The Liver Bird  

Saturday, 27 June 2020

A Lifelong Wait: Liverpool FC, Premier League Champions

30 years. A literal lifetime for me and many others. Some follow a football club because it's the team their parents support, others like me live 80 miles away from Anfield but were submerged in Kopite culture from around the age of 6 or 7, thanks to an older brother who was obsessed with the title stomping Reds.



Of course, my brother had the right idea, follow the Reds in the 70s and 80s, titles come along like buses. Look up silverware in the dictionary and you'd probably find a Liver Bird crest beneath it. Little did I know, I wouldn't enjoy this same feeling, my life as a Liverpool fan living in Wolverhampton would be an absolute emotional rollercoaster.

My first obsession over a footballer would begin with Michael Owen, he'd later break my heart, but that didn't stop me buying anything with his face on and naming my female rabbit after him. Owen tricked me into thinking this was our time. The Houllier treble convinced me that I would soon have the bragging rights. I could walk into secondary school and dish out the stick to all the kids in United shirts but no, I'd have to wait much, much longer for that.

In 2005, I sat in the living room with me Dad, taking in all the build-up to our pinnacle moment in Turkey. Led to the final by a man who can only be described as a tactical genius and the first Liverpool manager I truly loved: Rafael Benitez.

At half time, I ran to the bathroom, unable to hold back the tears after watching us go three-nil down. I didn't think I could bring myself to watch the second half but Dad with his wise words persuaded me otherwise.

By full time I was dancing in the street outside our council house, draped in the same Liverpool flag that I held aloft this Thursday just gone. The neighbours didn't understand but at that moment, that was true vindication of what it meant and how it felt to be a Liverpool fan. Even when everything is against you, you never give up, you keep fighting. I was basking in the glory of the Miracle of Istanbul, one of the greatest football matches that has ever been played.

Again, Rafa and his magic had tricked me into thinking this was our time. Liverpool would finally be able to push for that elusive Premier League title. How wrong I was. Rafa, of course, went close, but it wasn't to be.

By 2009 I had left sixth form with some dodgy A-Level results, I couldn't get into Uni and was on the dole looking for a full-time job. To keep me occupied, I set up this blog which would eventually go on to win awards, unbelievable. One of the first blog posts I put out was a description of my first ever match at Anfield in 2010, hearing You'll Never Walk Alone reverberate around L4 is still etched in my mind.

I blogged constantly, the writing was a release, I never expected though that there would be so much negative. What followed was post after post on Roy Hodgson, relegation zones, missed chances, dodgy owners, court cases, utterly terrible signings and no real light at the end of the tunnel. Still, the wait went on.

By 2012 I'd completed a college course and got into University. I was chuffed to bits, but while a big part of my life off the pitch was somehow getting itself in order, could it be as Liverpool announced Brendan Rodgers as the new boss, Liverpool were getting themselves in order too?

It didn't take Rodgers long to provide us Kopites with a serious, serious title challenge. By the end of the 2013-2014 season, I had written the following in a summary blog post: "I'll never forget coming so close to the title with Rodgers, I'm 26 in November and that is easily (aside from the Champions League final in 2005) the most excited I have ever been as a Liverpool fan."

It truly felt like the tides had turned when the Northern Irishman steered us so close that season. But, you guessed it, I'd fooled myself again into thinking this could actually be happening, the title had never felt so far away by the time Rodgers was sent packing in October 2015. 

Gerrard said goodbye and over the years we'd lost some of the iconic players who I associated Liverpool with while growing up. There was no Carragher anymore, no Gerrard, no Owen, Fowler or even Riise (another player I was obsessed with). Yes, there'd been the likes of Torres, Suarez, Alonso, even Dirk Kuyt and some brought a sparkle to Anfield that made you believe but only for a moment.

It would take a complete change of tack, a new manager with new ideas, and a set of owners willing to throw in some cash in order to create the catalyst.

In October 2015, "The Normal One" showed up at Anfield. I can't deny that if you went searching through the blog's archive you would find a paragraph somewhere where I said, in a choice between Ancelotti and Klopp, I'd lean more towards the Italian. Thank god the club chose Jurgen...

