Holy God, where do I start? Of all the seasons I have supported Liverpool, none have even come CLOSE to this one for off-field drama and for the swings of emotion in regards to supporting the club. This is a season defined by the experience of supporting Liverpool rather than the actual matches themselves. 2010-2011 saw a threat of administration, an obvious need for a change of ownership that led to fan protests inside and outside Anfield, a change of ownership, court drama as a result of the change, the worst summer spending “spree” known to mankind, two changes of manager, a relegation fight, the biggest player sale in our club’s history, the biggest player purchase in our club’s history at the end of the transfer window, the return of King Kenny, a fight for Europe and an endless supply of fantastic wins over big clubs. It was odd to say the least. Two losses to Blackpool, yet two wins over Chelsea is possibly the best summary one can give to our on-field performances. How can someone possibly describe this season in a few paragraphs? It can’t be, so this summary will be longer than most. It was pure insanity, both on and off the pitch.
The most dramatic and odd season I’ve ever experienced began with the inevitable sack of Rafa. It was necessary. Not only were our performances dwindling, but relationships between him and the owners AND key players had fallen apart. After he left, which was amicable enough, Roy Hodgson was brought on to “steady the ship.” At the time it seemed a reasonable decision. After all, we were a club with no money to spend and needed some stability amongst the ranks. That said, it was not an exciting prospect, as “Woy of the Wovers” was a man who had managed 1,453 clubs in his 35 years of management. He liked to tout that, but it is nothing to brag about. If you are good, you stay at a club for a long time. If you aren’t, you bounce around a lot. He had success at Fulham, but expectations there were VERY low. 8th or 9th in the league would be embarrassing at Liverpool, regardless of reaching a cup final… and this mentality of Hodgon’s would unfortunately carry on to Liverpool… minus the cup final bit. The horror of his reign began with what is unquestionably the worst string of signings our club has made since Graeme Souness in 1992, and that’s saying something given the previous two summers under Rafa! Hodgson brought this mid-table mediocrity mentality to the fore, bringing in (in order) Joe Cole, Danny Wilson, re-signed injury prone Fabio Aurelio, Christian Poulsen, Brad Jones, and Paul Konchesky. The only saving grace to this underachieving and pathetic list of signings was Raul Meireles… but only once we let Javier Mascherano go to Barcelona. Pathetic is not a harsh word, either. Konchesky , Cole and Poulsen in particular had a lot of gametime, and all three frequently underachieved, which “helped us” into the relegation zone by mid-October. Hodgson was playing everyone out of position, played tactics that had 40 yards in between Torres and the midfield (in which four central mdifielders were out there), and played for draws against just about everyone. It was awful to watch, we were losing match after match, and there was no team spirit whatsoever… and things were about to get worse.
The on-field issues of being in the relegation zone hurt… but the worst of it all was about to kick on in mid-September. We lost 2-3 to Manchester United, crashed out of the League Cup to NORTHAMPTON (in the cellar of the fourth tier in English football) AT ANFIELD, and lost to Blackpool at Anfield and Everton at Goodison Park. But that wasn’t it. News came out that we were under threat of administration and a points deduction. We were already hovering at the relegation zone, and the precedent with Portsmouth was there that we would have a 9 point deduction if this happened. Supporting Liverpool was a nightmare at this point. Potential owners were bounced around in the media, but nothing concrete came up until we all saw a bloke named John W Henry and his group NESV. As the owner of the Red Sox, he and his group turned them around and ended their 86 year drought of not winning the World Series. If he could lift THAT curse, surely he would help us at Liverpool. After the most odd series of ridiculous series of court cases and claims of an “epic swindle” from Hicks and Gillette (the previous owners), John W Henry finally eliminated our debt (COMPELTELY!) and assumed control of LFC. It sparked massive scenes of celebration amongst Reds supporters. How had it all gone so wrong so quickly? But thank God we could move forward and move on without the administration or debt issues we had been saddled with before.
The on-field issues weren’t going away, though. A 0-2 loss at Goodison Park to Everton underlined our piss-poor form. With the ownership situation finally resolved, we won four straight matches and things were looking up again. The good form was just a blip, though, and shit hit the fan HARD during December and early January. Hodgson had completely lost the plot and the supporters were rightfully turning on him. Losses to Newcastle, Wolverhampton and Blackburn were just too much for us (and the owners) to take. Time for a change. As Daniel Agger so eloquently (and awesomely) said, “we were shit.”
