One of the inescapable things about life is that it is always, always changing. Seasons come and go. Years pass. And none of us has the power to control all of it - to pause the wonderful periods so that we can soak it all in, nor to breeze past the uncomfortable and tense stretches. We are all passengers to Time.
As we come towards the end of this decade - and all of the reflections that necessarily mark this period of time - it’s natural to think back at how things have changed and how they haven’t. It is also not a surprise to remark that things have changed quickly either; life doesn’t often care to announce itself in advance.
Seeing Liverpool in pole position for most things related to football is quite the change from where we were at this time ten years ago. Just yesterday, we saw Liverpool take another step forward in further cementing their claim at being the best in the world by advancing to final of the Club World Cup.
We’ve also seen major changes as to how the club functions as a whole, going from a name often used to inflate prices in the transfer market while raising the hopes of fans, to now being a club that is both still named to inflate prices but can also follow through with signings of real quality. And with the sudden signing of Takumi Minamino, we also see how the club has moved from whiffing publicly to bringing home highly-rated targets on the sly.
Change is all around us. And the only thing that’s relatively certain is that we can’t possibly foresee all of the things coming around us. And it is when that change creeps up that we can sometimes, sometimes, feel like we’re caught flat-footed.
The stories floating around about Takumi Minamino’s signing with Liverpool have been quite the sight. We’ve watched before as Liverpool have seen big signings break down in the past - most recently Nabil Fekir - but the most typical response for me over this period has been a mix of underwhelmed with a streak of “are things ok in the front office?”
It wasn’t that the crew in charge was incompetent, per se. But there is most certainly a gap between the first slate of signings under FSG and the current set up. Not only in how they conduct their business, but in the sense that the in-comings and out-goings are part of a larger plan. That the people we have on board are generally players we want to keep and that they want to keep.
But perhaps the most definitive change in this front is that Liverpool no longer telegraph their work. This isn’t about a splashy signing to appease a disgruntled fanbase. Or to maybe preserve the job of an embattled club official. The work is done quietly, with little fanfare until the signing is announced.
It’s fun to be surprised with these signings at times. Surprises are sometimes good.
Liverpool have also seen a change in the quality of their overall play. Seeing a leap up the table domestically, and the ability to challenge globally, that even the most optimistic of fans during the Hodgepocalypse must still find remarkable. We were on the verge of administration, after all, and now we’re the defending Champions of Europe. What a difference a decade makes.
And so seeing Liverpool dispatch Monterrey in the Club World Cup yesterday must have been a a wonderful delight to the many of us who lived through the Hicks and Gillett years or identify as Children of the Hodgepocalypse. As people who spent time in or came up in that period of uncertainty and angst. Who maybe weren't sure when - or perhaps even if - we’d see the sun again as Liverpool fans. Where it felt like a near certainty that Liverpool’s time as a Great Club might finally and truly be in the past.
Surprises are sometimes good.
I’m trying to remind myself today that surprises are, in fact, sometimes good. I struggle with the idea that things don’t always go to plan, which is wild because I also believe life is all about laughing in the face of plans. And that struggle has been made more immediate and difficult for me because I am one of the hundreds of people who were notified on Monday that we would be losing our contracts as writers for Vox Media, of which The Liverpool Offside - under SBNation - are a part.
It has been a difficult time trying to parse what this means because it’s still so fresh. And between struggling to cope with the idea that in short order I may no longer be writing for a community I’ve long been a member of - shout-out to everyone who remembers the Disqus era - and the absolute fury that comes from knowing that this reality exists only because corporate people have built a structure that was predicated on undervaluing and exploiting the labor of people like me, it’s been a difficult time.
This is not a time, I think, when I can fully say that surprises are good. To receive news this heartbreaking a week before my family celebrates Christmas. To know that the hours I’ve poured into my work here are seen by some as meaningless and replaceable.
I’m not making that last statement out of some loud pronouncement that I believe myself to be an invaluable writer. That my talent is equal to those who have major platforms or even to writers who I admire. But rather that my writing, in the way Bill Shankly might say, was one of a determined workman’s quality: unvarnished, rough, but dedicated and lovingly built.
It is, then, the sheer lack of appreciation and acknowledgement that well and truly kills. None of us here are making a killing (much less a living) writing for this site or for SBNation. It is, at the end of the day, a labor of love. That does not mean, though, the extra income hasn't come in handy for someone like me. And it doesn’t give Vox or any other corporation the license to continue to undervalue our labor.
Because the amazing content that is shared on this platform - the diverse voices dedicated to stories and angles that are almost always missed by mainstream sports writing - have value. They provide space for people whose identities are marginalized and for whom, perhaps, the general fanbase may appear to be unwelcoming. They say to those people that your presence is welcome and valued within the umbrella of this family. And they center those experiences at a time when the opportunities for such centering are few and far between.
Like anything involving life, there’s no way to know for certain what will be next for me. I do know that TLO is still filled - as it was when I first found it - with the best damn Liverpool writers I’ve ever known. And with the most special community of Reds I’d ever come to know. And whenever that official final day as a TLO scribe does come for me, I will carry a deep wealth of gratitude for the opportunity to have been found worthwhile enough to be named among the great collection of writers to pass through here: Ed, Noel, Trev, Elizabeth, Chuck, LTB, and Audun to name a few. And the current squad are, somehow, even more electric. We are indeed lucky for this space to exist.
What I do know is that while I am still here I will continue to put forth work that, I hope, honors and acknowledges the privilege of being able to write for this amazing site. That when full-time is called on my rented space among these Liverpool luminaries, people will find that my work has measured up. That it has lived up not only to the ethos of YNWA, but that one might be able to say, “Ah, yeah, now that’s a TLO writer, right there.”