Why Martin Škrtel Was Liverpool's Unsung Hero of 2012
Plenty of players have come and gone at Liverpool without ever hearing the sound of the Kop singing their name.
There are more who haven’t experienced it than have, but whilst some players such as 2005 Champions League winner Luis Garcia still have their songs sung regularly at Anfield, there is a current player who has surely done more than most to earn a verse or two of praise from his supporters.
Martin Škrtel used 2012 to firmly establish himself not just in the Liverpool team―he’d already taken care of that―but also in the affections of Reds supporters.
From scoring an equalising goal at Wembley as the Reds eventually overcame Cardiff City to win their first trophy in six years in February through to signing a new contract and marshalling the defence under Brendan Rodgers, Škrtel has become part of the Liverpool furniture―albeit a rough, uncompromising part that seeks to make life as uncomfortable for you as possible.
The Slovakian has of course been recognised for his performances by the supporters in a different way.
He was named as Liverpool’s player of the 2011/12 season to pretty much unanimous approval, whilst when Rodgers entered the club in the summer there was never any doubt that he would make the 28-year-old a key figure in his Red revolution alongside Daniel Agger once he managed to keep the Dane out of the clutches of Manchester City.
Still, that song hasn’t materialised, though.
Maybe it’s just because it is hard to find words to rhyme with his surname, but Škrtel probably doesn’t care as he continues to carve out a fine career as the no-nonsense half of Liverpool’s central defensive partnership alongside the more elegant Agger, whose performances have also noticeably improved now he has managed to steer clear of his previously frequent injury problems.
When the duo play well then Liverpool know that they are going to be solid at the back regardless of their often-discussed problems finding the net further forward, and although both centre backs had problems in the recent defeats to Aston Villa and Stoke City you are unlikely to find a pairing who are more determined to succeed than the 28-year-olds who were born within three days of each other in 1984.
Of the two it is Škrtel who provides more of a goal threat, with 2012 seeing strikes against Brighton & Hove Albion, that crucial Carling Cup final equaliser against Cardiff, a thunderous header in Rodgers’ first Anfield league match against champions Manchester City and an even fiercer strike in the recent 4-0 win over Fulham―Liverpool’s last home match of the calendar year.
It has been a year which has seen Škrtel look to come to terms with Rodgers’ style of play, and whilst there were a few teething problems at first the Slovakian has largely looked comfortable with the ball at his feet throughout Rodgers' reign so far, ensuring that centre back isn’t one of the positions that fans are crying out for improvements in.
The long-term contract that Škrtel signed in August coupled with the extension to Agger’s deal in October means that as far as first-choice centre backs go, Liverpool are much more well stocked than they are in other departments, and going forward into what are sure to be trying times―not least a Europa League trip to his former club Zenit St Petersburg in February―Škrtel will be hoping to draw upon his 2012 experiences in a positive way.
Just what 2013 brings both him and Liverpool remains to be seen, of course, but whatever it serves up on the pitch it could also end up producing a few deserving songs of praise for Škrtel from the Anfield stands.
Few would be more deserving of such an honour.
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