2017 has been a tough year to be a Liverpool supporter. The first half of the season promised much, with spectacular results and performances suggesting the club could contend for a first Premier League title – and first Championship, since 1990.
But a poor run of form in January put paid to that ambition and ever since Liverpool have been desperately chasing a top four finish and a coveted Champions League place.
I’ve been following the club religiously since the late ’70’s and while our trophy cabinet has been barren in recent years, in truth my passion for the club burns as bright as ever. I thrive on the wall to wall match coverage and analysis, to the point of recording Jurgen Klopp’s weekly press briefings. It’s a high octane passion, that can’t be explained to a non-fan and a passion that is simply irreplaceable in my daily life.
With that backdrop, it was with a certain nervous excitement that I tuned into today’s critical GW37 match against West Ham at the Olympic Stadium. The Hammers would be no pushovers, having taken the wind out of Tottenham sails the previous week. The reds on the other hand, were finding wins difficult to come by and had struggled in recent weeks, losing at home to Crystal Palace and failing to score against Southampton in our last outing. Despite this, nothing short of a win would suffice today, with a seemingly resurgent Arsenal breathing down our necks.
But win we did and in some style. Daniel Sturridge started his first Premier League match since January and he led the line well, working hard for his team mates, while looking sharp and creative around the box. And it was Sturridge who made the breakthrough in the first half, taking a through ball from Philip Coutinho in his stride, before calmly rounding Adrian in the West Ham goal and rolling the ball into an empty net. My sitting room exploded with sound, my two young children scattering, covering their ears. ‘Whunnnnnnnnn Nil’, as the late great David Coleman would surely have announced it.
A second would follow from key man Coutinho, before a fortunate third – struck by Coutinho also – put the Hammers to rest. Divock Origi would add a late fourth to add gloss on the scoreline. It was a well deserved victory as the entire team put in a big shift, showing desire across the pitch and a hunger to hit the target which has been in short supply since the heady months of November and December.
So this leaves a final home game against relegated Middlesbrough between the might reds and a return to Europe’s Premier competition. And how our high intensity game would suit that format, no matter the additional workload it puts on the squad. As for the squad, it would surely be strengthened greatly should we beat ‘Boro in next weekend’s make or break fixture. A net spend of £100m plus should be expected if we can take our place amongst Europe’s elite and that type of strengthening is essential to build on this season’s premature challenge. Exciting times are ahead, starting next weekend!