When he signed, and then casually leaned, around Melwood and environs on the 2nd of July, 2013, Kolo Toure did so with a ready-made and multi-faceted reputation. Larger than life, they said. A real character, we were told. A leader and a winner, most insisted. There were other, less noble traits and tales, but most Reds chose to be laddishly indulgent of them because Liverpool had just lost the sterling service of another man who had often had similarly generous epithets attributed to him.
Jamie Carragher was gone to join the vacuous and snugly trousered Jamie Redknapp and the irritatingly insightful Gary Neville at Planet Sky, and Brendan Rodgers' squad badly needed a senior and influential defender. Martin Skrtel was out of favour and on the verge of a move to Russia, whilst Daniel Agger's injury record and potential value in the transfer market meant his Anfield future was also far from certain. Until the very last moment, nobody knew that Ian Ayre's idea of a marquee signing would be the talented, if comparatively unknown quantity that was Mamadou Sakho, so Toure looked to be a canny addition.
As the weeks rolled past and the kick-off to the season loomed, many Liverpool fans, your scribbler included, became convinced that whether for good or bad, Kolo Toure might well be the player we were most looking forward to seeing. Remember, dear reader, in that dim and distant past, Luis Suarez was still batting his eyelids at anything with a Champions League badge on its sleeve and Iago Aspas represented the recruitment committee's idea of a crowd-pleasing attacker. This was a very different Liverpool Football Club reality and in it, Kolo Toure was a flashing beacon of potential brilliance and chaotic mentalism. Pessimistically, at least, we were sure that at least watching Kolo would be fun.
With Daniel Sturridge in remarkable form and Toure holding the fort with some aplomb at the back, Liverpool began in an impressive style which they've maintained since. Sadly, the form of Toure has not been as consistent following injury and many, as is their wont, have revelled in mealy-mouthed glee at the centre-half's fall from grace. I have discovered over the course of my life that a large proportion of people value the self-righteous indignation of an I told you so above almost any other emotion, and such jaundiced souls indulged their passion with gay abandon.
The lamentations and bile-laden invective that the Ivorian fielded after his spectacular faux pas versus West Bromwich Albion were testament to the fact that not all Reds were well-disposed towards Toure. It was a shocking error but the horror on the player's face was enough to soften the outrage in those of us who have enjoyed his contributions. The veteran's years of experience and their attendant confidence were on display, however, when he returned to more impressive form in the resounding 5-1 demolition of Arsenal at Anfield last Saturday. This dogged and strong-willed mentality may be massively beneficial in the Liverpool dressing room over the weeks to come.
Toure's mobility may be questionable but his aerial presence, ability to make important blocks and his eagerness to push on and link play are all endearing traits. On Saturday, my biggest smile of a very happy occasion was reserved for our number four's abysmal miss, with the goal gaping, following Luis Suarez's absurdly audacious attempt. It shouldn't have been amusing but as with much that Toure does, it was inherently entertaining. I cackled insanely at both the wretchedness of the shot and the guileless grin he wore as he made his way slowly back to his position.
Old-stager that he is, however, Toure knows the value of excellent home form. Liverpool have won 13 of their 15 matches at Anfield to date and the international stalwart is quick to point out the significance of that dominant record, whilst also giving due praise to the fans who create a unique atmosphere and the manager to whose blueprint he and his colleagues are working.
"You know, this stadium is amazing," the centre-back told Liverpoolfc.com. "Anfield is an incredible stadium and when we play at home the way we usually do it's difficult for teams to stop us. We know that when we play at home we are really strong going forward, but at the same time we defend very well too. I think right now, what we are doing at home is great and the manager has told us to be focused and to not make mistakes because in those games, a mistake can put pressure on the team. You have to try and play very well when you play at home because that makes the team who are playing against you a little bit scared.
"When they come to your home, your house, they think they can put pressure on you and I think we have shown that every time we play at home, teams know they are going to struggle because we are going to put them under a lot of pressure. We'll defend and fight until the end of the game, and I think we give credit to the manager because he is doing a great, great job. Since he came here we can see a difference. The team is playing well and everyone is really focused."
With both Agger and Sakho still in injury rehab, there will likely be a repeat of the Skrtel/Toure partnership for tonight's crucial clash away to Fulham. Liverpool go into this game with some recklessly optimistic types believing a win might even set up an outside tilt at the title. One way or the other, it is imperative that Brendan Rodgers' charges improve on their comparatively poor away record, if Champions League dreams are to become reality. Kolo Toure, twice a league winner, lest we forget, may yet have a major say in how successful this most promising of seasons ends.