16 years. 65 games, 21 draws, 44 defeats.
Our staggeringly limp and pathetic away record to the 'top four' sides. Unlike other clubs who achieve moderate success on their travels, sometimes providing a shock - we seem to suffer from a self-inflicted psychological problem that stops us from ever getting further than a shared point. We choke and disappoint. I've never been certain of the exact cause. Is it over-confidence? Is it mis-placed belief? Do we perceive ourselves us equals when we should play like underdogs? Should we be more bullish perhaps, more tactically astute? Or should we go for the kill, with no room for respect? Maybe it's simply a curse that relates to fan expectation that somehow causes fragility of the players akin to a big egg falling off a wall, beyond repair. On top of the underlying issue, year upon year of disappointment in these games is going to have a continuing detrimental effect that compounds it further. Although the same could be said of the 16 years of hurt in games against Chelsea until we found the testicular fortitude to turn it around and have since vastly improved our standard against them. As it should be.
One thing is for certain. There must never be fear. Or uncertainty. Big ask that, knowing how powder-puff we can be. A winners mentality is of course birthed from winning.
You know what, I'm sick to death with all the defeatism (i.e. the above paragraph and the fact it had to be mentioned) and also the unnecessary war cry or two that we tend to hear pre-match (remember Robbie Keane's before the game at the Emirates?) I know they're just sound-bites, the type that all players dish out, but it always seems to work against us. A clue perhaps that our players are trying to talk themselves into believing they can.
Liverpool are wounded. Not quite dead and more than able to sit up in a position where a sudden jolt forward and jump up is not beyond the realms of possibility as they land a surprise punch square in our face. But they are still wounded and any crafty movement can be telegraphed if we know what to look for. Their performances lack their usual combination of guile and quality. Instead, they remain fragmented thanks mostly to the gradual drain of confidence and the pressures on their manager. But they've proved more than capable in the past when playing without Gerrard or Torres. Granted, they had Alonso too back then. The fact is, who cares? Sod 'em. Kick 'em when they're down.
This still shouldn't be perceived as 'easy' and we must earn the right from kick-off to own the field, ignoring the predictions of others. Considering the various sub-plots at play it will be (hopefully) highly entertaining.
So simply this; from our perspective we must get at them. Pressure and chase the ball when not in possession and bloody well be ruthless when presented with an opportunity in front of goal (you hear that JJ?). Their fans will no doubt be making ear-bleeding noise. Lap it up. Play like the home side, make them worry about us. Attack them. Destroy them. I want to see Rafa cry.
No Huddlestone this evening, which means Jenas has to use his pace. If there's a game that is crying out for one of his rare uber-performances, this is it. Box to box devastation please (stop laughing).
Still no Lennon (could be out a little longer than expected) and we'll have to wait whether its Crouch up front with Defoe or if Robbie gets his chance against his boyhood team. The defence need to keep an eye on Kuyt and the flanks.
We are 4th. We have dropped important points at home. Points that might have had us comfortably in 3rd. We are now at that point in the season where we must be making strides forwards, the type that aids the mentality of the team in a positive manner and turns hope into something quantifiable. No more talk, plenty of action.
I want to believe.
But I wont be able to personally influence the outcome of the game. Not unless someone emails me the hotel Howard Webb is staying in. It's up to the players. The faith they have in themselves. Either they prove to us they're good enough or they can settle for the status quo. I'm not suggesting this is the be all and end all of our season. Rather it being an opportunity, a stage, to make a statement. One that screams 'we don't give a fucking shit about anything other than the three points'.
90 minutes and a bit of injury time and we'll all know.