At the risk of equating politics with the Premier League (let’s not be silly: we all know which is more important), what might Gordon Brown and Steven Gerrard have in common? For one thing, both have endured torrid campaigns: it was a long, long time ago that Labour and Liverpool last plummeted so far out of the public imagination. Brief mid-decade successes (Brown’s promotion to the premiership; Gerrard overturning AC Milan’s half-time landslide to win the European Cup) gave way to more sober realities of bad management, misspent budgets (Darling=Benitez) and collapsing expectations. They both ply their trade for the team in red, too.
On the theme of colours, another similarity reared its gruesome head this past week: each man seems utterly determined to help his respective rivals, the boys in blue. Brown’s now-notorious slip of the tongue has slashed his stock even further, arguably presenting the election on a silver platter to Cameron and his Tories. Gerrard could not have been kinder to a grateful Didier Drogba: there’s nothing like an incisive through-ball into your own box to gift the title to Chelsea, who just happen to be vying for that honour with Liverpool’s bitterest enemy, Manchester United…
Question Time: Did He Do It On Purpose?
Brown might be incompetent, but Gerrard might be something worse. Last week, I speculated that Liverpool’s active attempts to lose such a pivotal game against Chelsea would prove to be pure fantasy- on that count, I think I was wrong. Gerrard has produced some unbelievable moments in his career (for all the right reasons), but that slothful pass on Sunday is the most incredible. Watch the footage, scrutinize Gerrard’s position, and note the direction in which his eyes are pointed: his vision is entirely unobstructed.
He sees the onrushing Drogba, and in a moment that does not befit a career of good professionalism, decides to play a pass that, in any other contest, he wouldn’t have chanced. To put it subtly, he doesn’t exactly seem over-concerned in heaping the pressure onto Pepe Reina and his defenders: ‘hospital’ balls like that are heinously amateur even for the Uni Parks on a Wednesday afternoon, let alone for Anfield on a Ford Super Sunday. And, as you should have noticed, Gerrard does not customarily play like a talentless schoolboy.
Most readers will find this conclusion unacceptable and ludicrously conspiracist- common sense should prevail, you might argue; no sportsman would ever willingly choose to lose. To that, I can only implore you to watch and re-watch the goal: Gerrard is running towards his own keeper, and has plenty of scope for surveying the pitch ahead of him- he clearly isn’t blind-sided or impeded. The hard evidence, allied to a compelling theoretical case (again, read last week’s blog) certainly gives my argument serious credence. Make up your own mind, and feel free to leave comments in the space below- it’d be interesting to poll an Oxford consensus on this.
What happened, happened. Now, Chelsea are on the brink of a first championship since 2006, and they most definitely deserve it. Wigan will not submit easily (let’s hope Charles N’Zogbia takes the team bus), but the sight of a crowned trophy on the sideline, adorned with blue and white ribbons, will surely power them to finish first past the Premier League post. And, speaking of celebratory blue and white ribbons… fancy a crack at the Liverpool job, Gordon?