Enter King Kenny. After a few months of chanting his name in the terraces, Dalglish was signed on as caretaker manager until the end of the season, and Hodgson was given his marching orders. It was the right thing to do, and after a few matches without results, the ball all of a sudden got rolling. And did it ever. After only getting 25 points in 20 matches under Hodgson in the league, Dalglish gained 27 after 14. It was second best points total out of any club in the division during that time. It was quite the turn-around. The beginning of it was under surprising, but needed circumstances. We sold Fernando Torres, who was a sulking lazy influence, and went on to purchase Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Things turned around instantly, and we all of a sudden started playing brilliant football. Stunning wins over Wolves, Chelsea and Manchester United were the highlights, and towards the end of the season we were just decimating teams. 3-0 over Manchester City, 5-0 over Birmingham, 3-0 over Newcastle, 5-2 over Fulham… it was fantastic. Wonderful performances from Luis Suarez, Maxi Rodriguez, Rauel Meireles, and Dirk Kuyt were lighting up our hearts. Especially Suarez. His talent was incredible and the way he danced through defenders and pestered them was a huge breath of fresh air. Sadly we ran out of steam at the end and JUST missed out on an unlikely Europa League spot, but the transformation from potential relegation to a 6th place finish was OUTSTANDING.
With new owners who want to splash out the cash instead of selling our top players, a manager who we all rally around and love (who signed on permanently at the very end of the year), and a new hero in Luis Suarez with a quality supporting cast, things looked up by the end of the year. What a strange transformation from relegation, administration and embarrassing court cases.
* Off-pitch drama was the primary storyline in 2010-2011, leaving the supporters absolutely exhausted by the end of the season. A 6th place finish really says quite little about the ups and downs on and off the field.
* Roy Hodgson is appointed manager in the summer, where he immediately f***s it all up by signing a barrage of rubbish. Konchesky, Poulsen, Joe Cole, Brad Jones AND Danny Wilson all played horrendously when given the opportunity.
* Raul Meireles was the one signing from Hodgson who did do quite well, but only once Hodgson had left. Departures before him, though, were Benayoun, Riera, Mascherano and a host of promising youngsters. Not good business!
* An embarrassing start to the season was made worse by an even more public embarrassment involving our owners, who dragged themselves and the club through the mud as they were displaced, essentially, as the owners of LFC. John W. Henry and FSG stepped in as the new owners.
* “Hodgson for England!” chants ring across the stadium as Liverpool fall to Wolves at Anfield on Boxing Day. Two matches later after a 1-3 defeat at Blackburn, Hodgson received his notice to bugger off. During his tenure we had sunk to 19th place (19th!!!), lost to Northampton (!!!), Blackpool at HOME, Wolves at HOME, Blackburn and a few other embarrassing L’s along the way.
* Return of the King. In an amazing series of events, Kenny Dalglish returned to the helm. Success took a few matches, but then became an absolute avalanche of wins and better performances. We went from 5 points above the drop zone (12th –15th based on goal difference. 15th? Really?) to 6th place by the conclusion of the season.
* The end of the January transfer window caught the eye in 2010-2011, with Fernando Torres being shipped out for an insane 50 million pounds. In his place were Luis Suarez, who would mesmerize everybody with his skill and goals, and Andy Carroll.
* Fantastic wins over Chelsea (Meireles!), Manchester City (CARROLL!) and Manchester United (Kuyt hat-trick!) under Dalglish were lovely, but there were other fabulous moments during that time. Raul Meireles’ wondergoal at Wolves, the 5-2 thrashing of Fulham at Craven Cottage, two hat-tricks from Maxi Rodriguez in three matches, and a splendid hit from Suarez at Sunderland gave us magical memories in a season sadly lacking in positive feelings… until the King arrived. ☺
MOOD HEADING INTO THE SEASON:
Somber. We had gone from 2nd to 7th, Rafa had left, our owners were still around, we had signed jack CRAP during the summer (and I include Joe Cole, who had potential but was not a purchase to headline a summer), and our new manager was an underwhelming choice. Not much was expected, and many of us predicted that finishing 7th again would be an achievement rather than the embarrassment that it was in the prior season.
MOOD DURING THE SEASON:
There were a collection of moods during 2010-2011, and more than anything it was a tale of two seasons emotionally, not just on the pitch. The first half of the season brought frustration, annoyance at our style of play, boredom at our style of play, anger at our style of play, anger at the results, disappointment with Fernando Torres and his disgusting body language and attitude, a deep sickening feeling at the pit of our stomachs at the thought of administration and relegation, and intense relief when the new owners came in and when Hodgson was sacked. The second half of the season brought hope, excitement at our new signings, optimism and intense pride about being a Red. We were a phoenix rising from the ashes, and whether things turned out well in the future or not, at least there was a sense of joy about supporting LFC again.