Witnessing the events in English football over the weekend underlined the countless cycle of death and rebirth in football. Fans are central to this ceaseless flow of fortunes, but must come to terms with a final reckoning sometime in May as a season's light dwindles once again. While Miyamoto Mushashi's interpretation of the "way of the warrior" can be applied to the way of the fan, it rarely arrives in a positive mould.
Take Newcastle, a passionately supported club that is doing its utmost to be relegated by continuing to be the Premier League's worst team in 2015. The trip to Leicester City was an opportunity to end a losing streak, but the passionate travelling support witnessed a horrendous show as an eighth league match in succession was lost. Newcastle were dismantled three nil at the King Power Stadium with two players sent off before John Carver's ill-advised post-match musings arrived to heap controversy upon misery. Queens Park Rangers and Burnley politely edged towards relegation in defeat, but in the Championship, the membership of Blackpool FC in England's second tier was extinguished in complete ignominy. How do you end a season that began with just six players? With relegation and a pitch invasion in protest of course. Four wins, the lowest points total in Championship history, and failing to complete the league campaign. Karl Oyston and Mike Ashley should take a bow.
Back in the Premiership, José Mourinho laughed at the adage that one must never go back. Ever. Unless lessons have been learned, money continues to flow, and the magic is still there. Chelsea seem to be run far better than they were when Mourinho first arrived, and the benefits of placing excellent operators in clearly defined senior positions under a more experienced owner have brought further success. Ten years ago, Chelsea were the most generous spenders in Europe, but now the club is one of the must effective operators under Financial Fair Play rules. High-profile connections and handshakes in dark rooms — see what you can find on the nature of Chelsea's relationship with Truphone and Gazprom — shouldn't detract from clever sales of players and addressing the needs of one of the best managers in the game. Did you know that Mourinho has lost just three times in 40 league games against Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester City? C'est incroyable!
Liverpool don't have owners in the shape of Roman Abramovich who has been the defining force in Chelsea's 15 major trophies in 12 years, but may just perceive a crevice in the closed door blocking the path to Champions League football. The land of milk and honey has never seemed so attainable yet beguiling for this particular accursed soul, and the Football Gods must be playing a cruel game with Merseyside's finest. Show mercy omnipotent and just deities, show mercy! It's difficult not to think of Brendan Rodgers as Keanu Reeves in Devil's Advocate, seemingly lost in search of answers in an age-old charade. Van Gaal may not be Fowler in this bitter corner of existence, but it's not hard to imagine a manager of his standing not laughing his sick, fucking ass off at Liverpool's top four chances. There will be no victory at Stamford Bridge, of that I'm almost certain. Yet I desperately hope that these words will be thrown at me in mockery as Liverpool triumph a day after Manchester United drop points at Alan Pardew's sexy Crystal Palace.
Liverpool fans are mocked in part because we never stop believing (except under Hodgson) that something special could happen this year. We're not part of the clandestine occurrences on the much-hallowed "inside", but have a special relationship with our cherished club. All fans do. We all know that it's not going to happen, but just let us have one more weekend of football where the unthinkable could happen. It may be too much to expect or ask, but we're eternally bound by this deal we've made.
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