As Liverpool supporters, it's never been just the football that moulds you into a fan. The Hillsborough Disaster happened in April 1989, seven months before I was born, but a story my Mom recalls reeling at after seeing it on the news. On that day, 95 football fans went to a game and never returned home, a 96th victim would later lose his battle in hospital. In 2016, after an agonising fight for justice, a jury concluded that the fans were unlawfully killed. Raw emotion of a different kind. Justice for the 96.

By the end of the 2015-2016 season, Klopp had taken us to two finals, the League Cup and the Europa League. His impact was almost instant and although we lost those finals and there were a few initial hiccups at the start (some of which I probably also discussed on the blog), it soon became clear that this man had a plan.

His rapport with the players was phenomenal, his understanding of the club and the fans? Perfect. He knew exactly what he wanted to build and how he wanted to build it. Rival fans scoffed at us spending megabucks on the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson but Klopp knew precisely where his team's flaws lay, he addressed them and boy did it work.

As a Liverpool fan, I spent the majority of the 2018 - 2019 season with a massive grin on my face. Yes, I'd faced heartbreak the year before watching Mo Salah leave the pitch injured and crying in the Champions League final but this season felt different. It felt as though we were finally ready. I believed again.

A phenomenal effort saw Klopp's side finish on a massive 97 points, just one sole point behind City. In the years gone by, we'd finished second on a handful of occasions in my time as a Liverpool fan, but I never truly went into the following season thinking we could surmount a credible title challenge, the Rodgers season was probably the closest I'd felt to that.

This time though, I knew we'd be battling for it. The trio of Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were virtually unstoppable, we'd purchased a brick wall and plonked him in the centre of defence and our goalkeeper was the best in the world. It was time.

I hoped it would be our season but I could never have predicted the distance we would put between ourselves and the opposition this time around. We're yet to know the points gap we've won by but to finish with seven games to go as Champions? This is the stuff dreams are made of.

In March, the horrendous Coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world put things into perspective. I love my football club and I struggled to function without them but some things were more important.

The rumours of "null and void" began to swirl and I just kept thinking, that would be peak Liverpool, wouldn't it? My time as a Red has taught me that things often go against you and the asterisk brigade were out in force. "Oh if you're gifted the title it won't be a REAL title." I was fuming, I'd not waited 30 years for some tin pot fans to spout "fake title" at me for the rest of time. Thankfully, football was allowed to safely restart.

The Reds took a game to settle in after a draw with Ancelotti's Everton (can't say I predicted he'd end up at Goodison when I was considering him as our own boss) but won emphatically against Crystal Palace. The gauntlet was laid.

Fast-forward 15 years on from when I was a tearful almost 16-year-old, sat at my parents' house, wrapped in that Liverpool flag, praying for the right result to gift us the first huge trophy I'd seen us lift. Here I was, now in my own flat living with me Wolves mad fiance, sat on the floor, wrapped in that same flag, nerves shot to pieces.

There'd been several points over those 30 years that I'd convinced myself I will never see my side lift the Premier League title, but in the moments I believed we may do it I never accounted for the fact our victory could be confirmed by the result of our rivals match.

It was a bizarre evening Thursday night, watching on a phone screen, I squinted to make sure Willian's penalty had definitely gone in and that the crowd noise bloke hadn't accidentally pressed the wrong button again. It was in, and there were 10 minutes to go. 

I'd held back the tears at this point but after screaming my head off at the final whistle I switched over to Sky on the tele. A montage of Liverpool from the year I was born to the present day was shown and I was an absolute mess. 

This is me moments after our first Premier League title win was confirmed.



A lifelong wait, but nobody can ever, ever take that feeling away from me, pure and utter joy.

I drank and danced around the living room well into the early hours, despite having work the next day. While I dreamt of celebrating in Liverpool, in the end, it didn't matter, I was elated.

I just hope I don't have to wait another 30 years for the next one...

#YNWA

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Sunday, 5 April 2020

TWO MORE GAMES

TWO MORE GAMES. 

