Shankly's Birthday, Downing's Ambition, and Other Friday Notes

shankly

The biggest news of the day isn't really news, but rather a honoring of the man whose name is forever connected with Liverpool Football Club's history, Bill Shankly. To commemorate what would have been his 98th, birthday, the official site's got a few videos that are worth your time. Easy for those on the outside to ridicule Liverpool's celebration of their history, but when it involves men like Shankly, why wouldn't you?

Other stuff of note as the internationals get underway:

* We've talked about the good bit of buzz generated by Liverpool's successful start to the campaign---they've taken seven of nine points, improved steadily from match to match, and have a squad that, from top to bottom, seems as strong as it's been in years. For us that means taking a break from the problem drinking to do some celebratory drinking, but for Stewart Downing that means challenging the boys at the top of the table:

"We've certainly got the quality to challenge. It's going to be difficult because Manchester City have strengthened and have got a hell of a squad while Manchester United have started really well. We've got a hell of a chance of doing it but we have got to pick up points and stay in and around that pack to have a chance of doing that.

"No disrespect to the other clubs, but at Liverpool they are expecting to win games. You can see the expectation, spending big and having a pretty big revamp. We've started very well. We don't want to look too far ahead because you could slip up. You can sense the expectations. It was a difficult couple of seasons with stuff going on with the owners and that but now there is a buzz around the place.

"The new owners have come in and shown their intentions by spending good money on players and revamping it so expectation goes up and Liverpool fans always want to see success. If the team keeps playing the way it is at the minute then we have got a hell of a chance of succeeding."

Hell of a good interview, Stewart. And not completely baseless optimism, though there's some that might scoff at the idea of Liverpool mixing it up with the Manchester clubs and Chelsea in what's expected to be a three-club race atop the table. I think most of us have more reserved expectations---challenging for and earning a Champions League spot seems to be more than enough for a healthy amount of supporters, and, as much as you can assert anything this early in the season, it appears that the club are primed for that challenge. That doesn't mean more can't be accomplished; if the results roll in, fitness holds, and the squad settles, anything could happen. It'd just be a hell of a surprise.

* Lastly, we knew about the promise of watching Sebastian Coates later today when Uruguay take on the Ukraine in a friendly, but recent comments from Steve Clarke have given some the impression that we'll see him in the first eleven sooner rather than later. The headlines have ranged from "Coates Ready Now" to "Liverpool will give Sebastian Coates time to settle", and, as always, the truth is somewhere in between:

"He's a talented youngster and gives us different options at the back. We look to sign young players that can improve and we looked at his performances throughout the Copa America when he was named Young Player of the Tournament. It's certainly exciting. It'll be a different challenge for him because the English Premier League is a league that takes a little bit of getting used to, so hopefully we can nurse him along, get him ready and he'll be a valuable addition to the squad. He's ready to play. He's a full international and Uruguay are amongst the top five in the world, so they're a strong international team. He's ready to play if required, but we've also got many other centre-halves ready to play if required."

Those emphasizing the "ready now" part (including the offal, surprisingly) don't seem to be grasping the full context of Clarke's comments, or are at least choosing to ignore it for the sake of pushing a narrative that young players have to be great now, or they're destined to lead a life of failure and misery in the Hungarian second division. Popular opinion on the Coates signing was that he'd get plenty of time in the domestic cups and as appropriate in league, and I don't know that anything Steve Clarke said here betrays that sentiment. They obviously know better than anyone else, but "ready to play if required" is the takeaway for me. Incredibly promising, and I'm hopeful that he's got a bright future at the club---I'm also just as hopeful that he's given the chance to come along at his own pace, and that his pace is one that doesn't get suffocated or interrupted by unreasonable expectations.

So that's Friday's Liverpool rundown done, and now nothing separates you from the vicious drunk you've put off for the weekend. Or already started, in which case just keep fighting the good fight. Noel's back tomorrow with a look at how today's internationals wrapped up, so look for that sometime after you wake up in a strange place with a blistering headache. And you can always catch up with us over on Twitter, where the England jokes are already flowing fast and loose.

Until then, more Shankly goodness:

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