Success breeds success. But the ugly twin of that union is unrealistic expectation. Liverpool Football Club has been blinded by the brilliance of “best” for so long that staring at “good enough” is not something it has to consider—and thought that it wouldn’t be something that they would ever have to.
Yet millions witnessed the 3-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion in last season’s opener. After the loss, new Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, stipulated somewhat prophetically that there were going to be "more days like this along the way" (via Daily Mail). It was not the reality Kopites wanted to hear. But it needed to be said.
Two ownership groups. Four coaches. One trophy. That is the reality of Liverpool’s fortunes since 2007. That, and false dawn after false dawn, could explain why there seems to be a reluctant resignation creeping into fans that the glories of yesteryear are no longer a guarantee of future success.
That is not to say that expectations aren't high. Good enough is never good enough at the club. It can only ever be better. But those anticipated achievements have been tempered by the sobering council of cautious optimism.
So what does good enough look like for the Reds this season?
Some would argue that the answer to that sounds like new silverware being put in a cabinet. Trophies may act as milestones along the path to getting there, but they will not be enough. Even with the successful (and near successful) cup run of Kenny Dalglish’s 2011/12 Liverpool squad, it wasn’t quite enough to quell expectations or sate his American bosses’ appetite for success.
In his blog The Tomkins Times, Paul Tomkins asserts: “The FA Cup is no longer especially important. Whether you like it or not, it’s true.” His observation, based on the fact that domestic trophies lack the same shine of coin from European nights, is that once-coveted silverware looks like so much tin in the shadow cast by the potential windfall of finishing higher in the league.
So is qualification for Europe good enough? Perhaps not. After looking like playing abroad in either tournament was becoming increasingly slim, Brendan Rodgers was quoted as saying that it might be a “blessing” to miss out on continental competition.
Claiming that missing out on Europe was a benediction of sorts galled many of the Anfield faithful, especially since that the club was set to miss out on European play for the second time in three seasons. But perhaps the Northern Irishman’s explanation (“you could argue having one season out of Europe would give us an even greater chance of challenging for the top four next season”) holds the answer to what is “good enough.”
By getting the club back to the hallowed ground that it hasn’t trodden since the 2008/09 season, there would be a lot of boxes checked. Finishing in the top four allows the club back into footballing Valhalla, restores some semblance of prestige and could be a staging ground for the following season. It has the added bonus of dangling the missing incentive that has seen transfer targets, and current stars, look elsewhere of late.
Good enough is not going to be good. Or enough. Nor should it be. It is, however, a good place to start to start the climb back up toward the top.