Changed times and expectations around Anfield

“IT’S not milk they want here, it’s blood”; one of Paisley’s rare cantankerous moments in the Eighties.

The cardigan and slippers were swapped for knuckledusters and Rosa Klebb shoes after a Wembley triumph and another league win (en route to another title) were greeted with less than rapturous tumult from his Kop faithful.

Nowadays we should be pleased to scrape by in earlier rounds and narrowly beat relegation fodder for two wins in a week, but a sense of entitlement still lingers.

A year ago we were humiliated by Northampton, piloted by Hodgson and headed towards financial oblivion.

Maybe we will succumb in Everton’s Palace of Timber next Saturday, as we did shortly after John Henry’s arrival, but it’ll be a different unit which does so.

Our midweek cup exploits may be over anyway. At the risk of self-congratulation I did say United would not ‘murder’ Stoke. In fact we gave a better account of ourselves for less reward, the story of the season thus far. So we were bound to get the tie nobody wanted in the next round, and just as we were taking the whole shebang seriously too. Perhaps we’ll find a cure for travel sickness, or some old-fashioned luck. With all this year’s signings involved against Wolves bar Coates, it was hard to disprove the theory that chequebooks were influencing selection and not form.

There were long stretches of ragged play, which was understandable considering the back four was also altered.

Houllier was the original tinker man, way before Rafa and even Ranieri, but he always wanted a settled defence even when forced to play two unnatural full-backs (Babbel and Carragher) for six months of the treble campaign.

Kelly suffered much like Skrtel, having a seemingly dazed and confused Henderson in front of him. Our two-goal cushion, so often prayed for this season, lasted five minutes which then spread panic like a virus.

Missing more gilt-edged opportunities did not help. In fairness to Carroll he at least showed signs of a contribution.

Having spent a decade listening to fans say, “we won didn’t we, that’s all that matters”, I’ve finally succumbed to their brainwashing. As long as we’re saying it this weekend too.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up