Fan's Eye View: Off on a Mersey mission: No. 6: Liverpool

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The Independent Online
IN THE early days of sponsorship, when Liverpool were 'probably the best team in the world', it was impossible to imagine the current decline. Of course, it had happened to Manchester United and Leeds United, but we were different, it could never happen to us.

If there was a bad season it led to just the one trophy. The answer to the popular quiz question, 'What goes to Wembley every year but is never used?', was changed during the mid-Eighties from the losing team's ribbons, to Ronnie Whelan's left foot.

Schoolboy centre-backs across the country dreamt they were Alan Hansen, while in earlier years Bill Shankly invited us for a walk around Ron Yeats. Today's youth-team hopefuls have nightmares about being Nicky Tanner, and if Graeme Souness were to ask us to walk around Jan Molby, we'd be there all night.

Teams used to be scared of coming to Liverpool. The famous 'This is Anfield' sign would strike fear in to the hearts of the opposition. Last season Vinnie Jones tried to fix a note to the sign saying 'We're Bothered'. He followed his sarcasm with a cracking goal in Chelsea's 2-1 win, their first victory at Anfield for 56 years.

One of our songs, 'The Pride of Merseyside', boasts the line: 'A team that plays the Liverpool way, and wins the championship each May.' The Liverpool way, apart from taking it in turns to moan at the ref, was pure and simple, pass and move, never leave a team-mate without an easy passing option. A passing movement this season causes amazement among the fans and sometimes even surprises the players involved. The result of the successful passes, it seems, is Souness gesticulating wildly that he wants it played 'over the top'.

David James has expressed his surprise at just how much he is relied upon. Someone should have warned him about a disorganised defence capable of 90-minute-long lapses in concentration. The midfield, when not bypassed by a defensive 'clearance', do not play with the confidence or quality that once flowed through Liverpool teams.

The myth about Molby must be exploded, before he explodes himself. When it's the FA Cup final his passing is majestic. The rest of the time he is inaccurate, immobile, lazy and extremely frustrating. Rush showed against the Cypriots that he hasn't 'lost it', but the midfield's inability to create chances against stronger opposition is embarrassing.

To be honest, supporting Liverpool at the moment is embarrassing. We now worry about opposition who used to fear us. Frustration grows, the first strains of 'Souness Out' have already been heard. The second half of the game at Sheffield United saw very heated arguments between Liverpool fans. Some, although they knew they should be getting behind the team, had had enough. I was among those who thought the moaners should be at Goodison. But how many more half-hearted, inept displays can I take?

When Apollon Limassol scored their penalty to make it 6-1, their fans chanted 'You're not singing any more', humourously meant, but overall this season, not far from the truth. We are no longer surprised by defeat and for the first time in 30 years we cannot be confident that our current League position is a false start.

At Villa on Saturday, the half-time team-talk again destroyed a team who were playing well. Dean Saunders's goals were inevitable, suggesting that his poor form at Anfield was not down to him. We got behind the team until the end, but there was a lack of conviction as we sang 'They all laugh at us, they all say our days are numbered', our usual retort when everyone is wrong in saying 'Liverpool are finished'.

Everyone mentions the injuries, we dismissed bad luck as the reason for these a long time ago. On trial from Birmingham it was just two days before Paul Mardon returned with a damaged ankle. Although he is greatly missed, the return of John Barnes is nothing to get excited about. It seems that with Boersma and Souness in charge it won't be long before something else is wrong with him.

Since John Smith retired as chairman, the club has become increasingly disorganised. We are now just another club, like Manchester United, with our once private business spread all over the tabloids. We approach Wimbledon at Anfield on Saturday expecting the worst.

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