Neil Atkinson @Knox_Harrington
BILL Shankly: “Whilst you love football, it is a hard relentless task which goes on and on like a river. There is no time for stopping and resting.”
Stopping matters. Looking around matters.
When I first started this email this morning I was going to talk about the future, I was going to write about Naby Keita and his goal, Curtis Jones and his cameos, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez perhaps experiencing four or five league championships at Anfield. There was Harvey Elliott and Neco Williams chat in the offing.
Perhaps even transfers but let’s try and get till at least Monday before we start there.
Everything has been about the journey. For nine years here, longer elsewhere, everything has been about riding the rapids of Shankly’s river, seeing what comes and constantly looking to the horizon.
The horizon is here.
What do you do about that fact? Professionally, for the football team, for the football club, and, for this slightly odd business I’m a part of that is actually straightforward to answer. You gear up to do it all again, assess what worked, contemplate change but keep going. You embrace the river. There is always another horizon because there always has been.
Personally though, I can’t be alone this morning in feeling a tiny bit dazed and confused and it isn’t just the aftermath of the drink.
For a long time we have been hand in hand everywhere we go with not winning the league title, with craving seeing our football team get to lift it. It has, in small but significant part, defined an aspect of our fandom. We were about the journey, about the promised land.
Or at least I was. That’s been present for me since we don’t win it in 2002 and don’t kick on into 2002-3 with a challenge. It was deepened after Istanbul, having been part of one of those glorious European adventures and then wanting to have that silverware at home, a league title some people born after 1977 to go with that European Cup for us as well.
At the centre of it all was the idea of the scenes from last night, in our ground, having our moment. Everything building to that.
They did it right, they did it well. It couldn’t have been any better under the circumstances. You get to the promised land on the horizon and it was pretty much what could be expected. It doesn’t disappoint – only the COVID-19 restrictions do that.
I’ve noticed elements of fractiousness abound a little recently insofar as one can with typed words on a screen and I think in part the reason why is because, having reached the promised land, some people want to ensure we will never leave. The destination is here – forget the river or do everything we can to dam it.
The river cannot be dammed, the destination, the promised land was never illusory but it is transient. We cannot settle here unless we stop. And I don’t want to stop and I don’t think you do either.
I suppose what I am saying is this – one day Liverpool won’t be league champions. This isn’t a bad thing, far from it. We need to not just make our peace with this but embrace it, because if we can’t we need to pack in now.
We are no longer hand in hand with not being champions but instead hand in hand with being champions, but that cannot become a fearful relationship; we can’t take the joy and turn it into something negative.
One day – perhaps in 10 months, perhaps in three years – Liverpool won’t be champions again and if we acknowledge this we can prolong and deepen our enjoyment.
Stop. Rest. Look around. Remember and cherish. Ignore the river for a couple of days. Maybe a couple of weeks. Drink it all in the promised land. Their faces and ours showed us that it was indeed what we wanted.
We’re getting back on the river at some stage. I don’t know about you but I love the sound of 20 and 7. But when we are getting back on we’re doing it as much for the love of the journey than the pull of the destination.
I have loved the journey and I have loved sharing it with you.
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