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From the Archives: Waiting for Hodgson

With the Euros wrapped and not much in the way of soundly sourced Liverpool news to discuss, we've got 31 flavours of nothing to talk about while we wait for movement on the transfer front and, eventually, the arrival of a new season. We're also just starting to get comfortable here in our new home as a full part of the SBNation network, and so to help pass the time and perhaps by way of an introduction of sorts for those just finding us, we thought the off-season lull might make for an opportunity to revisit some of what we've offered up over the last few years. To that end, in the coming weeks we'll be running the odd past article on tactics, a few opinion pieces that remain relevant, and the occasional stupidity we remain unaccountably fond of.

To kick things off, we're heading back to November of 2010 and the dark days of Roy Hodgson's Liverpool, a time when Daniel Agger was being forced out because he wouldn't sign up at the Jamie Carragher school of just emptying it, the sideline was a place of nervous twitches and rubbed faces, and the best that could be hoped for were famous victories over Trabzonspor. To this day, "Waiting for Hodson" remains perhaps my favourite piece written for the Liverpool Offside, as well as a constant reminder that things could always be much, much worse…

Joan Miro's The Garden

The pink headed bird is
Jamie Carragher. Maybe.

There's nothing to be done. I've given up again.

Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes. It's awful.

I watch a man step forward, acres of space surrounding him, green unbroken to the horizon. He pauses, looks ahead. He looks to the left and then forward once more. He holds his hands out, furrows his brow deeply, and does a small pirouette.

His feet seem light, even nervous. He twists one way and then the other, but there is no one nearby for him to be wary of.

A second man appears, offering assistance before departing. Another arrives. A distant crowd, faceless, stirs.

Exhausted, the first man plays it back to the bald man.

And I curse. It is not a matter I have much choice in.

Hoof the ball, I shout, and am aghast for a moment at my honest vehemence. But it does not matter, the noise is lost quickly in the night sky. Still, he is supposed to hoof the ball. He knows it, I know it, and the contemplative owl, head cocked as he stands on the branches and gazes across the serene pitch, knows it too.

It is why he is here. Why we all must be here. It has become so obvious to all that this action is his only purpose that to not fulfill that purpose even once is to court a perverse disappointment.

After all, if we can no longer reasonably expect joy, at the very least we can learn to appreciate the futility found in his Sisyphean struggle, his hopelessly halting, endlessly repeated attempts to move forward. We know where it will end, always knew where he would end up, and for a time our spirit remained unbeaten, unbroken, and cried against it. Yet our cries could do no good, and in that realisation, that slowly drawing understanding, we were left to savour that which we did have. Do have. In a way it is even liberating, so long as one does not dwell too much on the times that came before.

Hoof the ball, and we cheer. Crass, low. Perhaps beneath us, but now that we have nothing else to celebrate it is cathartic in its way. If all is to be predetermined, immutable, then we must revel in our futility that we do not fall prey to it completely.

And so he plays it back to the bald man, robbing us of what small joy there was left to be found.

Now the owl turns to me on his perch above the pitch and asks if I have heard something. I have not.

He says that for a second he thought he heard the approach of pass-and-move football.

Perhaps it was the wind moving through his tree.

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I've given up again.

The man steps forward, acres of space surrounding him, green to the horizon. He pauses, looks ahead. Then to the left before once more looking forward. He holds out his hands, furrows his brow, and does a small pirouette.

His feet seem light. Nervous even. He is antsy as he twists one way and then the other, but still no one is near.

A man offers assistance, the distant crowd stirs, and now a figure in stripes moves forwards.

Hoof the ball, I shout, aghast for a moment at my honest vehemence. But still, I think, he is supposed to hoof the ball. He knows it, I know it, and the contemplative owl, head cocked as he stands on the branches and gazes across the endless pitch, knows it too.

The man pirouettes a final time and sends the ball, that little sphere of some leather or plastic in colours white and black and orange and purple, sailing high into the night sky.

It hangs for a moment, stark against the black of the air and then invisible against the white of the overpowering lights surrounding that endless, infinite stretch of green. The specks of yellow and red and black and white no longer watch the man. They all hold their breath at this shared moment of majesty, their expectation completed at last.

And for a moment I am whole, though I know that it will not last. Cannot last.

The ball must land. The futility will be repeated. Sometimes it will give me reason for morbid cheer in that which I would never have been able to take solace in before, but I find I have no other option now that my anger has been drained away.

It is not joy, and yet it is a kind of joy.

The owl turns to me on his perch above the pitch and asks if perhaps I would like to part ways with him.

I would, I suppose. Know that at one point I would have been desperate for that. Yet it all seems so pointless now, which perhaps was what he always wanted.

I offer him a shrug and pull my jacket tighter in the cold night air. The lights have gone away now and it is only the two of us left in darkness. Perhaps the crowd is still out there, hidden. Perhaps the man still makes his journey across the green expanse. I cannot say. I did not see them leave, though I can see them no longer.

I ask if we should go. After all, it is almost time again to watch the man move up the pitch. Almost time to wait in expectation of the inevitable. So short has it been gone, yet soon it must begin again.

The lights come back on. I've given up again.

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