Lately, your scribbler has spent an inordinate amount of time in the vain pursuit of zoning-out. When one has myriad plates of delicate china spinning, the thought of just half an hour spent in the pursuit of nothing of significance whatsoever can be extremely beguiling. As football, books and movies will always have excessive significance in this addlepated Irish mind, and exercise is too much a part of a long-established routine to ever be thoroughly enjoyable, I found myself driven back to the familiar embrace of my games console in the hour before succumbing to the Sandman. Nameless terrorists have perished by the dozens, virtual comrades have bought the farm and I have fleetingly worried about my latent sociopathic tendencies, as I toggle the controller to recalibrate my sights for a new target.
Recalibration. Adjustment. Moving the goalposts. We're all guilty of it. Everyone of us has revised down our objectives at some point and tried to then convince ourselves that the new, more attainable goal is what we always wanted. Sod that interview. Chief Executives are just coronaries waiting to happen, so vice-president is by far the better option. That girl was always going to be hard work, you're better off single and, y'know, carefree. Can't reach that BMI of 19? Don't worry. You'd be too skinny, mate. You look better with that slightly puffy face. Adds, um...character. You know the type of thing.
Liverpool Football Club's management, players and fans have been gratefully engaged in this exact process over recent weeks. You see, it had seemed as though all was lost. So awful did the side's fate appear to be, that any rationalising seemed like the raving of a loon. Then, gradually, due to a new system implemented by new personnel, hope appeared. It was slight at first, as fans sensed an opportunity to save face and regroup, but gradually the performances and results have built to a point where a final was reached, two realistic opportunities for silverware remain and a pair of routes to the holy grail of football, the Champions League, can still be navigated. It's not the title or even Europe's top table, but it's potential success, damn it, and the attendant hope of being able to think about this has been a gloriously soothing salve.
If you ever wanted someone to sell an idea, then Brendan Rodgers would be close to the top of your list. The Antrim man's unique combination of earnest gravitas and wide eyed ebullience on nearly every topic is a perfect medium through which to convince the masses. Of course, he will never win over those jaundiced cynical souls who have always insisted on perceiving the Liverpool manager as a charlatan, but such individuals will always snipe from the sidelines. For most, the obvious shortcomings are ameliorated by his clear gifts and the overall progress of his tenure. One thing Rodgers can never be accused of is being taciturn or downbeat. Unsurprisingly, when offered the chance to frame the side's current situation in a positive light, he grasps it.
"I said at the beginning of the season that one of the objectives for us was to win a trophy," he insisted in a way that he made the idea seem almost revelatory. Win a trophy, you say, Brendan? How very novel. "Hopefully you'll have seen from the efforts that we've put into the cup competitions that we want to do everything we can to win a trophy. This competition is no different -- it's a very prestigious competition and a competition that we want to do well in."
You'll have duly noted the adjective "prestigious" and the reference to the other good cup results so far -- I told you Brendan was the man for this job. Slaven Bilic is another manager to be reckoned with and his Besiktas side are top of the Turkish Super Lig, one point ahead of Fenerbahce and two clear of Galatasaray. Rodgers, however, manages to sound both respectful and hopeful about his team's chances.
"They play in a system that is effective -- the front four, with Demba Ba as the reference at the top of the pitch, and the other three players in behind that move well around the team," he went on. "They are solid behind that and they showed that in the two games against Tottenham, that they are defensively strong. They are a team that is used to winning so they have a mentality which is to win. Any time they have come up against an English team recently, they have always made it very difficult. They are a good side and we expect a tough game over the two legs."
The only man whose penchant for putting a positive spin on things eclipses that of Rodgers' is the newly returned Daniel Sturridge. The incredibly prolific striker has missed half of the season, including the entirety of the Champions League campaign but he is a veritable well of persuasive enthusiasm and efficacious concentration. For the England man, there is only focus on what is good and a reminder of the responsibilities of the players to the fans. There will be no carping from him about time lost, torturous rehabilitation or fixture congestion. The man simply wants to play and win.
"It is part of the game and part of what we will face, and so we can’t make excuses about being tired or not understanding the task ahead," he averred. "We will go into it understanding what we have to do to achieve what we want to achieve, and we are looking forward to it -- to be playing in European football with Liverpool which is massive -- and looking forward to trying to finish in the top four. It is important to the club to be involved in this, and it is what we want to achieve."
The aims may have changed but it is heartening to see the level of focus and hopeful belief that all concerned are displaying in their pursuit of their recalibrated ambitions. There can be no understating the huge significance that a second consecutive bite at the Champions League cherry would have for Liverpool Football Club. The attainment of that may come via either victory in the Europa League or a successful Premier League run-in. Now, perhaps I need to lay off the computer games or perhaps the infectious optimism of Sturridge and Rodgers has seeped into my hardened heart, but as we're tweaking our ambitions, why not adjust back upwards and look to make certain by achieving both?