There's a lot of dewy-eyed guff spouted in the media about the potency of support. Only on a very rare occasion does the atmosphere inside a ground have a genuinely profound effect on the result of any given match, above and beyond the kind of galvanizing incitement that really shouldn't be required of professional athletes. In fact, ironically, at various grounds around the Premier League, this scribbler has noticed with distressing frequency, the systematic tearing down of players by their own fans.
Whilst certainly not immune to that kind of negative reaction to home players, Anfield is still, certifiably, one stadium which helps to perpetuate the somewhat hackneyed notion of the twelvth man. Despite some bootless and self-destructive internecine conflict between the various elements of the supporter base, the fans of Liverpool Football Club, once within the confines of the famous old stadium, generally give a more than passable impression of full-throated support.
On occasion, the broiling fervour they can create is simply unparalleled. To stand amongst the members of a motivated and inspired Kop is one of the great pleasures of my life and over the years I have seen many moved to joyous tears by the simple act of being part of that throng, rejoicing quietly or uproariously in a unique communion and bonded by a simple but deep-rooted lifetime's passion. Reds. It is only when one finds oneself in an earnest bear hug with a corpulent stranger as you both shout indistinct exclamations of glee in foreign languages at each other, that this strange but powerful connection starts to make sense.
On Wednesday night, as fans lined the players' bus route to register their affection and approbation, there was a tangible indicator of the level of excitement amongst Liverpool fans. Brendan Rodgers and his side have made the club relevant again. Challengers. Entertainers. A club to be envied. The gratitude of the supporters manifested itself in the pre-match show of solidarity and goodwill and it seems to have struck a real chord with the players. Daniel Agger, Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen have all echoed their manager in expressing a humble appreciation of the gesture and it seems to have only enhanced their desire to truly engender rapture amongst the club's loyal followers by bringing home the ultimate prize.
Allen, a man who has experienced the caustic censure of the Anfield crowd on many occasions, is unequivocal in his insistence upon the influence and importance of the supporters. Fan opinion of Allen oscillates wildly between those who eulogize over his tidy, unfussy technical competence and those who abhor what they perceive as frailty in the tackle so unforgiveable, it inspires the use of some colourfully apposite local vernacular. The player himself, a modest and unassuming sort, seems to simply be grateful his latest injury travails are behind him and pleased to be involved in the first team shake-up. Speaking about the tremendous reception before the victory over Sunderland, the Welshman could not conceal his admiration.
"It was a great surprise," insisted the midfielder. "The support was incredible from when the team bus arrived right through to the final whistle. It was an amazing welcome. They were right behind us. Since I've been here, that's probably the best support we have received. That support makes a massive difference. It's one of the reasons why our home form has been so good this season.
"The difference in our record at home this season compared to last is incredible and the fans are a big part of that. We are looking forward to them playing a big part in all the games between now and May. It was an incredible welcome for us as players. Since I've been here, I think the support we got on Wednesday night was the best yet. All night the fans were fantastic. They really lifted us when we needed them. They helped us get over the line."
Yet for all the buoyant optimism before the game, the anxiety was palpable as the match wore on, without the now customary early goal for Liverpool. We must be mindful that the old fear-inspired negativity does not return. In 08/09, a season often cited as the last comparable moment in the club's recent history, the tension and disquietude amongst the fans during games was unbearable, almost intolerable, depending on where you were sitting. This was a different feeling to the nervousness of Wednesday night. It bordered on angry impatience and the nature of the team structure then meant that as there was a massive reliance on the twin threats of Gerrard and Torres, one could almost gauge the potential for victory solely on their performances.
However, the remarkably formidable scoring threat posed by our current players, allied to the policy of high-pressing which leads to a great many bodies in attack, means that this campaign has been different. For all the hair tearing, profanity uttering and garment rending that follows the concession of yet another sloppy goal, there is always a quiet belief that Rodgers' men will simply go to the opposition goal immediately and plunder two in quick succession. What a boon that is for fans who've endured far too much counter-attacking football over recent seasons.
It is heartening to hear that the burden of expectation is not biting too deeply into the shoulders of those charged with delivering a first top flight title in 24 years, as Allen, the very definition of a Rodgers disciple (right down to the matching scarves and waistcoats) insists that the team are comfortable in their skins, adhering to a greater plan and revelling in the simple joy of performing in the domestic comfort of L4.
"I wouldn't say we felt under pressure," Allen opined. "We have a way of working. There is no pressure on us. We are going out there and giving everything and enjoying our football. It was just great to be back at Anfield after three away games."
On Sunday, Anfield will once again be full of nervous tension as Tottenham Hotspur come to visit but there will also be a burgeoning confidence that Brendan Rodgers' team will do what needs to be done. The likelihood is that the result of these two conflicting emotions will be guttural support and a further embellishment of the stadiums's reputation as one of the world's great arenas. Poetry in motion, if you will.