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Everyone's a Critic

This time of the year exposes the judgemental reality show panellist in us all, as a succession of potential Liverpool targets are ruthlessly assessed and the new arrivals are impatiently prodded beneath the microscope of hypercriticism and harsh appraisal.

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Evans' unique style of head-tackling was ruthlessly exposed by Lambert
Evans' unique style of head-tackling was ruthlessly exposed by Lambert
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Is there anything as utterly incongruous as the sight of a corpulent middle-aged man, his meaty fingers greedily clasping a pint of lager, shouting abuse at a gifted athlete whose actions have displeased him? We can all conjure this familiar image readily. Stadia, pubs and living rooms each of us have frequented have been crammed with this chap and his ilk. The puce skin tone, the straining veins in the neck, the spittle's fine spray and the foulness of the language are matched in intensity only by the utter disdain that this gargoyle feels in his dangerously compromised heart, as he berates the pixelated version of the kind of muscular man he would cross the street to avoid conflict with in real life.

Granted, Angry Pub Man is a particularly extreme and repulsive example of the Everyman critic, but the unpalatable truth is that his malcontent spirit has raged in all of us at some point over the pre-season. I often smile indulgently at those who purport to be above such fretting and fussing. Their protestations of zen calm are nonsense. Life has taught your scribbler to deal with a surfeit of traumas and stresses in a comparatively calm fashion but that does not mean that I am utterly serene as Liverpool faff about failing to nail down a striker. The rage is insidious, you see. We convince ourselves that all is well but all it takes is the wrong journalist spouting the wrong inanity about the wrong player and our proudly held self-control can evaporate into the ether. Paul Konchesky? Paul bloody Konchesky? Is this Hodgson fella serious?

Writing about Liverpool Football Club with such regularity means gaining an acute awareness of the struggles and successes of each player on a week to week basis and yet, even with that insight, the irrational part of one's brain can take hold at times. The urge to critique is a remarkably virulent one and amongst the less discerning members of the populace it is given full vent. There can be few less pleasant experiences than trawling one's Twitter timeline following a defeat for the Redmen or the announcement of a transfer collapse. Vilification is the watchword and blame culture is rife. People speak in extremes and calls for calm are roundly dismissed, smothered in a wave of profanity-laden sneers. Everything, it seems, is the worst.

The summer was always going to see considerable reconstructive surgery being carried out by Brendan Rodgers on his group. The attainment of second place with the personnel available to him was a magnificent achievement for Liverpool's young manager but the thinness of the squad was there for all to see and arguably caught up with the club at the crucial final stage as suspension claimed Jordan Henderson and the sublime form of Luis Suarez tailed off.

However, the departure of the aforementioned flesh fancier threw the Antrim man's plans into disarray. The initial targets -- Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Lazar Markovic -- were bought with the belief that the brilliant Uruguayan would be remaining for a season at least. With Lallana injured for the start of the campaign and the raw if mightily expensive teenager, Markovic, also carrying a knock, fans have irrationally but understandably looked to the veteran Scouser, Lambert, and wondered if he will be up to the task of helping Daniel Sturridge (also injured) carry the team's goal scoring burden. Sadly, for the 32 year old, his efforts to date in the clubs pre-season matches have been poor and a missed penalty only emphasised the fact that he is yet to get off the mark for the club, despite featuring heavily in terms of minutes played.

The rush to judgement on Lambert has been nothing short of stunning. For every voice calling for a patient assessment over a longer period, there are a hundred rabid commentators deriding the player's ability and the manager's judgement. Of course, the reality is that Lambert has looked a little stunned by his new role at his boyhood club and whilst there were glimpses in his first outings of the kind of clever link-up play and vision which drew the attention last season, the overriding impression is that the player is yet to play to anything like his full potential. The manager, acknowledging this without resorting to criticism, offered an explanation and expressed his confidence in Lambert coming good.

"I think with Rickie it's just the adaptation period of coming into a new club," Rodgers offered reassuringly. "There are new pressures and he's still getting his fitness. A lot has happened to Rickie in a short period of time - moving his family up, travelling away, getting used to the players and how we work. I have no doubts about Rickie. He knows he's not going to play every week but he will play a specific role for us in certain games. I'm sure he will do that really well."

Not for the first time then, Brendan Rodgers is the voice of reasoned perspective amidst the maelstrom of rabid fan angst. Of course Lambert should be given time. Of course the adjustment is huge and the pressure of being the local lad made good (eventually) may be weighing heavily on him. The initial signs have not been particularly encouraging but for this scribbler it took the nonsensical bilge spouted by an ex-Liverpool footballer to swing me back utterly towards hope.

Neil 'Razor' Ruddock, a man of ample rotundity and a clownish gob-for-hire, is convinced that Lambert's "legs have gone" and that "he might be a bit past it." As a washed-up ex-professional, still trading off his years at Anfield, Ruddock will have a peculiar insight into what it is to be "past it." Alas, his insistence upon our new number nine's ineptitude has simply convinced most right-thinking folk that the opposite must be true. Lambert will come good but Angry Pub Man and his spiritual brother, Ruddock, will continue to gripe and moan. Such is life, dear reader. Everyone's a critic.

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