Last Summer saw two Aston Villa wingers of comparable abilities leave the Club for not vastly different transfer fees but their fates since leaving could not be more different.
The two players in question are of course Stuart Downing and Ashley Young, while Young has prospered at Old Trafford Downing has failed to find the form that lead Liverpool to spend £20 million for his services.
Downing is by no means alone either in producing sub-par performances after a move to Anfield, the same charge could be brought against Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll and Ian Henderson. In contrast Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and even David De Gea recently have began to demonstrated the abilities that convinced Sir Alex Ferguson they possessed the quality needed to ensure they help continue the success of the Old Trafford club.
These examples lead to the question of what is that makes new additions prosper at Old Trafford but stutter at Anfield? For me the answer lies in the culture and history of the two clubs. Manchester United have enjoyed the kind of glory over the last twenty years that is rivalled only by Liverpool’s all conquering dominance of the 1970’s and 80’s.
The trophies won by United during Sir Alex’s reign have created a winning mentality at Old Trafford and a culture that produces the best out of players. However a ride down the M25 leads you to a Liverpool club that is haunted by history and overinflated expectations.
In 2005, under Rafa Benitez, Liverpool produced a most unexpected of European Cup triumphs adding yet another chapter to their glorious European history, but what this win also did was to make real the club’s victorious history for a whole new generation.
That famous night in Istanbul meant Liverpool joined the elite group of clubs to have won five European Cups and understandably saw the clubs supporters singing more proudly and loudly than ever of their history.
The fans wonderful vocal support my serve to inspire on some occasions but it also creates a weight of expectation, when Liverpool’s fans boo their side off after a home defeat to Wigan is not only the disappointment of the particular result that is drawing the fan’s fury but also the side’s inability to be challenging for the trophies that once upon a time they did so regularly.
Former Liverpool player John Aldridge embodied this view when writing in the Liverpool Echo,
‘The eyes of the world are on Liverpool FC and the critics are having a field day. We’re becoming a laughing stock.”
‘But at the moment being a Liverpool fan is just embarrassing and that’s something I haven’t had to say before.”
For most teams there would be absolutely no shame in lying 8th in the league, a few sides might be disappointed with missing out on European qualification through their league position but “embarrassing” and “laughing stock” are not phrases too many sides would attribute to a comfortable top half of the table finish.
Of course it is Liverpool’s history that makes this position unacceptable but Aldridge and co seem to fail to grasp the reason that Liverpool are in danger of becoming “a laughing stock”, as he describes their situation, is the Club’s fans failure to realise that former glories are no entitlement to future success.
It is this expectation from the club’s supporters that leads to players such as Adam, Henderson and Downing failing to live up to their potential as they are being weighed down by the expectations of history.
In many ways Dalglish poses more of a problem than solution to this situation as he serves as a constant reminder of the glory days Liverpool are unable to recreate.
If Liverpool are to enjoy a successful season next year supporters must lower their expectations to level which considers the abilites of the current playing squad rather than their long gone predecessors. Any more talk of “this is our year” next season will only place more pressure on an already struggling playing squad and is likely to see them once again play below their potential.
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