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Dalglish Won't Take Cardiff Lightly, and Other Thursday Notes

downing united battle ineffective

Three League Cup victories sorted in our stroll down historical avenue, four to go, and for the love of Fowler why isn't it Sunday yet I can't stand the wait and I'm nervous and I think I cut myself underneath the fingernail chewing on the fingernail because I'm so nervous I'm chewing on my fingernails or at least I cut myself underneath the fingernail somehow and why isn't it Sunday yet? Deep breath. Let's just get to today's news and notes…

* In case you missed it, Stewart Downing picked up his first assist of the season last weekend against Brighton in one of his few not-horrible games for Liverpool to date, an ever-growing list of scalps that now includes Sunderland, Oldham, Brighton, and… probably one or two others I'm selectively forgetting to allow history to better conform to the narrative I've grown used to. You know, the one that points skeptically towards the fact Downing still hasn't scored or recorded an assist in league action but is willing to admit that if you need someone to burn a Northern Premier League Division One South right back who's having a really bad day he's totally the guy for the job.

All of which might be a touch unfair to the player when you get right down to it, but in reality probably isn't any less reasonable an outlook than recent suggestions in some quarters that a decent performance against Brighton means that he has now "performed well" in a more general sense. Which is to say not just against Brighton and Oldham and once six months ago against Sunderland.

Regardless of quite where your opinion of Stewart Downing's time at Liverpool lies, though, most would likely agree he's had his share of underwhelming performances since arriving in the summer for £20M. In fact, it turns out that even Downing himself might agree with that:

I expected pressure but I didn’t expect it to be as big as it has been. You are under the microscope every day. I have had some good games and some indifferent games and I have been on the bench sometimes when I have been used to playing every week. That has been a bit hard getting used to but I have adapted quite well, I think.

One rather suspects the jury is still out on whether he's adapted to the pressures of playing at a bigger club—of being a small fish in a big pond when before he was Billy Big Mouth Bass in a kiddie pool. But as long as Downing's aware there's still be work to do if he hopes to fully settle at his not-so-new club, then just maybe anything is possible. In any case we'll all be keeping our fingers crossed just as hard as we can and hoping that it is.

* Even a cursory glance at the Twitters, forums, and website comment sections is enough to make one thing clear: The vast majority of Liverpool's fans aren't taking Cardiff City especially seriously, and most have already marked Sunday's game down as the club's eighth League Cup triumph. It turns out, however, that we aren't the only ones looking ahead to Sunday and worrying that Liverpool might underestimate their opponents and come out second best because of it. On paper it might not seem a contest, but as Kenny Dalglish knows from having lost the 1988 FA Cup final to Wimbledon, a favourite that heads in thinking it isn't a contest has just gone and made it one:

We’ve seen in the past what can happen. Everybody who is involved with our football club will take great satisfaction in being at Wembley, but it's not a foregone conclusion that we will win, and we should not be getting our mindset thinking it is going to be like that.

We are playing against a Cardiff team who have achieved every bit as much as we have in getting to the final. They are there on merit and we will treat them with the utmost respect. We've got to the final, yes, and expect to win. But so do to Cardiff.

Upsets happen. Upsets have happened. Upsets will happen again. Cardiff will go into the game fully expecting that on Sunday afternoon they will cause one. And it can happen to Liverpool as easily on Sunday as it did to Arsenal in the final last season if they allow themselves to be any less sharp than they would be facing off against a side near the top of the Premier League. One can only hope the numerous poor performances by this Liverpool side against supposedly weaker opposition throughout the season have helped to impress this lesson upon whichever eleven Dalglish sends out.

* Changing tone for a more serious final note, as it would be irresponsible to not at least touch on yesterday's debate in the House of Commons pushing for a new inquest into the death of 15-year-old Kevin WIlliams at Hillsborough. Williams' case has long been a rallying point for Hillsborough campaigners, as reports that he was breathing and even asked to see his mother as late as four in the afternoon contradict the 3:15 cut-off point set at the 1991 inquest.

As that original decision would have it, all of those who perished in the immediate aftermath of the disaster died by 3:15, absolving authority figures of any responsibility for decisions following that point that could have cost further lives. Most pointedly, if it were true that everyone who died at the stadium had already perished by 3:15, it would free the South Yorkshire Police of any responsibility for holding back the ambulances that arrived outside the gates but were prevented from entering to provide aid to the injured. And most damningly, the cut-off point is at odds even with the reports of some individual police officers who claim they were pressured into altering their testimony to support the official version of events.

All of which is a roundabout way of getting to the news that, following yesterday's debate on Kevin Williams, the 3:15 cut-off point set by the 1991 inquiry, and the ambulances held back by the local police, the current Attorney General has left the door open to quashing the findings of the original inquest and holding a new one should the forthcoming release of all documents relating to Hillsborough suggest there was a breach of justice. It may sound like another maybe for the future, but the reality is that with the full release of Hillsborough documentation on the horizon it would be foolish for government and Attorney General to do any more than say they remain open to the possibility of overturning the 1991 findings should the released facts support such action. In short it's a wait and see, but considering recent movement in the Hillsborough debate that means something very different than it likely would have even a year ago.

We'll return in a few hours to continue revisiting Liverpool's League Cup victories, but in the meantime, remember, the week really is almost over now...

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