As sweet as an elixir success can be when it flows, it is equally as toxic when it stops. And the chalice at Anfield is poisoned.
Tonight, Liverpool Football Club has the opportunity to reach back into its past and relive European glory by overcoming a two-goal deficit against Zenit St. Petersburg and advance to the round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League.
Although not quite the level of Istanbul, it would weave another strand into the tapestry of a team that has somehow continually defied the odds and perhaps restore some faith to those Anfield faithful that seem to have lost theirs.
Quite literally in their cups, the followers of the Liver bird enjoyed the intoxicating river of silver that poured down Anfield Road for so long that the extended detox has produced the symptomatic irritability and irrational outbursts of those going through withdrawals.
The watchdogs of glory, left with less to mind in the latter years, have turned on their own as the hunger for it settles in. A predictable response, perhaps; but is it acceptable?
Holding a team that was once great, and has every indication that it will be again, to a higher standard is not only healthy, but necessary. However, feeling that previous greatness entitles it to present success is dangerous—and beneath it. Because, guarantees are only penned in the wins column and changing fortunes are inevitable. Reversing fortune is never a quick process.
Yet fans believe in the temporary cure that the just-add-cash Band-Aid offers, ignoring the need for the more painful and slower process of suturing the many self-inflicted gashes that have drained the club’s lifeblood. It is an outlook that is choking the Liverpool Way in weeds.
Disappointment, no matter how abject, shouldn’t act as a launching pad to lash out at the entire structure. Eroding the base with sustained and misplaced attacks will eventually cause the whole structure to cave in. And it has already. Twice.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and the road to Liverpool’s European Cup victories there weren’t paved overnight. So why the vocal lack of patience in Brendan Rodgers? In Kenny Dalglish? How many will have to be offered as a sacrifice to whatever deity presides over success (and whatever comprises it) before we realize that perhaps we are at the wrong altar?
A sizable contingent of the Liverpool supporters’ old guard points to the quality of the football that has been played by the men in red this season. And this is not the verbal soma of a population resigned to escaping the harsher realities of what their team has become, but rather a beacon guiding the once proud club back to what it once was.