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Keep The Champagne On Ice: The Bittersweet Taste Of Liverpool's Domestic Cup Double

Monday 30th January 2012
A week that includes two cup triumphs over neighbouring rivals at no extra cost in the way of injuries would be deemed a cause for celebration for any football club. However, the long-term implications for Liverpool of winning even one of the two domestic cups that they are now front runners for are somewhat precarious.

Prior to the 3-2 aggregate win over league leaders Manchester City in the Carling Cup, followed by a last-gasp Dirk Kuyt winner to send arch rivals Manchester United out of the FA Cup yesterday, question marks were on the horizon as to Kenny Dalglish's position as manager. A dour stalemate at home to Stoke was followed by a comprehensive defeat to relegation candidates Bolton Wanderers, forcing even the Scot's most ardent fans who consider him to be the club's greatest ever player, to contemplate a change at the helm. Former boss Roy Hodgson was sent packing for a not too dissimilar league performance this time last year, but it seems this week's dramatic victory double may have bought Dalglish some much-needed time.

Should Liverpool had found themselves out of both cups, a far gloomier picture of Anfield would have been painted, with Dalglish perhaps already out of the exit door. However, discerning Liverpool fans may consider that this would have been a blessing in disguise and the only way to stop the rot of mediocrity that has plagued their club since the inception of the Premier League era. Aside of Gerard Houllier's enthralling five-time cup winning season, along with Rafa Benitez's miraculous Champions League triumph, Liverpool have become a sleeping giant of world football, and a far cry from the side which was considered the best around only a few decades ago. Over-dependence on star players such as Fowler and Owen, followed by current captain Steven Gerrard has produced a series of imbalanced squads, with far too many players not of the required mental, physical and tactical level to become true champions, measured by winning what Bill Shankly described as his “bread and butter,” the league title.

There is an opportunity between now and the start of next season to address this and make such a radical change, particularly as the self-professed “Special One” Jose Mourinho has this week declared his wish to return to England in the summer. His authority has been suffocated by Real Madrid's hierarchy despite a five point lead over arch rivals and arguably the best club side of all time, FC Barcelona. Liverpool would seem to tick all the boxes for Mourinho; his passion for the game is embodied by Liverpool fans who continue to stand on the Kop every other week, while the club's stateside owners have humbly given both Hodgson and Dalglish total control and financial backing. Along with inevitable marquee signings, Mourinho would make more of Dalglish's squad by injecting the same self-belief instilled in all his former employees, and even re-kindle his title-winning partnership with forgotten former Chelsea man Joe Cole. As a result, the Reds would have every chance of taking that final crucial step towards greatness, moving from a club side that on its day can beat anyone to a formidable unit overcoming the tests of opposition on a weekly basis to become league champions and in doing so renovate “the house that Shankly built.”
Tom Reade
Tom Reade is a Liverpudlian and a keen follower of La Liga, particularly since having spent a 10-month period in Spain as part of his undergraduate degree studies in 2011. Despite his unwavering allegiance to the red half of Merseyside, Tom considers himself to be a student of the game and therefore assesses events both on and off the pitch with total impartiality both through his match reports and comment articles. Tom counts Yaya Touré, Sergio Ramos and Mats Hummels among his favourite players and still considers the 2001 FA Cup Final in Cardiff to be the greatest game he has attended, with Michael Owen single-handedly turning the game around in the dying minutes to keep Gerard Houllier's side on course for their historic quintet of cup titles over the course of the 2000/2001 season.

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