WITH four games of the season to go, Liverpool are in pole position to win the Premier League.
It’s taken until now for me to consider them title challengers. A terrible case of under-estimation on my part.
Around new year, I was with a Liverpool-supporting friend when the day’s results came in. I playfully chastised him for looking at how Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal had got on, explaining that Manchester United and Tottenham were Liverpool’s rivals – for fourth spot.
How wrong I was.
Sunday afternoon’s dramatic victory over Manchester City at Anfield cemented Brendan Rodgers’ men’s place at the top of the league, and they are now title favourites.
Putting aside my Chelsea allegiances, I will have mixed feelings if Liverpool go on and claim the title.
On an emotional level, it would be a fitting way to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, while only the most fervent of Liverpool-haters would deny Steven Gerrard the chance to lift the Premier League trophy.
Not many players of Gerrard’s class stay at one club for their whole career, particularly when, at times, Liverpool have been also-rans in the Premier League and not even competing in the Champions League.
He has had chances to move, and probably could have earned more money away from Liverpool, so the fact that he has remained says a lot about the character of the man and his feelings for the club.
However, Liverpool fans do have a habit of rubbing me up the wrong way, and I’m not sure I could stomach them if they were to actually win the title.
If fans of other clubs wave flags, they are deemed as plastic. If it happens at Anfield, it’s a passionate show of support.
Manchester United are criticised for having more fans from London than the local area. It’s a fair point, but I expect there are almost as many Liverpool fans around the country, owing to their success throughout the 1970s and 80s.
A conversation I had with a Liverpool-supporting reporter at a Reading match a few years ago sums up the holier than thou attitude prevalent among their fans.
As the teams prepared to come out, the PA announcer came on to the pitch to gee the crowd up, accompanied by dramatic music.
“Fans of real teams laugh at this sort of stuff,” he said, conveniently forgetting that Liverpool play You’ll Never Walk Alone over their PA system before every game. It makes for an electric atmosphere, but is it really any different?
Imagine what they would be like if Liverpool actually won something!
The good news for me, as a Chelsea fan, is that, like Liverpool, the Blues will be champions if they win their last four games. Next Sunday’s match between the two at Anfield could really be a title decider – and it’s too close to call.