Martin Skrtel may just have guaranteed his team a wall of noise in Saturday’s Merseyside derby, after making the bold claim that Everton fans help Liverpool when they boo their rivals.
Skrtel is expected to start this weekend’s crunch encounter, which will be one of the most important Merseyside derbies of recent times. Liverpool can go top with a win, while Everton can draw level with their neighbours if they triumph.
Dominic King of the Daily Mail quotes Skrtel saying:
The atmosphere is special and it can affect you. I love it when the Everton fans boo us. It pushes you on, makes you work even harder …
It has always been my dream to score at Goodison in a derby. Have I pictured it? You think it will be a header from a Stevie (Gerrard) cross, don’t you?
Put it this way: if I score, I will be running around the city and you won’t catch me.
The derby rarely disappoints. Last year’s corresponding fixture saw Luis Suarez help Liverpool into a two-goal lead, only for Everton to hit back and draw level.
Suarez had produced a comedy dive in front of then-Everton boss David Moyes in between, and he later had a winning goal wrongly disallowed with almost the last touch.
The derby has produced 26 red cards, 17 of which have been handed to Everton, according to Sean Bradbury of the Liverpool Echo. Many of those can be attributed to the simmering atmosphere.
For Skrtel, it remains an incredible turnaround that he's even starting in Saturday’s clash. The centre-back appeared to be fourth choice after the summer arrivals of Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho, and admits: “I won’t lie. I thought about leaving.”
A renaissance moment arrived in the 1-0 home win against Manchester United, when Skrtel was named Man of the Match, and now he insists he is happy at Liverpool:
There was something else to think about: I have been here nearly six years. My family like the city and we are settled.
To leave would not be easy. I said to myself, “I will fight”. I wanted to show everyone I can play. The competition is helping everyone.
I am back in the team and doing everything possible to stay there. Liverpool are still one of the biggest clubs in the world. When you play in front of the fans at Anfield, it is unique. I wanted to stay. I am happy I did.
For a player like Skrtel, who had lost the faith of Brendan Rodgers last season when dropped for Jamie Carragher, big games like the weekend’s fixture will determine whether his long-term future remains at Anfield.
Liverpool recently lost a top-of-the-table clash to Arsenal, and another big-game defeat would raise question marks for Rodgers ahead of the transfer window.
The Reds boss is aiming for the very top and will not settle for any hint of mediocrity. Skrtel has fallen into that category at stages in his career, but will hope to prove with a vital derby win that he is a defender upon which a title challenge can be built.