Finding Joy in the Grind

It’s been an odd season, to say the least, and it is only September. Liverpool hasn’t played in the league since September 3rd with multiple matches being rescheduled due to the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Our lads are already 9 points adrift of . . . Arsenal? Seriously? Arsenal? Brighton looms next, but not until Oct 1st. Brighton at home seems like a great way to reestablish rhythm, but it also gives tense flashbacks as losing a two-goal lead to Brighton at home stands out in my memory as the day Liverpool lost the league last year. With draws to Fulham and Palace, a loss to – gulp – Manchester United, and a battering at Napoli already marring the young, disrupted, soon-to-be-World-Cup-interrupted season, 22/23 is shaping up to be a very long grind indeed.

But there is a joy to be found in a grind. 20/21 was a grind. 69 points. 9 league losses, and 9 more draws. Almost as many horrifically injured centerbacks. Yet I have fond memories of that team. Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams stood tall and fought for the club. Rhys Williams walking onto a Champions League pitch mere months after playing for Kidderminster Harriers F.C. in::checks notes:: the sixth division is the kind of moment we watch sports for. Rhys standing there with his arm around a crying Nat Philips, both men battered and saluting the crowd on the final day is a moment I hope never to forget. It embodied the grit and determination that ensured Liverpool another season of Champions League football.

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Wasn’t All Joy or Glory Through Pain

It was also nights of glorious football. Battering Atalanta 5-0 in their own building! A systematically demolishing of RB Leipzig in the Round of 16. An electric 4-3 win over Leeds on the opening weekend. An emphatic 4-2 win at Old Trafford in May when a Top Four finish was still in doubt. It was 69 points and no trophies, but that didn’t mean there was no joy.

Future Looks Bright

This season won’t reach the heights of 19/20: 99 points and winning the league. no pursuit of a quadruple. But we know these players, this team, and this manager is relentless. There won’t (likely) be another 9-0 like we had against Bournemouth. But there will be wins, great play, and perhaps a few electric draws. There will be small moments too. Moments to savor. The growth of Harvey Elliot and Curtis Jones, either of whom may blossom before our eyes. We might get the England debut of 19-year-old Calvin Ramsey from Aberdeen. We couldn’t buy Fábio Carvalho a drink here in the States, but he looks likely to entertain us all season and for years to come. Oh, and I still back us to make it out of the group in Europe, at which point we all know anything can happen.

So breathe. Enjoy it. These are still the good old days.