Matt – Nobody per se; it will be Lucas and Allen in for him and Henderson. Those two alongside Gerrard, with Coutinho and Sterling alongside Suarez.
Jamie – Hopefully Allen comes in for Sturridge and Lucas for Henderson with Suarez the lone striker, I’m worried Moses may start.
How far can this current Liverpool go? (beyond winning the title)
Matt – Watching the Champions League this season there weren’t many teams who I think we wouldn’t beat. Build some depth this summer and we can go a long way.
Jamie – It’s a young squad and if Rodgers gets money to spend Liverpool could be on the verge of a successful period.
Will Champions League football be sufficient to retain the services of Suarez?
Matt – Yes. Simple.
Jamie – Yes I think Suarez will stay because we’ve qualified for the Champions League.
Liverpool’s player of the season?
Matt – Tough call. It has to be Suarez but it could easily be Gerrard, Skrtel or even Sterling.
Jamie – The obvious choice is Suarez but I think Skrtel has been magnificent, Skrtel for me.
Will Suarez score *another* hat-trick on Sunday?
Matt – Hopefully.
Jamie – I hope so but he’s been quite poor in recent games, so I’ll be happy with one.
Has the sacking of Chris Hughton even registered on Merseyside? (We have an ex-Evertonian in charge now…)
Matt – Far too many daft sackings this season, I saw it as another one of them. World’s gone mad.
Jamie – Yes, I was disappointed Hughton got sacked and they could have waited to the end of the season.
If so, was it met with the uninformed derision as it was in rest of the country?
Matt – Yes, I personally want Fulham, Cardiff and West Brom to go down – they sacked managers far too early or when it wasn’t sensible to do so. It’s not good for football.
Jamie – Yes, supporters can’t understand why some clubs don’t give managers time.
Any Norwich players you think could ‘hurt’ you on Sunday?
Matt – Rubbish forwards always score against us, so Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Jamie – Gary Hooper. I saw him play with Celtic and he knows where the goal is.
Kenny Dalglish or Luiz Suarez?
Matt – Dalglish. For now.
Jamie – Still King Kenny for me.
Graeme Souness or Steven Gerrard?
Matt – Gerrard. No contest now.
Jamie – Gerrard
Delia Smith or Gordon Ramsey?
Matt – Delia. Women are boss in the kitchen.
Jamie – Delia Smith.
Result on Sunday?
Matt – 3-1 away win.
Jamie – 2-0 Liverpool, I hope.
Will you win it?
Matt – I hope so!
Jamie – Yes, I think emotion, momentum and Gerrard will carry us over the line.
Will City get relegated?
Matt – Probably. But you’ll win one of these next four.
Jamie – I hope not but Cardiff and Fulham have started to win games so fingers crossed.
Thanks to both gents for their time and let’s hope that tomorrow’s game for is not the breeze they anticipate.
While it’s clear those outside of the Canary nation are expecting little resistance from those in yellow I remain – somewhat illogically – hopeful that City can yet turn the form book on its head and get a result tomorrow.
With the bookies, pundits and ‘experts’ alike now predicting a return to the Championship, City now find themselves in the realms of ‘nothing to lose’. In a perverse way, the pressure that accompanied the failed must-not-lose games against Swansea, West Brom and Fulham is now reduced.
With expectation levels now down there with those of an Ipswich Town annual profit, we should perhaps – for the first time this season – see a City side play without fear. Of course it will still have to be a performance of discipline – Neil Adams will ensure that much – but when in possession I’m hopeful the angst and tension of recent weeks will be gone and be replaced with a verve and purpose that has been missing.
Wishful thinking? Maybe, but like every single Yellow Army foot soldier I’m not ready to throw the towel in just yet. Not even close. While there are still Premier League points to be played for – and correct me if I’m wrong, but that figure is currently twelve – there is still hope and, judging by events at Craven Cottage, still belief.
We may be on our knees right now but I’m sure I speak for all when I say I’m not prepared to allow those in yellow go down without a fight. I predict that come midday tomorrow Carrow Road will be rocking in a way unseen since heady days of the Championship run-in.
Think Simeon Jackson… think Chris Goreham… and yes, think Neil Adams; that’s what I’m expecting the old place to be like. And if that means making things a tad uncomfortable for Messr Suarez, Gerrard and Rodgers… good. Now’s no time for ‘nice’, ‘little’ Norwich. Too much at stake for that.
And I expect the players to respond. From minute one they need to be on it. A solid shape; tackles snapping in; passes being zipped around; no time for Gerrard to pick a pass; no room for Suarez to twist and turn. And when the chance comes to attack I’d like them to do it in numbers. No stranded lone striker; instead support and options.
Easier said than done of course, but we didn’t fight our way from near oblivion to concede our place at the Premier League table without a fight. McNally won’t let that happen. If we go down, we go down screaming, kicking and fighting… the Norwich City way. No meek surrender.
Better still, we don’t go down. We survive by taking a scalp or two along the way. And if that means denting the Liverpool dream, so be it. They may be the nation’s second favourite team but they’re not mine… not tomorrow.
The effort, passion and desire shown by Robert Snodgass last Saturday was breathtaking. We need eleven of those tomorrow. 25,000 will road roar themselves hoarse. We need to see the chosen eleven strain every last sinew in exactly the same way.
We’re not finished yet.
Seldom have the words of the song been more appropriate:
“On the ball City, Never mind the danger…”