That's what I was saying to myself over and over again approximately four weeks ago. At the time I had shared the below on social media, which unfortunately now sounds more like a distasteful joke but this was genuinely how I was feeling. The club I had supported and followed my whole life, a full 30 years, had got within touching distance of lifting their first Premier League title and then a pandemic breaks out.


You just couldn't write it, it's peak Liverpool. Throughout the years, the club and football as a sport has faced some torrid times but to throw around what I'm sure will be the word of the year for 2020... this is unprecedented.

After what has happened in Britain and across the globe over the past few weeks, it does really make you take a step back and think about the vital things in life. Bill Shankly once said "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that." On this occasion, I have to disagree with the great Shanks. 

Interestingly, it's the great man himself though who has really got me thinking about the latest decision from our wonderful football club. The club this week has decided to take advantage of the Government furlough scheme in order to assist with paying its non-playing staff. While the scheme is there to help those employees from all companies who may suffer during this crisis, it seems immoral for a club that checked in around £40million plus in profit last year to take this route when so much more could be done. It goes against everything the club, the city and its fans stand for and I truly hope another conclusion is reached.

"The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It's the way I see football, the way I see life." - Bill Shankly

Away from the club's current stance of furloughing, one man who has made me immensely proud is our captain Jordan Henderson. It was revealed this week that the skipper is working to set up a fund for NHS workers by speaking regularly with captains from other Premier League clubs. This is the example Liverpool should be setting.

Image source: Liverpool Echo
With no real indication of when it may be safe to restart the Premier League and football across the country in general, while I am desperate to see my boys back in action (I heard YNWA on a quiz show midweek and nearly started crying!) this whole situation has made me realise how lucky we are and it really makes you take stock and value the smaller things in life.

All I do hope is that Liverpool are given the opportunity to earn that trophy, I do not want to be gifted the Premier League title and do not feel it is right to scrap the whole season. Next season hasn't yet begun so sort out what's happening in the here and now before you go looking to plan ahead.

I don't know when, but at some point this year, Jurgen Klopp and his phenomenal Redmen will lift that elusive piece of silverware. I always thought I would cry when we won the league but as this season went on, the Reds were making it far too easy, the raw emotion of going so close in the 2018/2019 season was absent so I was beginning to think the waterworks wouldn't happen. I'm almost certain now though, after everything that has happened, seeing Jordan Henderson lift that cup will not just be a true sense of happiness, it will symbolise a return to normality and I will never look at life or football in the same way again.

Stay safe folks, stay home. YNWA.

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Sunday, 2 June 2019

In Madrid, We Won It Six Times

Saturday 1st June, not a date a few weeks back I thought would be important to Liverpool but after the Reds overturned a 3-0 deficit against the mighty Barcelona, June 1st became vitally important.

As a Liverpool fan from Wolverhampton whenever the lads get to a final I always try to travel up to Liverpool so I can soak up the second best atmosphere. Obviously, Madrid would be the dream but that's practically impossible for somebody like me so Liverpool, a city I love so dearly is ALWAYS the next best option.

Last year for the final I booked a hotel after the final whistle of the semi-final first leg but this year we couldn't do that so we had to draft in the fella to be designated driver. I always knew there was a positive to him being a Wolves fan haha. But seriously, massive thanks to the fella!

So it was set, me, the fella, me brother and my mate Reece would all travel up for the final again. Last year we watched at Camp and Furnace but again this year I was a bit slow on the uptake and tried for two weeks to find a ticketed screening somewhere, eventually I got us tickets at Mulholland Diner which to be honest isn't your most obvious place to watch the match but I knew that anywhere you watched in Liverpool would be awesome.

Travelling up I opted for honey JD and coke in a water bottle to settle the nerves. It's weird since we drew Spurs in the final I immediately felt more nervous, more nervous than I think I would have been if it were Ajax. I think it was just the element of English and well-known opposition, we'd finished so far ahead of Spurs in the league, this would be a disaster if victory went to the London club.

Arriving in Liverpool about 1pm after blasting out Si Senor on repeat for the dying moments of the journey, I was super excited now but we still had hours until kick off. 

