As Liverpool’s Title-Charge Comes To The Fore, Anfield Might Be More Of A Hindrance Than A Help

I can’t stop thinking about Sunday’s win over Tottenham. There are countless moments from the match itself that pop into my head when I’m least expecting it: the inch-perfect cross from Andy Robertson for Roberto Firmino to give us the opener; the fact that Jürgen Klopp leaves it so long in the second-half to change things even though it’s clear that Spurs have taken the advantage; Virgil van Dijk’s absolutely incredible defending when he’s back on his own and Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-min are advancing on our goal. If the Reds go on to lift the title this year then that will almost certainly prove to be this campaign’s Eiður Guðjohnsen moment, reminiscent of when the Icelandic international’s shot flew just wide of Jerzy Dudek’s post in the Champions League semi-final of 2005, causing hearts to stop all over the land as people were convinced that the match was all over.

Yet the thing I keep thinking back on more than anything else was the way the crowd turned when it looked as though we were heading towards dropped points. The atmosphere in the Kop was brilliant at the start of the match, with Firmino’s Si Senior and the van Dijk song get decent, loud outings as the crowd tried its best to be the difference. That died off slightly after the first half an hour, but that’s only to be expected as the pattern of the match was established. What annoyed me was the way in which people near me on the Kop started moaning and groaning as it appeared as though a draw might be on the cards, with people shouting abuse about certain players and seemingly furious that the manager wasn’t making the substitutions that they wanted him to. It was a match that had the potential to either give us the confidence to spring into the final six games or else let City feel that it’s as good as won for them, so why were people hindering rather than helping the players?

Nerves Will Grow, But They Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Show

I am more than aware that the Anfield crowd wants this title desperately. I understand, too, that not everyone will have had the same experience as I did when it comes to what the crowd was like close to them in the ground. Given what’s at stake, it’s hardly a surprise that everyone is letting their nerves come to the fore the closer we get to finally lifting the holy grail. Yet how those nerves are expressed is crucial in the last six matches of this potentially historic campaign. I remember countless times when Liverpool have been either behind or drawing matches and the crowd has roared the team on, creating an atmosphere that suggested that a winning goal was almost inevitable. When those inside the ground decide to get behind the team it can feel as though absolutely nothing can stop the lads on the pitch from getting the result that it needs.

Yet what I experienced near me on the Kop was the opposite of that. A good example came when the ball fell to Jordan Henderson on the edge of the box and he tried to lob it through for either Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mané to run on to, but neither of them moved and he overhit it, meaning it went out for a goal-kick. There was a torrent of abuse sent his way from supporters, with the moan being evident all around the stadium. I completely understand the frustration, yet what do people think that is going to achieve? What good is shouting abuse at the captain going to do in terms of us getting the result that we all want and need? Shouting abuse at players is something that I can never get on board with. Anyone who has been reading my work for a while or following me on Twitter will know I was never a fan of Simon Mignolet, but I would never scream and shout at him because how is that going to help?

If We Want The Title, Support Is The Only Thing That Will Help

Anfield has long been famed for its atmosphere. It used to be a cliché that the Kop could suck the ball across the line when it mattered. Opposition supporters who turn up for a meaningless game will suggest that it’s a false statement and that there is no atmosphere once You’ll Never Walk Alone is finished, but supporters of the likes of Borussia Dortmund in 2016 and Chelsea for that 2005 Champions League match know exactly how powerful the Anfield atmosphere can be when the players need us to get behind them. Liverpool have a genuine chance of lifting the trophy that we’ve all longed for for nearly thirty years, going toe-to-toe with the most expensive squad ever assembled and Anfield could be the difference maker. Yet that’s not going to happen if we let our nerves show and get on players’ backs when a pass is misplaced or a shot is off target.

Not many Liverpool supporters will have a lot of time for Raheem Sterling, but the former Red spoke earlier this season about how the expectation on players in 2013-2014 put so much pressure on them that it left them ‘crippled’ and resulted in us dropping points at home. Other players in the current squad have talked about what an amazing boost the noise and support from the crowd gives them in the difficult games. With Chelsea, Huddersfield and Wolves still to come to Anfield before the campaign’s over, those that have tickets for the matches will want to ask themselves whether they want to be a help or hindrance in our attempts to bring the trophy home, then act accordingly. Moaning about players might make you feel better, but it won’t give them the boost they may desperately need.

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