Tuesday, 24 February 2009


AND so we all turn around and look at Big Ears - give him a nod and a wink and think: 'Why not?'

Because our big silver mate (well, his brother - he's at Anfield for keeps remember?) looks like the only chance of this season being anything more than "progress".

There is, of course, the small matter of Real Madrid to overcome if we want to crack on with a charge towards a sixth European Cup.

Bring it on.

Yes, they are much-improved - flying in fact, under the Spurs flop Juande Ramos. So much so, that on recent form they are playing better than Barcelona.

But, as any Red knows, this means nothing. We've beaten Barca in their own backyard, why not Real?

Say what you want about Rafa Benitez, but he knows his onions in Europe.

And if he is going to leave Liverpool, masterminding a win over his old club is sure to impress the big boys at the Bernabau (he's 6-1 to be the next boss at Real, by the way).

But while I'm optimistic about us beating the boys in white, things are far from all white at Liverpool - still.

The mud-slinging continues and it's hard to stay upbeat. A trawl through my own blog is depressing in itself.

It seems like yesterday that was I blogging about the uncertainty at the club in some bizarre way taking the pressure of the players as we edged towards number six.

Of course that was last season. And here we are again.

Meanwhile, the Benitez contract saga rumbles on. Before that it was the Gareth Barry saga, the Rick Parry saga, the Steven Gerrard saga, etc etc

Frankly, I'm sick of sagas. And while we all like to look up the road and moan about Alex Ferguson, this season he's stayed pretty quiet.

Why? Well, he doesn't need to bother throwing in a grenade, we're making a decent job of blowing ourselves up.

And Benitez can't be absolved of blame.

Understandably, he is frustrated - by the Yanks, by Rick Parry, by the general running of the club. We all are.

But that was no excuse for jumping up on the rooftops and telling the world he's not signing a contract until things change - my way, or the highway, basically.

Now, that decision is coming back to bite him. He wanted it public, so it's public. Now he's under the spotlight and everyone wants to know why nothing is happening.

Four drafts of the contract are said to have been drawn up and turned down. Bigger wages, control of the Academy, and the final say on transfers - all on the table.

So what's the crack? Well now, Benitez doesn't want to talk about it. He wants to concentrate on football. Sorry, you can't have both ways.

I'm not one of these tunnel-visioned fans who thinks the manager (and poor players for that matter) deserve unequivocal support just because they are associated with Liverpool.

And if that means I've missed out on super-fan status, so be it.

Benitez, for me, is bordering on taking the piss. Something he has been quick to accuse the rest of the Anfield hierarchy of doing.

On the pitch, I think he's done a great job.

He won the Champions League with a appalling group of players, he's overhauled and improved that squad, made us more consistent, bought some great players, improved others and edged us closer to the title.

And don't forget he's been up against a manager in Ferguson who's had a huge head start in terms of time, squad and money.

But that doesn't explain the baffling decisions or sticking with players who are not good enough.

Statistics say he's got it right most of the time in terms of results. Agreed.

But there's always that feeling that we could have had even more if he'd been a bit more balls out at times - maybe, maybe not.

But in terms of balls, he needs to show them off the pitch now, too.

Forget the point-scoring, the question avoidance, and the interviews with foreign papers that come back to these shores anyway.

The time for Rafa to come clean is now.