What is the proud history of Liverpool Football Club?

While all of India is still trying to get over the various conspiracy theories surrounding the Tharoor-Modi love-fest and Sania-Shoaib scrap – or was it the other way round? – the one doing the buzz in English football circles is about Liverpool’s approach to this weekend’s crucial game against Chelsea.

What is more important? Chase the fourth spot (if it’s still available)? Ensure that at least seventh place, and hence European football next year – even if it is of the diluted variety, is sealed? Be true professionals and play to the best of your abilities with the result being a byproduct of the performance? Or ‘protect the proud history of your club’ by under-performing against Chelsea so that their title is all but guaranteed, and Manchester United is prevented from overtaking Liverpool in the total number of titles won?

Websites and media in general have been going to town with the poisonous question of what our attitude should be this coming weekend. I must say I felt good for being a Liverpool fan when I saw that the majority of the fans in whatever online forums I trawled through thought it would be a disgrace to lose deliberately, no matter what the consequences. There were of course some morons who felt that the record was important enough to throw the game, and an even smaller minority who would rather wait and watch what happens on Saturday before making up their minds for Sunday!

What an amazingly twisted piece of logic! Just take a deep breath, step back and ask yourself (if you are one of that minority who believe Liverpool shouldn’t give their all on Sunday, no matter what) what kind of a precedent would it set? Football games would be decided like cut motions in the Lok Sabha with quid-pro-quo being the name of the game, rather than skills, goals, fouls and all the other things that make it such a fascinating game.

You say, screw precedent. All I care about is preventing the mancs winning title #19 and wiping out our glorious history. Then you really need to understand what this history is. Why it is that Liverpool is even in the privileged position of being able to make such a choice? After all, if this weekend’s game was, let’s say, Bolton-Chelsea, nobody would have thought twice about it (with due apologies to Bolton – there is absolutely no insinuation that throwing games has contributed to them having fewer titles). Liverpool may not have the league for a couple of decades but in spite of that, they’re still in a position where ManU has only just caught up with them and may go past them. How then did they get to be in that position? Surely not by trying to throw games because doing so would harm some bitter rival.  But because the great Liverpool teams coached by the Shanklys, Paisleys, Fagans and Dalglishes believed in going out and trying to win every game, no matter what.

Remember the games after Hillsborough? If ever even a highly paid professional footballer might have been excused for not performing at his best, it was then. But Liverpool still went out and kept winning games even in the aftermath of that tragedy and only lost the league title (after winning the FA cup) on the last day of the season to Arsenal because they had scored fewer goals.

Agreed, we have played bad football this year. And the records say that we haven’t played football good enough to win the league in about two decades now. But I don’t believe it was ever because of deliberate under-performance. Not even in the spice boys era.

So, deliberately under-performing against Chelsea on Sunday would be an utter disgrace not only to all the great players and managers in Liverpool’s history but also an insult to those not so gifted or successful because they too put in an honest shift for their fans, even if they won less. And that really is what any fan wants – that their players perform on the pitch to the best of their ability. (The fan would also want the other elements of the club, such as the owners, management etc. to tick along smoothly but that’s another story which is not relevant to the current topic).

So, Manchester United winning title #19 will not dent the club’s proud history anywhere near as much the club deliberately throwing a match to any rival in any tournament at any time irrespective of context.

Go ahead and beat Chelsea. Then, we can all cheer Sunderland to do the same to the Mancs!

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