Ask any long-suffering Liverpool fan like me what's been missing over the last 30 years, and one name comes to mind - Graeme Souness.
He gave the reds a bit of bold. Just like Roy Keane.
Now first off, I don't know Roy and I've never met him. He did pop up in a scene of the Young Offenders last year and I have to admit I was a bit annoyed that I wasn't around that day. I had asked one of the drivers to give me a heads up when Roy arrived on set and, sure enough, I got a text.
I think I got my back up and decided I shouldn't just turn up uninvited to the set and, God forbid, what if he hadn't seen the bus episode?
What would we talk about? Cork City? Cobh Ramblers? United? Or maybe his preparation for his acting debut.
“I picked up a book by Stanislavski ‘An Actor Prepares’”.
“Ah yeah, fail to prepare Roy, prepare to fail!” (I just did the impression in my head. It was very good).
Roy Keane once said a winning team is like a group of men you would want alongside you in a nightclub fight. I don't have much experiences of nightclub fights, I leave that sort of thing to the character I play in ‘The Young Offenders’. I feel Billy Murphy wouldn't win many fights but then you’d see him giggling in the corner and realise he has one of your fingers. But anyway, who really wins a fight? No one, as we're told in school.
I understand what Keane was saying though and I can see this element returning to Liverpool over the last year or so. Down through the years Liverpool had their hard men but they were always silky footballers. Graeme Souness is a name that obviously springs to mind and Tommy Smith too, both before my time but by all accounts, very hard footballers and very well able to play too. Jack Charlton described Tommy Smith as easily the hardest player he ever faced and he played for a tough Leeds United team, so I guess it takes one to know one.
It's easy to write Tommy Smith off as just that and, while looking a bit like ‘Death Wish’ himself, Charles Bronson, Smith scored goals even in the European Cup final and played for Liverpool for 16 years. No mean feat (and no pun intended). So let's not put him in that silly hard man box alongside Vinnie Jones. The game has changed but, just as Joey Jones would mind the more skillful Kenny Dalglish in his day, you can see this sort of behaviour now in Andy Robertson backing up his teammate Sadio Mané and warning anyone who treats him roughly.
He stood up to two Barcelona players last year, he distracted Luis Suarez and he steamrolled Messi. He's not a dirty player but seems a bit nippy, if you get my point. He also yaps a bit like a Jack Russell too. Henderson seems to just lead by example and stood into that defensive midfield role earlier in the season with great effect when Fabinho was injured. Remember him standing up to Diego Costa a few years back?
He's certainly not afraid but he has evolved. I can't remember the last time he was sent off but I can’t forget that costly red card against Manchester City. Van Dijk is just incredible and a colossal in size. His skill, composure and size far outweigh any need to be dirty but, ask yourself, would you mess with him? And how many captains do Liverpool really have? The lack of leaders on the pitch a few miles up the road at Old Trafford is evident to everyone and only because we could see it when missing it ourselves.
I always felt too much was expected of Steven Gerrard. Sure, we had some glorious days with him and Carragher and Alonso and others who shared many battles. Gary McAllister helped Gerrard to be a far better player in my opinion. Is Milner doing that for others now?
Anyway, if Anfield is becoming a fortress again, do Liverpool have an army?
It takes an army to win a war and Liverpool are stronger all over the field, not just a spine of a team anymore, a team with a backbone and, I believe, a bit of a bite (real bite this time, not just Suarez bite). While the defeat to Atletico Madrid was incredibly frustrating, Liverpool will no doubt relish the opportunity to bring the battle back to Anfield. Which by the by, is where I am heading Monday for the West Ham game.
And from which I will dutifully report on these pages next week.
Billy Murphy, me.. we’ll all have some moments to celebrate and treasure in the coming months.
And I doubt we’ll have anything to worry about should they end up in a nightclub.