Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Being Liverpool much like being the Blue Bombers

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It isn't easy being Liverpool these days.

More than a month into the 2012-13 Premier League campaign the venerable club, 18 times the champions, sit fourth from bottom, yet to win a match. In four outings they have managed a paltry three goals -- two of which have been scored by Luis Suarez -- and have conceded eight times, often in the most clumsy, careless manner imaginable.

On Thursday they were in Bern to face Swiss club Young Boys in the worthless Europa League; in the two days prior the teams they used to challenge for places atop the standings competed for club football's biggest prize in the Champions League -- a competition Liverpool, in what seems like another lifetime, won on five occasions.

Their on-field ineptitude has been matched off it, despite the arrival of a new manager who was supposed to signal an upturn in form and fortune, perhaps a return to the glory days.


Unfortunately, the only thing "new" Brendan Rodgers has brought to Anfield is a different way to lose, and you get the feeling if Liverpool fall to archrivals Manchester United on Sunday the pressure surrounding the 39-year-old will be unbearable to watch from a distance, nevermind endure in person.

Rodgers, who took Swansea into the Premier League before guiding them to an improbable 11th-place finish last spring, was supposed to have worked the same sort of miracles at Liverpool, and he was supposed to have begun the magic show when the first ball was kicked.

Instead, he missed out on a handful of transfer targets, and when a misunderstanding with the board of directors led him to believe there would be money to sign a proven goal-scorer, he promptly shipped Andy Carroll -- who didn't jibe with his stylistic philosophies -- to West Ham.

The new player never came, and Liverpool will now have to make it until the New Year with Suarez as their only proven forward. One shudders to think what could happen if he's injured before then.

Of course, if Liverpool fans can't watch Suarez banging in the goals they can at least see him playing Monopoly.

Being Liverpool, a behind-the-scenes miniseries that profiles the team, began airing last week and will give viewers unprecedented access to the inner sanctum of one of the most famous clubs in sports. If the season is going to go nuclear, at least you can have a front row seat.

It's curious timing for a show of this nature, but one can only imagine how eager the higher-ups at Liverpool were to give the public a different lens through which to view their club.

It was just last season, after all, that Suarez' racially charged outburst at United's Patrice Evra left the club with a public relations disaster on its hands -- one it somehow managed to bungle further when an official club statement and further comments from then-manager Kenny Dalglish seemed to, if not excuse Suarez' behaviour, then at least protect him with a string of senseless explanations.

American owner John W. Henry (who also owns the Boston Red Sox) was reportedly furious at how the front office handled the incident, recognizing the damage that could be done to the club's reputation both at home and, perhaps more importantly, abroad.

In that light, it's not hard to follow the line of thinking that led Henry and the board to allow the Fox cameras such unparalleled access. Perhaps board games, meditation classes and Rodgers clichés such as "every player I see as my own son" could help repair a wounded brand.

Perhaps they will. Or -- and this is far more likely -- perhaps Being Liverpool will be a sort of backstage pass to a performance gone horribly off the rails, a sitcom instead of a serious documentary. You'd like to think Liverpool Football Club would rather be challenging for major honours than casting their players in a reality TV gimmick.

Then again, being competitive isn't easy. And neither, it seems, is being Liverpool. Twitter @peterssoccer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 C7

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