Ally McCoist was misty-eyed as the Rangers coach arrived at Anfield. “Ten years ago,” he said, “I was sitting on that bus going to Annan, to Elgin, to Peterhead, places like that, when the club was in turmoil — a night like this was a dream.”
Mind you, the way some folk have been talking of late about Liverpool’s mini-crisis, you’d have been convinced that Annan, Elgin or Peterhead would have been a more formidable challenge for Rangers on the night that was in it.
“The balloon would seem to be burst,” as Liam Brady put it about Jurgen Klopp’s lads when RTÉ kicked off, a whole hour after BT Sport who were so excited about the (latest) Battle of Britain they gave a whole 90 minutes to their build-up. We’d do well to get that for a World Cup final.
Liamo was joined by Didi Hamman who couldn’t disagree with his notion that all was not well with Liverpool. “The players seem deflated, something is wrong there,” said Liam. Trent A-A? “He really has been awful this season.”
Trent A-A has, of course, been a nigh on endless topic of discussion since, well, forever, not least with Gareth Southgate’s latest indication that he is, once again, surplus to his requirements. Similarities have been drawn with Glenn Hoddle’s international fate, but he, at least, managed to muster 53 caps — the lack of love for Trent of late would suggest he’ll be lucky to ever add to his seventeen.
Back on Sky, Ally addressed the Trent A-A issue too — “a wand of a right foot but can’t defend”, the usual — but was reluctant to pin all of Liverpool’s woes on his shoulders, pointing to the other three quarters of the team’s defence being out of sorts, the midfield being too old, and the attack displaying as much life as a corpse. Apart from that? All good.
“Jurgen knows the problem,” he said, “but the problem is solving the problem.” Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand nodded, as did Jake Humphrey before he handed over to BT’s second pitchside breakfast bar — that’s how big this game was — this one peopled by Emma Dodds, Steve McManaman and Kenny Miller.
Their chief focus was Darwin Nunez, all concerned admitting that him giving a Glasgow Kiss to a Crystal Palace player hardly after arriving at Anfield, resulting in a red card and a three match ban, didn’t smooth his entry to English football.
But still, they fretted over whether he was worth his meaty fee. Darwin could, of course, yet prove to be superior to any man ever from the striker species, but the problem, which Macca alluded to, is that he’s not Erling Haaland. But then, few people are, except Erling Haaland, and if he’s the measure by which you are judged, you’re banjaxed.
Back at the other breakfast bar, Jake, quite solemnly, informed us that the mural of Klopp near Anfield had been defaced, which, you assumed, would result in a minute’s silence before the game. That was the least of Klopp’s worries, though, the game being shown by BT meaning he’d have to talk to Des Kelly prematch. Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Vladimir Putin probably have a better relationship than that pair.
Jürgen grinned and bore it, though, chewing his jaw a touch to help him through it. No, playing two attacking full-backs and four lads up front didn’t mean he disrespected Rangers, whose line-up suggested they were playing 9-0-1, the implication being that he thought this might be a turkey shoot.
Ally was having none of it. “I’m full of hope,” he said, his old mucker Gary McAllister popping up at the breakfast bar, by now BT having employed half of Britain’s retired footballers as pundits on the night, to echo his optimism. “I cannae wait!”
They both agreed that the key for Rangers was not to concede an early goal, and then Trent A-A waved his wand at a free-kick after seven minutes and it was 1-0. Perhaps it’s true that he can’t defend, but if England can afford to abstain from employing that wand, they must be in mighty fine shape.
Meanwhile, the Rangers fans were singing “Rule Britannia” and Liverpool booed back loudly, and then they were singing “God Save The King”, and Liverpool’s rage registered 14.7 on the Richter scale. God love anyone having to explain this to non-Britons.
Second half. Penalty. Salah. 2-0. Game? Done and dusted. Rangers are many things, but they’re no Brighton.
And while the jury is still out, with considerably meatier challenges ahead, it can be confirmed that Liverpool are no Annan, Elgin or Peterhead. And also too, while Trent A-A still can’t defend, his right foot deserves framing. A thing of loveliness.