Indulge me in a tale from an old man readopting soccer. The bruise on my calf is beginning to fade. It came from a turf shoe raking down my leg in a player’s attempt to blast the ball past me. I stopped him – the ball deflected nicely to my teammate – and his boot slammed into the edge of my shin pad. The contact hurt less than the players on a Premier League pitch would make it seem, rolling about and remonstrating. Though I realized they were using boots with genuine cleats on the bottom while the foot that clipped me was shod in a softer turf shoe. While the pain fades from injuries suffered during play, I’ve recently discovered that simply watching Premier League football matches (preferably LFC) has done more good for my recreational play, and interest in social football discussions, than I would have thought possible.
View And Recall
Seriously, the direct link between watching and doing is understanding the choreography of the moves players make. Then you can potentially turn these into the fluidity we love to see on the field.
From stepovers to trivelas to more, my collection of skills increases each time I turn on Peacock. The strategy I’m learning from watching Jurgen Klopp’s side is fascinating. Watching other teams defend and attack our club is almost equally a point of interest.
The increase in knowledge isn’t without its pain though. For each skill, I consume the more I realize how much fitness, intelligence, and effort are necessary. A quick look into my personal toolkit revealed a severe lack of these three commodities.
Let’s go back in time to 2017. I’m a new Premier League fan. I know nothing except you’re allowed to drink in the morning and yell while watching the sport. Consider my interest piqued.
Akin to the path teams take to the Premier League, I did the same. I started out as a lowly Bolton Wanderers or Port Vale. Then, staying in obscurity and Morecambe are wont to do, I reveled in the successes of Liverpool. The season ended in heartbreak against Madrid, but the next two seasons would be magical both in Europe and domestically.
When I asked my football mentor, Adam Zand, about the resilience necessary to endure such disappointment, he indicated two things. In many more words than this, he said:
1- Knowing the history of the club, its supporters, and the league is vital to achieving perspective and relevance to modern matches, challenges, and club moves
2- We are Liverpool, YNWA.
And from that second point, I was sold. I went to matches at the pub as well as watching from home. It was all I talked about and drew my interest. And boy did I learn from Adam and the entire local LFC supporters club in Boston.
Interest Leads To Intelligence
As the Reds went forward, my intelligence grew. Tactics became clearer and the triangles on the field became crystal clear. I grew to know the rules pretty well. And if you follow the doctrine from Sirius XM FC 157’s team, it is critical to watch as much football as humanly possible. Even though that quote comes directly from the United States of Soccer show, it still applies across the board.
And I watch. Usually, that watching encompasses the complete slate for any given weekend. That means streaming the ones I can’t watch live and searching out lower-league matches on their given platforms. Happily, as I had more interest and watched more, Liverpool won more. It was the best coincidence of my sporting fandom.
In fact, in the span of six years, I’ve gone from pub guest to holding an LFC Boston club membership numbered in the teens! This dedication has its issues, though. In some ways, my need for quality football is now in short supply watching the home side. LFC is letting me down a little leaving me confused.
As a newish fan, I’m experiencing guilt. Is it wrong to cheer with enthusiasm when Arsenal defeats Manchester United? Should I watch the other 19 teams and wish for all of them to lose every week (I know the impossibility)? Or is there another release? How can I keep my Red focus?
Channeling That Energy
Playing twice a week is helping me broaden my horizons and not have my sole interest be Liverpool. The conversation while we jostle for control and play often turns to international soccer. 80% of my fellow players are discussing Bundesliga, La Liga, or specific international players. Their interest is in Lewandowski, Modric, and Messi.
The only time Liverpool has even been mentioned in four sessions since last spring was by me in late May and by an opponent the other day who reference our fall from grace without Virgil van Dijk. That makes me feel like an island. The soccer player who last played in the 1980s and doesn’t know the table from top to bottom. On top of that, I think I might need an intervention. My interest is no longer hyper-focused on LFC 24/7/365. I’m now football-focused all the time no matter what. The SPORT has me hooked.
Look at this and tell me there’s no problem. Have you:
-Bought six soccer balls over the last six months?
-Signed up to play twice weekly after not playing since 7th grade?
-Subbed to Paramount+, ESPN+, Peacock, YouTube TV, and AppleTV to not miss any action?
-Set your driving schedule accordingly to have a clear signal for all SiriusXM FC broadcasts?
-Posted nearly 70 #MyPLMorning shots in hopes of being on television? (PS: 4x so far!)
-Purchased a new pair of boots every two months for a year?
-Ended up with 34+ football jerseys in a span of five months?
It’s not all about spending money on material things. Time, interest, and dedication are more valuable resources. If you don’t want to spend those, that’s fine. But this is actually an LFC-focused publication so let’s let my fun dalliance wind down and discuss the club.
We. Are. In. Trouble.
For those of you who have reached this point, I was scared to put that at the top. People are delusional. LFC supporters I talk to regularly are still holding out hope. Success is top four or above. I’m shaking my head.
Half a season, 19 games, is all we have to catch up. It’s not happening if you ask me. The squad looks gassed from the exhausting previous campaigns. They often don’t look to be enjoying themselves at all. How do we make that jump from 29 middling points to the necessary points for European qualification?
The best ball, coolest jerseys, comfiest boots, and buckets of practice won’t result in excellence without other factors. The club has resources we can’t even fathom yet they are stuck mid-table. There is no easy hurdle to sixth let alone fourth.
If it were up to me, I might treat the remainder of the season with a little less pressure. I know this is a pipe dream but none of our primary figures are getting any younger. Play the kids. Let the regulars heal. Try to go on one Cup run. Celebrate the remainder of the season. Don’t take the foot entirely off the gas but don’t slam on the brakes. Find upgrades where you can and see what seedlings we have in our internal greenhouse.
It might be late January, so it’s OK to let your LFC resolutions go if you need to. For me, I’m going to remain locked in. I’m going to enjoy the ride regardless of the outcome. I don’t know about you but my interest has only just been piqued. With a game so beautiful, I want it all.