Sometimes there are occasions on which when you feel a kind of inner calm. Around you the world may be almost comically chaotic and turbulent but you are centered, tranquil, zen. On Wednesday night, as Liverpool twice went behind to the Premier League's bottom club, most were on the verge of gouging out their own eyes or inducing self-immolation, but your scribbler felt an incongruous peace and an odd certainty.
This was not the delusional bravado of the foolish and nor was it the dispassionate serenity of the indifferent. Normally the most partisan of observers, this emotional Irishman is typically given to bouts of choler and querulousness when a match is going as far awry as the one at Craven Cottage most certainly was.
However, something about the peculiar make-up of that game, allied to the impression the season thus far has created on my oft-battered psyche, left your penman with a sense of belief and confidence that have not shown themselves in these environs for many a long year. We would win. It would happen. Hope was alive. That thing that nobody even really wants to say -- even THAT could happen. Yet even as those thoughts seeped through my consciousness, a jaundiced and cynical voice within me sneered, but you know what? To hell with that guy.
Why do we instinctively rail against such optimism? Well, my friends, it's because we are damaged goods. Crushed by almost two and a half decades without the title we had come to think of as our own, the fans of Liverpool Football Club have recently endured the destructive tenure of parasitical owners and the management of football's greatest charlatan, as the stock of this most august of footballing institutions has plummeted to new lows. How, I ask you, could one fail to be traumatised?
Sardonic wit, gallows humour and jaded cynicism have become the default settings for most of us as we have lurched from controversy to heartbreak. It's a shield, you understand. No doubt, some of us are naturally dour and miserable bastards, but if you are braced against the worst, nay expecting it, then the hurt, when it comes, is mitigated somewhat. It's psychology 101. The time may be coming, however, to drop the shield. Not because Liverpool are going to WIN ALL THE THINGS, although they might, but because this team, under this manager have earned our trust -- they have warranted the reemergence of our hope. This is bloody massive.
Several players have become symbolic representations of this new era of potential. The sinuous, off-hand magnificence of Luis Suarez delights us in every game, the delicious sang-froid of Daniel Sturridge in front of goal has moved us on to another level and the visionary incisiveness of Philippe Coutinho has left us in raptures. For some of us, however, the man who perhaps best represents the beautiful potential of this new era is Jordan Henderson.
Signed, famously, as part of an eye-wateringly expensive and horribly ineffective clutch of British players, Henderson has weathered the taunts and the lack of managerial faith to which he has been subjected, to emerge as a player who is utterly vital to Brendan Rodgers' side. Indefatigable, tenacious and technically adroit, this young man is the beating heart of Liverpool 2014.
Simply put, it is impossible to envisage any other member of the squad contributing the unique amalgam of impetus and solidity that Henderson brings to the party. The man is an undepleteable battery, powering the team around him. Even on his off-days, that industriousness and that admirable moral courage to get on the ball and try, are never missing.
The player himself is a model of quiet determination and self-belief. He has never whinged, even when the more judgmental types in the stands harangued him and his manager seemed to lack confidence in the young Sunderland native. Jordan Henderson has been a leader in every team he's represented and that pattern is beginning to repeat itself in the Liverpool first XI. Unsurprisingly, given his admirable character, the man himself is pleasingly modest and prefers to speak about the team as a whole. He is heartened by the character shown by the group of late, most particularly in the match against Fulham, where a last gasp win was secured -- three points which will be vital to whatever is ultimately achieved this season.
"It's a great result for us," Henderson told the Echo. "To go behind twice and come back and get the three points was massive for us. We really showed our character to fight back like that. Even when we were 2-1 down we still thought we could win the game. We always kept believing that we could win it. We knew there was still time. We kept pressing and thankfully got the goal. Dan did really well to draw the foul and win the penalty, and Steven stuck it away brilliantly. We're delighted with the result and now we need to recover and get ready for the FA Cup tie at Arsenal on Sunday. It's a competition we want to do well in and we want to kick on again.
"We'll never say never. We are quietly confident in every game we go into but we just have to keep doing what we're doing and concentrate on ourselves. We have been playing well of late and our confidence is flying. Everyone is playing their part. We will see where we end up at the end of the season. All our focus is now on Arsenal as we know we've got a tough game coming up this weekend."
Ah yes, the FA Cup. Many of us are wary of our involvement in the venerable old trophy this year, such is the all-encompassing obsession with actually being involved at the top end of the table in February. It's very likely that Brendan Rodgers will field a strong team and it is certain that, if selected, Jordan Henderson will bust a proverbial gut. Herein lies the anxiety that many of us feel.
This season represents the best chance the club has had to finish in a very high position in the Premier League for years. In the eyes of many, myself included, nothing should detract from that focus and the attendant wealth and prestige that would come with a Champions League campaign. This is the reason that Sunday's match will be viewed by many through the fingers of the hand clasped protectively over their eyes. The risk of injury to players like Henderson, in a competition that singularly fails to excite in the way the league campaign does, is hard to justify.
It is here, however, that the discussion comes full circle. This season has been fun. Excellent players, well coached and highly motivated, have lifted Liverpool Football Club into the upper echelons of the table. It's nice up here. The water's warm. We, long-suffering fans, need to shelve our protective wariness. We need to trust men like Henderson and Rodgers to continue what they've been doing consistently now for over a year.
Believe me, the pain of loss will be no greater, should it come, for having denied oneself the joy of hope. I intend to hope. Let's grasp this positivity and excitement with two eager hands and clasp it to us. Happiness is not a thing one can afford to fritter away. I know this. You know this. Liverpool make me happy. Join me. Let's enjoy it.