Why not us? That was the motto of the Boston Red Sox coming into the 2004 World Series. Curt Schilling repeated the question like a mantra and as the Red Sox won another game and then another, soon the entire fan base followed. Why not us? The Red Sox had one of the longest championship droughts in baseball history. 86 years. The “Curse of the Bambino” it was called. Then in 2004, every play and every player came together to do the unbelievable: Sox beat the Cardinals and became World Champions.
The connection between the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC is tangible. The two clubs share the same owner in Fenway Sports Group. They both have a long and rich history rooted in traditions. Fenway Park is the oldest ballpark in the MLB and a bastion for the Sox, while Anfield hardly needs any introduction to Liverpool faithful’s. The Sox arguably has the fiercest rivalry in baseball with the Yankees, and the same goes for Liverpool’s derby rivalry against Everton FC. Where the comparison must part ways is when it comes to recent history. The 2004 championship, inspired the Red Sox to win in both 2007 and 2013. Liverpool FC has not won the league championship since Kenny Dalglish was manager in the 1989-90 season. That is a 24 year old drought. To put things into perspective, let me add that yours truly was not even born back then.
The Reds have since 1990 come very close to the coveted first place. We only have to go back five seasons to 2008-09 where the team with Rafa Benitez in charge came second with 86 points, only four points behind rivals, Manchester United. It was a heart breaking end to a magnificent season where Steven Gerrard particularly shone with 16 league goals. The year now reads 2014, Liverpool is placed fourth in the league with 56 points, only four points from the leading team, Chelsea FC. Luis Suarez can so far boast of 23 goals, while Daniel Sturridge is trying to get up there with his 18. Steven Gerrard has had a revival in his deeper lying position under Brendan Rodgers and has now tallied seven goals and nine assists.
A positive season
Despite the amount of positive soccer we’ve been witness to this season from the Merseyside club, a lot of supporters are afraid to think it out loud. The title race. Is Liverpool a contender for first place? Put aside the flak that Liverpool receives from other supporting sides, even Kopites find themselves wanting to be more realistic than optimistic. It could all result in another season of dashed hopes and dreams after all, and if you called it, surely the disappointment will be lesser.
Let’s follow that cue and be realistic for a second: Liverpool has the best partnership in the Premier League at the moment. Two goal machines. Despite having a defense that more often than not falls apart under a minimum amount of pressure, Liverpool has still managed to come up with a strategy that keeps them afloat. That just so happens to be: score more goals than the opposing side. Liverpool also has very, very few players to pick from on the bench due to injuries and due to questionable bargaining politics during transfer windows. Still, many of the players that were deemed “gambles” have turned their game around and become the very epitome of top players.
For every positive, a negative can be drawn and that is also how the Red Sox began their 2004 campaign. Here is what every Liverpool supporter need to ask themselves: Why not us? Really, why not? Just as surprising it is for some to find Liverpool in the title race, as surprising is it to find Manchester United unraveling down on sixth place. And tough games might be ahead with Manchester City and Chelsea coming to Anfield in April, but the players have shown that when it matters they fight. They fight against odds, and they fight when they’re behind as was evident against Swansea and Fulham.
The coming months will be exciting in more than one way. Place in fourth and it is a return to European soccer. Place in first and it’s a revival of Liverpool FC. Anyone who despairs need only look back to that night in Istanbul to remember that anything is possible. If you want another indicator of this, just look back to the game against Fulham where one point seemed inevitable before Gerrard, seemingly calm, scored the penalty and exploded in joy. With no leading team already holding one ear of the trophy and with no other competition distracting the Reds, Liverpool can very well win. For the first time in years, why not allow ourselves to dream?
Why not us?