Long ago, there was once an entity that enjoyed bringing misery to all who dared to defy those who opposed the power of the Liverbird. This power was red and proud. This power held a magnificent sound. Most importantly, this power was always around. Even when it abated for a short while, it was resurgent and incomprehensible to opponents near and far. There was a spirit and it was indomitable. There was a following and it was genuine. There was a history and it was mighty. Each passing day and each passing night only added to the strength of this family. Succession, philosophy, leadership, togetherness, and success were all combined to forge a way, a Liverpool Way.
The past indeed was a forgotten land littered with instances and intrepid acts of distinction worthy of Liverpool Football Club. ETW was not a force that afflicted those allied to Redmen but one that permeated the very pores of rivals across borders. It was translated into many tongues for Liverpool's domination continued to spread beyond its local and national borders. Legions of supporters wondered why Liverpool's thirst for power was insatiable but they all overlooked one pertinent question. Why settle for the country when you can have the continent? And so it was. Liverpool were spoken of with the reverence that befitted such an institution. It was just and it was so.
ETW remained the preserve of others and would only touch Liverpool when disaster occurred. Liverpool would finish second or third, lose a domestic final, or fall at a European semifinal. Such unsatisfactory occurrences would arrest Liverpool fans in the darkest of nocturnal hours. Children would wake in the recesses of the night and scream in horror at what they saw through closed eyes. They would not be consoled nor would they placated with offerings of a glass of hot milk and a cuddle from a concerned parent. No they would not. Such images would not be easily displaced from electroshocked minds. Liverpool failing to win the league? Liverpool not reaching the latter stages of European competition? Unthinkable. ETW may not have had extensive dealings with the Redmen family but could find a slight chuckle at jitters of the night and rare failures.
There was a prophecy that a Dark Lord would come and knock Liverpool off its perch. This master of disaster would be clothed in excessive hubris and would never refrain from intimidating others when necessary. This enemy of progress would hail from a nation state known as Scotland. Whether the true Dark Lord goes by Ferguson or Souness is still not yet known. Some believe they were akin to the Hydra that Herakles encountered as one of his dozen labours; multiple heads designed to destroy. They were just two of the enemies of Liverpudlian progress and over the course of over two decades, other heads would appear when existing heads were removed until Brendan Rodgers, a true gatekeeper of Liverpool Way, would make his presence known.
Since 1990, Liverpool have failed to win a league title. In that time, ETW would become enormously familiar with Anfield and trips from this former base of power. Misery reigned. Disappointment seeped into hopeful veins. Frustration encapsulated entire stands. Domestic and European cup success was achieved in the past quarter of a century yet all the while there were a multitude of domestic disturbances. This was not the Liverpool we once knew but it still was Liverpool. It looked the same, it sounded the same...but it wasn't quite what it used to be. Perhaps the tragic events of 1985 and 1989 left such scars on the club that would change it forever. Poor results are the worst but the loss of lives? Unthinkable and regrettable.
The first disaster ripped Liverpool from European competition when the side could have achieved success and many Liverpool fans will always wonder whether the fabled 1987-1988 side would have triumphed in Europe. The second disaster robbed Liverpool of its king, such were the indelible sores on a kind soul who cared about the unfortunate loss of life. The passing of time is said to offer a soothing balm that will enable wounds to finally close even if reminders on the flesh remain.
Each failure to win the league title was a reminder of how times have changed. Times did change. Liverpool were becoming irrelevant when April and May inevitably arrived. Titles and coronations were to be decided but there was no Liverpool to be found. Initially it appeared that Liverpool FC were similar to that cherished, misplaced item that you knew was in the room somewhere. It would be found. It was here. I know it. I just have to look for a little while longer. In fact, I'll find it when I stop looking because that's the way it is supposed to be. Except that it wasn't.
ETW may have started as a gleeful torturer in the beginning of the relationship yet later it turned to be the most protective of spirits. There can be no harmful agent if hope is absent and despondency cannot reign if expectation is not retained. Witness how Liverpool fans are hopping on the internet in bliss and joy. Wouldn't this be the most beguiling of tricks? Witness a side that fearlessly defies all predictions (including most of the Liverpool supporting populace) fly so close to the sun only to get burned with a handful of games to go. Is this season a fleeting puncture in an era of underachievement or a birth of a renewed force?
Tales of Misfortune
How many of you have attempted to play down hopes in the knowledge that deep inside only first will do now that success is so close? It is said that there is nothing sweeter than witnessing the rise of something or someone special. I defy such claims. Witnessing the rebirth, the comeback, the return of a fallen hero is much more satisfying. For to fall and to rise is one of the hardest feats on this accursed globe. Make no mistake, Liverpool are grasping for one thing but we know it is overwhelmingly multifaceted. Vindicating Gerrard's loyalty, defeating "financially doped" clubs, triumphing in the first year of the Dark Lord's retirement, reclaiming a cherished perch, ending a long period in the wilderness, witnessing the first trophy of the Rodgers era, defying the philosophy of caution for success, winning with English players playing attacking and attractive football, and just experiencing the joy of being the best once again.
Liverpool have nothing and everything to lose. The spirit of ETW is close by to protect us all from our hopes and dreams. Maybe things will go back to the way they were before 1990 and perhaps 2005 will have to share some space in your heart with 2014. These would all be splendid things but is it wrong to be prepared for the worst? Just in case?
Liverpool's ninth consecutive win has earned the right to meet one of its "makers" to battle for supremacy. Successive defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea served as the educational prologue for the Recalcitrant Reds of 2014. Like all good stories, everything comes full circle. Liverpool lost to Manchester City first and it is Pellegrini's side that we must face on the battlefield first to strike a decisive advantage in this closely fought war. Chelsea lurk somewhere nearby but this current streak must not take its place in Valhalla just yet. Each game feels like the most decisive one. Just one more win. This will be the win that will change everything. The momentum gained from this win will propel Liverpool to the heavens. Sunday will be the defining game of the season.
Liverpool have beaten all the league's best sides this season yet two remain. As Souness and Ferguson combined to provide Manchester United with momentum to last over two decades, Manchester City and Chelsea combined to inflict the defeats from which a resurgent Liverpool would rise. We may have lost the games but were not outclassed. We were there equals on the field. Rodgers could see it. The players experienced it. The fans witnessed it. On the day of the battle, no domestic side is superior to Liverpool. Liverpool can win. Liverpool can win each game and so it proved.
Perhaps in years to come, many will talk of how Liverpool needed to vanquish the giants to scale a once familiar mountain. On Sunday, while we will discover what tale will be told, ETW will do what it has always done. Watching. Waiting.