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Soup of This Day #187: The World Will Follow After

May 31, 2012

Pong was 1 of the 1st consoles to marry sport and video games – I cut my teeth playing on a system that was like this, with tennis, squash and soccer on the menu – Image: Bumm13, 2006. Bumm13 is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Liverpool FC has a new manager, their 4th in 2 years. He’s Brendan Rodgers, a 39 year old from Northern Ireland who got into the coaching side of things when his playing career petered out into nothing at the age of 20. From there he studied and worked hard, using supporting spells at Reading FC, where he’d played, and Chelsea, under the watchful gaze of José Mourinho, as a launching pad to his 1st gig as a manager in his own right.

That was at Watford. Moderate success with the Hornets led to a spell in charge back at old club Reading FC. That did not go so well and after less than 6 months Rodgers found himself without a job. Another 6 months later he was back in action at the helm of Welsh outfit Swansea City AFC and this time success was close at hand – In his 1st year with the Swans Rodgers saw them into an English Premier League (EPL) playoff final. Fittingly it was against Reading and to the delight of the Swansea faithful a 4-2 win saw them become the 1st Welsh team to make it into the EPL.

The 2011/2012 EPL season should have been unkind to Swansea and Rodgers. They didn’t splash the cash around, mostly because they didn’t have it to spare – Instead they had to rely on moulding a team of squad players into a solid outfit that could keep their collective heads above water in 1 of the world’s top footballing leagues.

They did that and more.

Swansea finished the campaign in a very creditable 11th, their survival seemingly never really in doubt. On the way they notched up some memorable victories, including a 1-0 win over Liverpool FC at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.

And now Brendan Rodgers is the manager of Liverpool FC and a whole other series of challenges await…

Rodgers did a fantastic job with Swansea, extracting the maximum of effort and talent from a limited pool. Now, in amongst the red half of Merseyside, and the stakes are higher on a number of fronts – 1st, the money is bigger – Liverpool’s centre-forward, Andy Carroll, cost £35m. That’s more than the entire Swansea squad combined would set you back. 2nd, the potential individual talent is greater too. Both of these factors might sound like they have only an upside.

They don’t. There is a big pitfall awaiting a misstep here.

With bigger money and greater individual talent comes a significant increase in expectations – From fans, club officials and pampered players. Managing a team under tight strictures ironically gives a greater freedom to fail. There is not that at Anfield – Just ask the other 3 guys who have been turfed out the door over the last 24 months.

Brendan though should fear not because I can help. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I should help.

This is in part because I could use the 2nd income – The whole kids thing is pricey. It’s not just about the money though – See, I have experience managing Liverpool FC.

Sure it was via Fifa 2004 on the Playstation but stick with me on this because I reckon I have the bells and whistles that’ll make Liverpool morris dance to victory…

Fact: I led the Reds for 7 seasons, garnering 7 EPL trophies, 7 FA Cups, 7 League Cups and 6 European Cups.

I did this by maximising the talent I had available and adopting some revolutionary tactics. Let me talk both of those strengths through:

1st, the players – I judiciously chose up and coming talent with an eye for goal. Names like Ronaldhino, Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Michael Ballack, Luís Figo and Fernando Morientes were added to an established Liverpool core of Steven Gerrard and Harry Kewell. That was just the raw ingredients though – the next step was to mix them into a delicious football cake…

2nd, the tactics – I went with a 3-5-2 formation. Keith Burkinshaw, who managed Tottenham Hotspur in the late 70s, once described Argentinean football thus:

‘All the attackers attack and the defenders defend. That means all your midfield players attack as well.’

I took this South American philosophy and modified it slightly – All of my defenders attacked too.

And for the icing – So did the keeper.

The result was an orgy of goals. There were so many goals that there was no need to defend – The opposition was constantly back-pedalling and even if they did occasionally catch my guys out on the fast break that was ok because we’d just go and score another 5 goals to more than nullify the inconvenience.

And it paid off big time – Take Thierry Henry – In real life the talismanic front-man could only ever manage a best haul of 39 goals in a season (2003/2004). For Arsenal.

Under my tutelage, for Liverpool, Henry scaled some sublime heights that dwarfed his prior records – He frequently topped 100 goals and in 1 superlative season he almost made 200, a feat garnished with a controlled quadruple hat-trick.

In a European Cup Final.

Which Liverpool won by around 24 goals to nil – Honestly, I stopped counting after 20.

Henry though was a superstar in any world, real or virtual. Let’s take someone who in the non-digitised format has been a bit of a disappointment by failing to fulfil his obvious potential: Harry Kewell.

In my Liverpool outfit Harry was a slashing winger who terrorised the left hand side of the park, good for 70-80 goals a season.

In the real world Harry was once suspected of having gout.

I rest my case.

So Brendan could benefit from my guidance – Liverpool could really take off if they adopt my policy of out-scoring the opposition. They will have to be careful though as there are 2 ways to approach this ethos…

The 1st is by attacking – You have to go out there and aim to outscore by running up an absolute bucket-load of goals. This is positive and this is good.

This is exemplified by the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Their pitching is pretty ordinary – 4th starter Félix Doubront has the best ERA of the Sox rotation and it’s hardly miserly at 3.86. The Sox though have ignored their generous defence and just slugged their way out of trouble – They’re 13th on ERA but 2nd on runs scored and hey presto, they are now 2 games over .500 and just 2.5 games off of 1st place in the death-defying American League (AL) East.

The 2nd approach though is not so good. It’s defensive – The team goes out with the aim of nullifying the opposition. This is negative and it’s easy for it to go bad.

A prime exemplar of this is how the Fremantle Dockers are now playing under new coach Ross Lyon. They have gone out to stop the other guys.

It’s not gone well.

To be fair, across the past 2 games the Dockers have sort of restricted their opponents, conceding an average of just 14 goals a game. Freo too has managed 14 goals – It’s just that they were across the 2 games, meaning they were outscored by 2 to 1. On average.

This kind of play has seen the Fremantle lads dip to 5 and 4, hardly catastrophic but not really pointing towards a finals campaign either. Given the tumultuous circumstances around Lyon’s appointment at the end of last season that kind of form is not going to be a vote-winner. The response so far can best be summed up in an article abstract I’ve just seen on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) online site. It reads:

‘No panic button – Dockers coach Ross Lyon remains confident his side will rebound from two damaging losses, despite criticism from fans, past players and the media.’

Well, at least not everyone is being downbeat about his game plans then.

The good news though is that I can help the Dockers too – Assisting them to score enough goals that they will overwhelm their opposition, ‘whelm them good and proper even, each and every week.

All I need is an AFL Playstation game. And a Playstation console.

That’s what kyboshed my winning run with Liverpool FC – My sister-in-law took the Playstation.

Good luck and watch out for your sister-in-law Brendan.

The World Will Follow After

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