So far, so good but now for hard part

SO THAT’S the easy part out of the way, what’s next? Reaction to recent results has been abnormally upbeat thanks to the holy grail vanishing act of last season.

Those hugely disappointing draws carved a wound in the collective psyche which even the sight of Phil Brown turning pale (a feat in itself) cannot heal.

Those who walk around with their guard permanently raised were always mindful of the challenges to come.

It’s tough at the top. Your team wins and sometimes all you do is shrug and look fearfully forward. It’s a lose-lose situation which is about to change. Such is the conundrum of life in L4 that I’m actually looking forward to it. Famous last words.

Chelsea and United go without saying, Europe looks tricky and we have to march warily into north London’s biggest crèche for the Carling Cup. Steve Bruce’s league record against Rafa can’t be ignored either. But bridges, crosses, etc.

Ngog’s a strange one. Name-checked when the lack of attacking depth is questioned, even the manager doesn’t seem to trust him too much. Last season’s debacle at Middlesbrough was triggered by Kuyt being relieved of midfield duties only to leave Skrtel floundering at right back, after which the kid was picked for Sunderland and scored.

His finish against Leeds was Torres-cool. There was little of note in the rest of the game, apart from their ‘goal’ and Mascherano lashing out. It inconveniently raised but a whisper in the ‘United have refs in their pocket’ debate that has dragged interminably on.

I kept having flashbacks from 1988 when Kenny was forever defending us from similar accusations after Aldo had walloped in his 45th penalty, something about how we were doing 90% of the attacking so what did you expect?

Perhaps this is a hangover from the January ‘rant’. It’s a little depressing to see Liverpool fans play this card, also emphasising the difference in the costs of the squads. It’s reminiscent of conspiratorial, Evertonish “we’ll never be allowed to win” twaddle. They’ve lost Ronaldo and Tevez but seem to be ticking along with few signs of subsidence. I’d rather we didn’t sound defeatist so early, but I appear to be in a dwindling minority.

It’s not like things aren’t going well for us. Be as snooty as you please about the standard of opposition we’ve faced, Hull trawling the depths, boom boom, but the goals and adventure in our play have been a bonus.

What more can be said about Torres? His few detractors bizarrely allude to flat-track bullying and maybe his Anfield record is astonishing, but when all falls into place there isn’t a better player in the game.

The goal conceded caused concern, and I’m sure Drogba will lick his lips in anticipation, but there were signs of improvement in the second half. Having created the winner at West Ham, Babel bagged a couple against opponents bewildered and bedraggled by the mighty Fernando.

It would be great to see him succeed, not just for the 180-degree turnaround in his form but the predictable about-face of those claiming Rick Parry bought him!

Gormless George was showing one of his Saudi pals around the place on Saturday, complete with predatory estate agent grin, part of the prevailing schmoozefest that’s meant to convince us we’re not up to our necks in it.0

Protests outside left him in no doubt as to the level of trust he’s currently operating with. There’s a terrible catch-22 though; we want them out, we want them to sell but they can only do that if everything in the garden looks rosy. Then the price goes up and no one wants to buy.

It could all be a cheap ploy to reduce future protests to ‘simmer’ at best, especially keeping them out of the stadium itself (the police seem to be taking a heavier hand there) or it could be they’re so oblivious to the sound of the crowd that they can carry on regardless.

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