St. George’s Hall in Liverpool city centre wasn’t called upon to provide the backdrop for excessive, over-the-top league championship celebrations in the 1970s and '80s. There was simply no need.
At a time when Everton and Liverpool were among the premier clubs in the land, the sight of the trophy on Merseyside was like what the Grand National is to the city—an annual event.
As always, the most famous horse race in the world will be held in Liverpool next weekend on the first Saturday in April. In years gone by, that old league trophy would never be too far behind—and it might not be now.
No, St. George’s Hall would only be needed for the really big celebrations.
There was Liverpool’s first-ever FA Cup in 1965, when Bill Shankly stood on the steps of the hall and addressed the people of Merseyside. His people.
The first of Liverpool’s European Cups was celebrated there in 1977, whilst the most recent in 2005 brought hundreds of thousands, some say a million people, out onto the streets to acclaim the most remarkable, unexpected triumph against the odds in the Champions League final.
Nine years on, those people who were out on those streets are suddenly envisaging what the greatest party St. George’s Hall has ever seen would be like. They thought they were at it in 2005, but 2014 promises to be bigger and better if it actually happens.
Because, make no mistake, if Liverpool remarkably and unexpectedly triumph against the odds once more and actually win this season’s Premier League title, the city and perhaps even the watching world would never have seen anything like it.
In the 24 years since it last happened, Liverpool fans who once took winning the league for granted have grown up, had children of their own and then watched on together as the Reds have tried and more often than not failed to get anywhere near to reclaiming their former heights.
The immediate impact of seeing all those fathers and sons and mothers and daughters outside St. George’s Hall acclaiming a league title would be a staggering one to behold, and then everything would hit home.
Liverpool would be league champions again, and once the cleanup operation had kicked in and the fans’ hangovers had disappeared, it would be time to begin ensuring that this was more than just a glorious one-off. It would be time to build something that lasts.
In the moments when he’s allowed his mind to wander toward the thought of just what holding that Premier League trophy would feel like, Brendan Rodgers has probably already had those ideas in mind.
How can he take a team that has remarkably overachieved this season thanks to its exhilarating attacking play—6-3, 5-3, 4-3...it doesn’t care how many you score as long as it’s three or less—and turn it into a winning machine capable of sustained success?
The easy answer is money, as it so often is.
With the status of league champions, of course, comes entry into the Champions League—although that’s been pretty much secured through a top-four finish anyway.
But throw the additional revenue generated by playing in Europe’s elite competition, together with the prestige of being the best team in England, and suddenly the calibre of player available to you is far greater than what Rodgers has experienced during his three seasons in the job.
Put simply, Aly Cissokho shouldn’t sit by the phone and wait for a permanent contract.
Let’s not be overly harsh—the Frenchman has given his all during his loan spell at Liverpool from Valencia this season. He is a committed but limited performer whose youthful promise at Porto and Lyon has now long gone.
He’ll do a job for someone next season, but it shouldn’t be Liverpool, regardless of whether or not they end up as champions. Sights will now be set higher all over the pitch.
Left-back, centre-back, the centre of midfield, an extra attacking player (loanee Victor Moses will be returned to Chelsea in a box marked "barely used"): All are positions that can be upgraded on with players who wouldn’t have considered joining Liverpool 12 months ago.
Crucially, though, this doesn’t mean that cash has to be splashed all across the world.
Liverpool have got themselves into this position thanks to largely building from within, promoting young players and training the ones they already have. You couldn’t really say that any of the signings last summer have had a huge impact on the team this season as there often isn’t one in the starting lineup.
Winning the title would give a huge confidence boost to those already at the club and would only see them get better again next season.
That is all in the short term, though, with the longer-term impact of surely the least likely title victory in the Premier League era something that Reds fans will relish.
Luis Suarez’s promises and declarations when he signed his new contract in December suddenly wouldn’t be viewed with such scepticism by many if the, in his words, "special relationship" (per LiverpoolFC.com) he has with the fans was allowed to continue with the added incentive of playing alongside superior players.
The Uruguayan’s current deal is a "long-term" one, but we all know that such words and terms on pieces of paper simply can’t be taken seriously in the modern game.
If Liverpool became champions, though, what would become suddenly and abundantly clear would be that they have caught up with the ambitions of their fiercely competitive star man.
Of course, Suarez would one day like to play for Real Madrid or Barcelona (per the Daily Mail) because every footballer would, but that "one day" will disappear ever further into the future with every single Liverpool victory. Having conquered England, he could set his sights on the Champions League, and the Reds would follow.
It isn’t just about Suarez, though. Every prominent member of Liverpool’s still pretty-thin squad would benefit from a title triumph and exposure to the Champions League.
Simon Mignolet, who at times has had a trying first season at the club, could simply point to his medal whenever anyone questioned him again. Glen Johnson would sign a new contract within seconds of it being put in front of him. Steven Gerrard would finally have realised the one boyhood dream that eludes him.
We could go on and on here.
But the key point to make is that Liverpool would be setting down a marker and showing that you don’t need the vast petrodollars spent by Chelsea and Manchester City to succeed.
Of course, the Reds have spent money, but it is nowhere near the amounts of the teams they’d presumably beat into second and third were they to win the league this season.
With Manchester United thrown into a world of uncertainty following the appointment of David Moyes and subsequent struggles and the signs of wear and tear beginning to show on Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, perhaps this season will be looked upon as a watershed moment in English football.
From very early on it was supposed to be the campaign that Chelsea, City or—given their electric start—Arsenal got themselves front and centre in the battle to usurp United as the next great Premier League dynasty.
Can Liverpool do that? Only time will tell, of course, but if they were to win the league championship for the first time in 24 years in May, the impact could be felt for years to come.
The next step would be to ensure that such successes become commonplace, but that can wait for now.
There might be a pretty big party to organise in six weeks’ time.
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