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A Bad Joke

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The current situation at Liverpool, with the club's fans riven by civil war over Brendan Rodgers, is bordering on the hysterical and has certainly got some elements of farce.

It's never a good day when Colly Pascoe qualifies for an ice-box-seat ahead of you.
It's never a good day when Colly Pascoe qualifies for an ice-box-seat ahead of you.
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

There's a moment in the much loved and pleasingly unhinged comedy series, Father Ted, which has been resonating in my troubled bonce for days, especially whenever the fraught topic of Liverpool Football Club's future creeps back into focus. That's rather often, when you're as unhealthily obsessed as this hapless scribbler.

In the scene, Ted, a well-intentioned but eternally disappointed cleric, consults with his younger colleague, Father Dougal, about how best to keep the third of their number, the feral and hopelessly alcoholic Father Jack, away from the visiting bishops, who have come to Craggy Island to confer Class II Relic status upon the Holy Stone of Clonrichert.

As ever, Ted creates an entirely daft and convoluted plan, which seems to please him immensely, outwardly at least. With a brave show of self-confidence we never quite buy, he assures Dougal that he has indeed thought of a ruse to pass Jack off as tolerably human. It is left to the normally guileless and wide-eyed younger man to affect an utterly uncharacteristic air of weary scepticism and burst Ted's bubble:

Ted: I think it might work, Dougal. I KNOW it'll work.  It WILL work!

Dougal: It won't work, will it Ted?

Ted: It won't, no.

This sparse and impossibly wonderful dialogue would not be amiss in a Beckett masterpiece but every time I see Brendan Rodgers sat in front of a bank of microphones, I imagine him in Ted's gloriously awful pyjamas, deluding himself about the bleakness of his predicament and hoping to find reassurance in the cynical faces staring back at him. The Antrim man has found himself the focus of a tremendous amount of fan ire and frustration this season, and whereas the extremity of much of it has been absurd and ugly, the manager has clearly contributed to his own tenuous position with his decisions and with his words. Especially with his words.

You know things have reached almost farcical levels, when Rodgers is being vehemently harangued on social media for where he chooses to plant his posterior during a match. Yesterday's Echo had an entire article devoted to the headline, Brendan Rodgers: Why I Was Sat On The Floor At The Hawthorns, in which the manager tells the rabid hordes that, in fact, West Bromwich Albion "have removed the actual benches from the dug-outs at West Brom so I actually had nowhere to sit. My two assistants were sat on the ice box and I had to sit on the floor." This is remarkable stuff, the theatre of the absurd, but it is a clear indicator of the parlous nature of his current position as Liverpool's big kahuna.

Tonight, as Liverpool fans boycott the Hull match en masse in protest at the inequitable ticket pricing, sections of the home support will loudly voice their dissatisfaction with the club's owner, Assem Allam. The mixture of chaos, anger and confusion likely to be on display will neatly sum up the malaise that seems to be damaging the Anfield club presently.

Here's the thing. As William Goldman once said of Hollywood, "nobody knows anything." Supposition, presumption and speculation abound, as the debate rages around the topic of the Carnlough man's continued tenure. Agendas are being pushed, on both sides, and the political machinations evident are a bleak reminder of the type of thing that led to the end of Rafa Benitez's reign. I, for one, am resoundingly sick of all the shooting in the dark and I cannot be alone in craving some measure of clarity.

Meanwhile, the season lurches on, with the outside possibility of Champions League football refusing to die, thanks mainly to the ineptitude of others. It's all very grim, however, and one cannot prevent one's thoughts from wandering to next season. It may be wishful thinking if many have their way, but it seems as though Brendan Rodgers also has one eye on the campaign to come. He's already told us that we won't see the real Daniel Sturridge until August and he has also insisted that he has plans to supplement the attacking area of the team. Whether it is wise or not, whether his detractors like it or not, the Liverpool gaffer is looking to the future and remaining fiercely defensive of what he has accomplished at Anfield to date.

"For me I am as hungry as I have ever been, I am ambitious to win and there is no greater place than here to win," he averred. "I am still committed and motivated to do that here for sure. When I came in here, it was a long way off. The club was eighth and you’d never have even talked about it, but I think it’s a mark of how the club has moved forward that there is such disappointment we haven’t challenged this year. I have absolutely no doubt it will happen.

"It is difficult [compared to the resources of Chelsea and Manchester City] but you can’t just accept it," he went on. "Where we are now is probably par for where we sit in amongst it. We can’t accept that, we have to continue to find ways to develop players, work to the idea of how the owners want to work and find a way to break in. That’s something that I’m very hungry to do. We have great hope we can really push on again. It will be a big summer for us to find the right type of player that can come in and do that. Then we can go and work how we've worked for a lot of the last 18 months."

Many reading those words will be dubious about the prospect of Brendan Rodgers remaining at the helm, other will be appeased by some change to the status quo in the management and recruitment structure, and still others will be offended by the very concept of the manager being questioned in any way at all. This, my friends is the fractured reality in which we Liverpool fans seem to permanently dwell. The one hope all but the most mealy mouthed fans will share is that the remaining matches are an affirmation of what is good about Rodgers and his players. Otherwise, I fancy, many of us will be turning to the residents of Craggy Island for some much needed levity over the coming weeks.