The Blues rush in where Souness used to tread
By Clive White of "The Times"
Italy's gain may not be entirely England's loss. On the evidence of 90 minutes of bright, sunny FA Charity Shield football at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, the departure of Graeme Souness to Sampdoria may indeed spell a break in England's monopoly of the European Cup, but it may also, if only by way of consolation, provide us with the thrilling prospect of an open English League championship - or as open as it can be in these elitist days.
Anyone who, dare I suggest, tired of Carl Lewis winning anything he cared to enter at the recent Olympic Games will understand. For without Souness, Liverpool are clearly lesser mortals and the opposition greater ones by this knowledge.
All this depends, of course, on Liverpool's ability - or lack of it - to mend the damaged midfield region either by their own extraordinary powers of self-healing or by the transplant of a "foreign" body. Joe Fagan, the manager, may eventually have to look elsewhere - though not he was quick to stress, for another Souness. "Souness is Souness. Forget him. We have. He's gone. The three trophies we won last year, they've gone. Now we're starting afresh."
Fagan may have been advised to have done his shopping earlier north of the border, as Liverpool did last time they were confronted with the critical loss of a player. Then it was Dalglish who came down from Celtic to take over from Keegan. Again, a different kind of player but the same kind of success.
"Lock up your midfield players" was clearly the message to other managers as we witnessed the unusual sight of Liverpool outfought by a highly efficient Everton side in all areas but particularly in midfield. It was ironic that Everton should parade for the first time in competition with pride and joy their new midfield addition, Bracewell. Sunderland were the ones who had their locks if not their pockets picked when they lost this talented 22-year-old. He and the contrasting Reid, his grey hair a reminder of the sad years the first division spent without him, had too much bite and nous for Liverpool's silent quartet.
It was lack of fight on Liverpool's part that marred slightly the taste of Everton's victory (for the neutral, that is) and so raised the temperature of the equable Fagan to something bordering on anger. The astonishingly unfortunate Grobbelaar, who neatly side-footed the winning own goal, was the only one to reap praise from Fagan. He had done athletically well to block Sharp's less than convincing but close-range shot in the fifty-fifth minute. However, the loose ball pinged from one player to another before Grobbelaar sadly misfired the pinball as he tried to recover.
"I'm glad it happened today, anyway," Fagan said, referring to the collective failure. "It gives us a week to put it right." The taunting bullring cries of "Olé" from Everton supporters during the final, painful minutes must have provided sufficient castigation for the Liverpool players. Whatever happens by the end of the season, one would be advised not to bet against Liverpool next Saturday at the start of it.
Copyright - The Times