Monday, 11 May 2009


THE FALL GUY: Reina buzzes off Di Michele after his comedy dive

SO, barring a miracle, we're going to finish second – and first is first and second is nowhere, right?

Well so goes the traditional Anfield mantra. But that would be a harsh assessment of a season in which real progress has been made.

We're the hardest team to beat in the league and to be top of the table in May, albeit for 24 hours, is something to be celebrate – although not too loudly.

Just look at how far behind the leaders we have finished in recent years – in 2005 the gap was 37 points; in 2007 it was 21. Last year it was 11.

But perhaps even more encouraging than the statistical progress is the shift in the way the team is playing.

We're stamping our authority on games, going out there with belief, and flying at teams from the first whistle and forcing them into submission.

Ever since Real Madrid and Manchester United were so convincingly swept aside, it's like the team has been let off a leash – apart from Mascherano of course, he always looks like he's been let off a leash!

Newcastle and West Ham were the latest to be overwhelmed by the red tide – the Hammers so much so that the game almost turned into a practice session as our boys strolled around with cigars in their mouths. And without player of the season Xabi Alonso.

Winning without key players is a good habit which the Reds have developed – the 3-0 win over West Ham was only the 12th time Torres and Gerrard have started together and there's been 16 goals from that pairing in those dozen games.

But while everyone focuses on the fact that we probably would have won more games if they had both been fit, what about the fact that we won so many without them?

Sixteen players have scored this season. That shows the strength of the squad and I hope that is reflected in the summer transfer policy.

We don't need a revolution, we don't need gambles on has-beens or wannabes – we need proven quality. Not necessarily by the bucket-load either - we're talking two, maybe three players.

But ideally we are talking two, maybe three £30million players. So that's over to you, you pair of Texan two-hats.

Gareth Barry looks highly likely to be one of the summer recruits but that shouldn't be at the expense of Alonso – at the club or in the team.

Barry would be a good addition because of his versatility but hopefully he will be employed on the left flank rather than in a central role. For me, there's no topping that Alonso-Mascherano partnership.

Who else, who knows? But I'm just hoping Rafa doesn't do a Houllier. Remember the last time we finished second in 2002?

Out went Nicolas Anelka and Ged blew £20m as in came Bruno Cheyrou, Salif Diao and El Hadji Diouf.

But I don't think Benitez will lose it so spectacularly. As he's proved, when he's given the big money he gets it right most of the time.

So for now, well it's time to put up the shutters, turn the telly off, cancel the papers, take the fuse out of the radio plug and slam shut your laptop.

Because you know that when the inevitable happens (which unfortunately can be this week) and bacon face's bunch win the league you're in for a media avalanche of arse-licking of unprecedented levels.

And if that porky Blue nose says "Tikkabowson" one more time...