I must admit to being underwhelmed back in August about Liverpool playing in the Europa.
After enjoying the rollercoaster ride that was 2004/05-2009 in the Champions League, lets just say that last season's first round exit and subsequent Europa trek—followed by this season's Europa trek—have not excited me that much.
Now, as someone who has been supporting LFC since the early 80's, this wasnt any post-Istanbul snobbery at the second tier competition, just a regret that my team wasn't seated at the top table, where I felt we deserved to be (although truthfully, not by 09/10's performances).
I got very excited during Liverpool's treble run in 2000/01, as I'd done in the years before that, before we became regulars at the top table. I guess the feeling was that I thought we'd passed that stage.
For the last dozen years or so, we've never seen a Champions League without Manchester United or Arsenal, and I'd really hoped we were at that level of consistency. We're all aware of the many reasons for our recent fall from grace, so those won't be discussed here.
As someone who had been campaigning for the return of my footballing hero—Kenny Dalglish—since around Dec. 2009, its been an amazing & continuous "high" for me over the past six weeks. I'd even gotten a bit more excited about the Sparta tie this week. It was, therefore, a jolt when I read this week that this was to be Kenny's very first European game as LFC manager.
It was especially jolting, because I used to grouse about LFC not being in Europe during Kenny's previous tenure, whereby I'd be telling anyone who'd listen that Liverpool would have passed Real Madrid's then six championships with the team that Kenny had. So, the jolt was that I'd let that slip my mind during the aforementioned 'high' that I'd been on.
All of a sudden, on the eve of the game against Sparta Prague, this competition went from being one I'd like LFC to win, to being one that I'd like LFC to win for Kenny Dalglish—not that as fans we wouldn't deserve it also, given the stresses we've been through recently.
It just feels like this man(ager)—who's already the club's third most successful—deserves European success on his CV also, even if it is "just" the Europa League.
At least until the time in the near future when he wins LFC's sixth Champions Cup.