With a growing confidence surrounding the club, positive noises from the management and back room staff fueling hope for a return to glory, and talk of important summer signings to boost the current squad as they look to finish the season on the upswing, some of the more important member's of this year's team have been doing their best this week to add to both the short- and long-term positivity surrounding the club. With Liverpool managing title-challenging form since Dalglish's return there would certainly seem to be solid cause for optimism, and that boost in form owes a great deal to Dirk Kuyt, Lucas Leiva, and Pepe Reina. That trio have arguably been Liverpool's best and most constant performers of the season, and so it's reassuring to hear of their hopes for the future. Especially in the case of Reina, who until recently many assumed was as good as gone:
I’m happy, calm and comfortable here, looking towards the future which I reckon will bring a lot of happiness and hopefully the new project with the new American owners will be a convincing one, attractive and ambitious above all.
It’s my understanding, and based on what I’ve gathered from the people here, that were will be bringing in some important players, continuing to grow and hopefully in one or two years we will be in the place that Liverpool deserves to be, which is fighting for titles.
Obviously, Benitez brought me here but that doesn’t mean that I’m unhappy with Dalglish, quite the opposite, I think he’s the ideal man for Liverpool at this moment.
Often foriegn players end up being more candid--for good, bad, or otherwise--when talking to outlets in their homeland, and Reina's recent interview with Spanish radio station Cadena COPE seems no different, though it does echo other recent comments he's made about Dalglish being the right man to take Liverpool forward.
In any case, he has certainly appeared happier and more comfortable on the pitch of late, after first Roy Hodgson's tenure and then the departure of Fernando Torres seemed to conspire to to dampen his spirits. And if Reina has been told things by the owners and management about squad investment and a commitment to attractive, ambitious play and he believes them enough to want to stick around, well, that leaves me feeling pretty confident about the future, too.
As for Dirk Kuyt, he's starting to feel as though the Liverpool team that's going to end this season has a lot of similarities to the recent 2008-09 title challenging side that gave so many hope for the future. And he thinks that this time around the club might just be able to take that next step it stumbled so badly over the last time everybody was feeling full of hope for the future:
When we were really close in 2009 and finished second I had the same feeling, a matter of a few good signings and we will be right up there.
I think this is exactly the case at the moment. With the arrival of Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll we have two top-quality players, but also with the young lads who are doing very well things are looking much more promising and if we can add a few other good players then we can compete with the best next season.
We are close I think but like everyone is thinking, we have to move forward and get better and better.
Maybe we are better placed now and we have learnt from what happened in 2009 when we lost Xabi Alonso. If we can move forward then we will be there.
Fingers crossed he's right about that last part, but for a club that not so long ago was worrying about relegation and crippling debt and even the possibility of ending up in receivership with a corresponding nine point deduction, to even be talking about a possible title challenge as soon as next season without it sounding like some peyote-fueled fever dream has to be classed a minor miracle.
Also, while it may have rather little to do with Liverpool or the future, Kuyt also talked this week about how he once had to make a very hard decision over whether to become a fisherman like his father or play football. I suspect he might be the only person on the planet who would have seen it as a tough choice:
I started playing when I was three years old and at 14, my dad said, "You have to choose… you can play football every week or you can be a fisherman… away at sea where you cannot play football at all." It was tough but I loved football so the decision was made.
I suppose, though, that that speaks to a love of hard work very few likely share with the Dutchman, at least not to anything like the same degree. Though Lucas Leiva might come close, and the man who has transformed himself over the past eighteen-months from a fringe player considered soft and surplus to requirements by many to the Premier League's top tackler1 and Liverpool's midfield anchor also has high hopes for the future, as well as having no fear over any big name signings coming in and challenging him for a role in midfield. Though at this point, given how assured his play has become, how central he has been to any success Liverpool has had lately, and how much he's had to overcome on the road to securing a role at the heart of midfield for both Liverpool and Brazil, anybody who might have thought he would be cowed by the idea of the club potentially signing another midfielder hasn't been paying attention.
And on top of having high hopes for next year, he also thinks there's time left to end this season on a high note, joining the growing chorus of players who seem to have higher and higher hopes for the season as the games become fewer and fewer:
I think the way we are playing at the moment we deserve to be higher.
Tottenham still have an advantage because they have one game in hand and are three points ahead but we have to make sure we win every single game and if we do we will have a happy end to the season.
What a difference a few months and a new manager can make--not to mention the new set of owners. Though of course actions speak louder than words. So while all this talk from important players about hopes for a strong finish and a stronger future that they plan to being involved in is nice, it's always possible that Reina could head to London to share a flat with Fernando Torres on a new reality show while Lucas heads to Napoli, Liverpool's average possession plummets to 10%, and Kuyt gets it into his head that he's done enough hard work and would rather be a flair player like his new hero Nani.
You know, if you want to hold on to a bit of pessimism just to counter all the positivity out there.
1 155 and counting according to OPTA stats.