We started at The Richmond Hotel, the rain had finally died off so we stood in the street enjoying a cider. Reece gave another Liverpool fan a leg up so he could stick his ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ flag in the sign of a closed down shop. It was a good atmosphere and you could feel the tension building. 

To ease the nerves yet again I then had to go for a food stop. Those who follow me on Twitter will have seen the jacket potato saga unfold. On the fridge in our new flat we have a meal planner and the week of the Barcelona second leg I'd written "jacket potatoes" for tea that night and next to it "Champions League, need a miracle!". Of course, that miracle went on to happen and I had convinced myself it was because of the jacket potatoes.


I knew on Saturday I would have to have one so we made a pit stop and I tucked into mine about 3 in the afternoon. 

Next we popped over towards the docks and had one at the pumphouse, I like the beer garden here so it was nice to have another bevvie and enjoy the view. Eventually, we started heading towards Mulholland as we were allowed to enter from 6pm and I wanted to make sure we watched the build up etc. On the way we went to see the madness of Concert Square, there must have been thousands crammed in singing and chanting, just a brilliant sight. A bit further down the road, some lads were playing football in the street until one of them kicked it onto a shop roof... a chorus of boos followed. 

While trying to get to Mulholland we decided to go around Concert Square just to make it a bit easier and I'm glad we did because that's when we stumbled on Slater Street. I've been to Liverpool a hell of a lot over the years but for some reason I'd never been in this area, we stopped for some drinks on Slater Street at a bar that had a table right on its frontage, as the afternoon went on Slater Street got more and more full.


It was bloody brilliant here, the chants began of Si Senor, You'll Never Walk Alone and Virgil van Dijk. Flares were let off and the Don't Buy The Sun flag made an appearance. It was such a great atmosphere and I was chuffed we'd stumbled upon it. 

Then it was pretty much time to go to Mulholland. It was definitely a bit of a strange place to watch the football but there was a good atmosphere and we also got a free drink ticket which was a nice touch. I managed to get a good spot right in front of the big screen with a good portion of side space for drinks haha.

Earlier in the day, I'd purchased a Jurgen Klopp mask and I'm so glad I did because it went down a treat in the streets and in the pubs.

Kick off drew closer and closer and all I kept thinking was Liverpool thoroughly deserve to win this cup, after the season we'd had I just couldn't face losing to Spurs.

The big news team-wise was that Firmino started for us and Kane made the start for Spurs and before you know it, it was time for kick off.

I'd barely had chance to settle the nerves before Sadio Mane had won us a penalty with a handball from Sissoko. To be honest I thought this was quite a harsh decision but did I care? Not one bit.

I'd opted for my purple Liverpool shirt this year on purpose because it's the one I have with Salah on the back. Watching him go off in tears last year was heartbreaking and I wanted this final to be a special one for him, hopefully with a goal. As he stepped up for the penalty I knew he wouldn't miss and Mulholland went mental at the fact Liverpool were already 1-0 up after just two minutes. 

The early goal was massive for the Reds and most would have thought this would be a boost for Klopp's side to quickly find the net again but quite the opposite happened. Liverpool struggled to maintain possession against Spurs and the London side looked the more effective in the first half, the score remained 1-0 but I felt extremely nervous for almost the entirety of that match.

Substitutions for Liverpool meant Firmino was replaced with Origi and Wijnaldum replaced with Milner (Gomez also appeared very late on). 

I have to confess that right at the start of this season I genuinely forgot that Divock Origi was still a Liverpool player. He'd failed previously to really make a mark on the side but this season he's been an absolute revelation, the goal against Everton alone was enough to add him to the folklore but his inspired performance against Newcastle which could have proved vital and his two goals in the inspirational win against Barcelona have cemented the fact that Origi is a force to be reckoned with.

When he entered play on Saturday you just had the feeling he would have a say in this final and at 87 minutes he found the back of the net. A low and powerful shot was too much for Hugo Lloris and the goal had all but ended Spurs' dreams.


