A Lovesong For Lil' Phil

Mike Hewitt

If you have a pulse and evince a passionate support of Liverpool Football Club, then you can only have been dazzled by the visionary brilliance of Phillipe Coutinho's first six months donning the Liverbird. We should know better but frankly it's about time we hopelessly adored a player in red again.

"Let the stars fade and fall

And I won't care at all

As long as I have you."

Elvis Presley, As long as I have you

It's been a season of disappointments and controversies, systems and philosophies, adaptation and adjustment. We knew it would be thus and yet, from the minute the final whistle blew on the opening day defeat to West Bromwich Albion, the less patient amongst us have been readying the pitchforks and torches in preparation for a march on Brendan Rodgers' lavish home in order to torch his infamous portrait whilst singing songs about Rafa Benitez and Kenny Dalglish.

Last night, Twitter was abuzz with indignant Reds lambasting Chelsea fans for their ignorant abuse of Benitez, despite his delivery of Champions League football and the club's fourth ever European trophy. The lack of self-awareness was stunning from the very people who tried and condemned Rodgers based on a rough opening to the season, a hugely ill-advised starring role in the mostly execrable Being: Liverpool and the fact that he wasn't the charming, corpulent Spaniard or the legendary, acerbic Scot.

If this football club is going to grow and move forward then supporters must embrace the best aspects of the current set-up and learn to live, for now, with the worst, in the hope that they will improve. That is not a call for apathy. Nor is it acceptance of mediocrity, before that old chestnut gets levelled at your long-suffering correspondent. However, simply willing the return of Benitez will not make it so, no matter how much you scweam and scweam and scweam until you're sick.

Rodgers is the man tasked with returning Liverpool Football Club to some semblance of it's former greatness and it would be a wise and tolerant fan who realised that irritating nomenclature like Year Zero and the new-found fondness for doing everything by committee are simply part of our current reality under FSG. We can moan and rail against them all we like but to my mind such energy would be more wisely expended in support of something tangible and genuinely important like the Spirit of Shankly's campaign against inflated ticket prices.

As we head towards the glorified Jamie Carragher testimonial that is our final match of the season, let us spend some time in appreciation of the finer aspects of the campaign. The new-found indestructibility of Daniel Agger and Steven Gerrard and the frankly outrageous skill and strike rate of Luis Suarez have been invigorating and heartily encouraging but the thing that has truly sparkled with fairy dust is the form of our January signing Phillipe Coutinho.

In an interview with LFCtv, former manager Roy Evans has been extremely complimentary about the impact made thus far by the 20 year old Brazilian. Evans is steeped in the bootroom tradition that dates back to Bill Shankly's era and he knows a player when he sees one. Coutinho, he believes, has a similar range and vision to former Anfield great, Jan Molby -- praise indeed.

"Coutinho has got that little bit of cuteness about him, that means if you make the run, you've got a 90 per cent chance he's going to stick it in the right place for you," opined Evans. "The guy knows how to pass it. I'm not trying to say or put too much on him just yet because he's still a young lad of 20, but he's got class. That gives you confidence to go and make the runs. Coutinho is benefiting everyone, not just [Daniel] Sturridge. Jordan Henderson is making runs into the box and he's finding him too."

Yes, Coutinho is all about finding players. His ability to pick out a colleague at speed, whilst under pressure, is really quite wonderful. Coutinho has Jason Bourne-style peripheral vision, taking in the whole vista as though he were being fed information via satellite. The kid sees the bigger picture in a way that justifies the use of that hoary old aphorism. His dinked pass for Daniel Sturridge's third goal against Fulham made me uncomfortably emotional and after his remarkable through-ball to the same player in the build-up to Jordan Henderson's goal against Newcastle, I was left with feelings I didn't quite know what to do with.

Only later, as I nursed a beer amongst friends and ruminated, did I understand what was occurring. It was that rarest of emotions -- man-love. I was utterly absorbed by this kid's ability with a football whilst wearing a Liverpool shirt. It's the male equivalent of what one sees in the grainy old footage of young women watching The Beatles, except far more reserved and emotionally inarticulate. Even at this early juncture, Coutinho was nudging his way into an exclusive corner of my heart occupied only by Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes and Robbie Fowler.

I realise that the Excitement Police will take umbrage to my effusive tone and laughably extravagant comparisons. Clearly, there is no benefit to building the player up so much in my head or to the raising of expectations. I'm nearly 40; I'm old enough to know better; I do know better but I just don't care.

Sometimes, in our po-faced analysis of club finances and doleful critiquing of tactics and performance we lose sight of the reason we all love football; the reason we place ourselves in absurdly emotionally-vulnerable positions. Sometimes, the game brings us joy -- unadulterated, pure, unrestrained rapture. In Phillipe Coutinho, Liverpool Football club have a player who can mine those rich seams of delight and I, for one, intend to revel in every shimmy and feint, every slide-rule pass and delicate finish. I want to be happy and I want to adore. It's been a while.

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