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Learning From Adversity

With a supremely uncertain future ahead, the only option Liverpool Football Club cannot take is to remain immotile and fail to learn from a series of on and off-field errors. If handled correctly, the Suarez ban can be a catalyst for a real push forward. It must be.

Gareth Copley

"Who's driving this car, Stevie Wonder?"

John McClane, Die Hard

If life were an Eighties' action-movie script, then Liverpool's progress since 2010 could be compared to that of a bus, on which we are all passengers, whose brakes have been sabotaged by a pair of two-dimensional mercenaries called Hicks and Gillett.

After a couple of failed attempts at deliverance by the inept FBI agent, Hodgson and the beloved retired cop, Dalglish, the arrival of Brendan Rodgers was the equivalent of Bruce Willis, dropping on a zip-wire from a helicopter, to heroically wrestle back control of the stricken vehicle, as it careened toward a precipice. The rescue, however, has not gone smoothly and no amount of witty quips from Brendan/Bruce can disguise the fact that we remain in peril.

The joyous events of Saturday were a welcome reminder that Liverpool Football Club can still deliver to its followers days of unrestrained delight. In the wake of the farcical media circus surrounding the bizarre actions of Luis Suarez, the annihilation of Newcastle, in their backyard, was a welcome fillip. Nonetheless, this fine victory will count for nought, if it is not followed up with three similarly impressive performances to finish the season.

The key for the club and its fans is to have a sense of progression and development. Rodgers, who seems to be adept at the motivational side of management, must use this latest set-back with Suarez as a spur to unity. Liverpool would not be the first team to discover the galvanizing effect of a siege-mentality. If there are suspicions of injustice, victimisation and bias, then these must be harnessed as forces to drive the club forward, in an act of obdurate defiance.

The finest player at the club is out of the equation for the first six games of the coming season. So be it. Others must come to the fore and put the opposition to the sword. On Saturday evening we saw the emergence of Phillipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge as a potent threat in their own right. Together with their team-mates, they produced a performance which could be viewed as a recalcitrant roar -- one that fans can lustily bellow in support. Liverpool must push on, must defy expectations and elbow their way back into the elite of the English game.

The failings of the players have ultimately left Liverpool lurching listlessly towards season's end, but Rodgers himself must not shun self-examination and must shoulder a lot of the blame for Liverpool's stuttering advancement. Certainly, the loss of Lucas Leiva, Martin Kelly and Fabio Borini, combined with the shambolic efforts of the suits in the transfer-window, left the manager hamstrung, but his own decisions have been just as costly.

We have been no strangers, at LFC Offside Towers, to the occasional panic-attack induced by some of Rodgers' more stubborn and inexplicable selections. The talented but psychologically and physically fragile Joe Allen was constantly chosen ahead of the more robust and productive Jordan Henderson. Stewart Downing ran the full gamut from horribly ineffectual to passably solid and back to infuriatingly anonymous -- but he did so whilst playing 90 minutes on more occasions than most would have liked.

Whilst his resonant and dignified words in response to the sentence handed down by the FA's Independent Regulatory Commission were something of a high-point, few have failed to wince, grimace or squirm at some point over the season whenever Brendan Rodgers has been in close proximity to a live microphone.

In his earnest attempt to live up to the role of shamanistic leader, Rodgers has been too verbose, too ready with the sound-bite and too quick with a prediction. He must learn that he cannot be Bill Shankly and must carve out his own persona. It would be only fair to acknowledge that he has shown signs of having learnt as he's gone along. The crushing reality of recent weeks has seen an altogether different character dealing with the press -- less bullish, more measured, less inclined to hubris.

Indeed, as he stood surveying the destruction of Newcastle by his troops, Rodgers, his garb faintly and unfortunately reminiscent of Mussolini, started to look as though he might make the grade.

At times, especially in the early-going, the slavish insistence on playing the ball out from the back was a liability. As the months progressed, the players seemed more at ease and Rodgers appeared to have sanctioned a more direct pass when appropriate. The impressive form in which the team began 2012 was encouraging but there appeared to always be the possibility for a resounding win to be followed with a spirit-crushing defeat.

''Year Zero," came the call of the more tolerant and indeed it was realistic to expect inconsistency this season. However, the time for learning and adaptation has passed. Players of established quality must be added in the summer and the likes of Coutinho, Sturridge, Borini and Kelly must assume prominent roles as the team begin the next campaign. The events of last week can serve as a rallying point, from which Liverpool can move forward under Brendan Rodgers.

How this script ends rests, to a certain extent, with the producers, John Henry et al at FSG. They've already stumped up for the big bus sequence but in order to do the kind of numbers they desire, they must be aware that they need to invest heavily in the pyrotechnics required for a spectacular Hollywood ending. That's a movie we all want to see.

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