The final whistle blew and I screamed my head off in Mulholland, it just felt like a justification of this team and the manager's efforts during 2018/2019. I fear that a loss in this final could have been extremely damaging but the sheer delight on everyone's faces when Jordan Henderson lifted that trophy a few minutes later shows to me a team that is utterly unified. Why would you leave this side now? And why would you not want to come and be a part of this story?

A sixth European Cup for the club means Jurgen joins an elite list and whatever happens, he will be remembered forever. Simply superb.

Due to having a designated driver we had to head back home from Liverpool on the night but the walk from Mulholland to Lime Street Car Park was just brilliant. I wore my Klopp mask most of the way, holding up six digits and dishing out high fives. Singing ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ as hundreds of fans filtered out into the street.


I'm gutted I can't be there for the parade but I'm about to watch on TV. Just a world class day for me yesterday and may we have more of those to come!

I bloody love you Liverpool!!! #6Times 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2019

All To Play For In Germany

A somewhat frustrating night at Anfield for Liverpool as the Reds could only manage a 0-0 draw against Bayern in their first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League. 

A 0-0 draw, to be honest, is not a bad result but there was a general consensus that Liverpool may be able to get the better of the German side on their home turf. 

Image via The Independent
The first half was a brilliant game to watch, especially for the neutral with both teams creating issues. One moment that stands out in particular though is a save from Alisson that he knew nothing about. A bit of luck came Liverpool's way after a melee in the box and a risky clearance from Joel Matip nearly ended in a goal for Bayern, thankfully Alisson's body was in the way and the match remained level. 

Alisson is a brilliant keeper but I still feel sometimes he's far too risky with the ball at his feet. His distribution often invites unwanted pressure and while nine times out of ten it's fine, I can't deal with the stress!

Klopp had to start this game without influential defender Virgil van Dijk but to be fair to the Reds, aside from that freak mistake early on, defensively they played really well. Fabinho had a cracking game and on several occasions put in some beautifully timed tackles to stop dead a dangerous attack. 

Another player who deserves a mention is Jordan Henderson, he gets a lot of flack but people don't talk enough when he puts in a stormer. He was brilliant last night, played more positively with his passing and also got us out of a few scrapes when tracking back. 

Attack wise, Liverpool did have their chances but we just couldn't quite make it count. I love Mane but I have to admit that he scuppered a couple of good opportunities on Tuesday night. Firmino for me started lively but seemed to fade and as always we didn't seem to capitalise much on any set pieces. 

Nevertheless, the tie is at 0-0, an early away goal in Germany could be massive for Liverpool. Equally, even if Bayern score first they'd still need to find a second goal in quick succession really to feel comfortable. It's going to be an interesting European away trip for Klopp's side that's for sure. 

Next up for the Reds is the small matter of Manchester United... This game is huge in any season but even more so this year.

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Monday, 21 May 2018

It's Time For Kiev | Liverpool FC | Champions League

It's 2005, I'm 15 years old, starting to really hone my obsession with Liverpool Football Club, sat in the living room of our Wolverhampton council house, waiting for the Reds to kick off in Istanbul.


Image via The Metro
Like many Liverpool fans back then I never seriously thought we would find a route to the final with that team but the magic was tangible. The Olympiakos game and that infamous Gerrard goal, Hyypia scoring against Juventus and the ghost goal at Anfield. None of those things really should have happened, but I quickly learned as a 15 year old that Liverpool in Europe are just something else.

Twenty years after reaching their last European Cup final in 1985, Rafa Benitez's Liverpool side proved they had the stamina to not only make it to the final but also come back from 3-0 down to win on penalties. At half time I had retreated to the bathroom and I'm not afraid to say, I had tears in my eyes. I was absolutely gutted, we'd worked so hard to get there and it was crumbling away. Still a bit young and perhaps a bit naive, I was adamant I would not watch the second half, but my Dad being the wise man that he is convinced me to continue to watch. I was running out into the street with my Liverpool flag, utterly elated by the final whistle.

Any neutral would vote that as one of the best football matches in history and this season the Reds have captured some of that tenacious 2005 spirit.

Depicted as the underdogs once again, Liverpool may be unfavoured by most but Jurgen Klopp and his side have 100% earnt their place in the final on Saturday. Brushing aside teams like Porto and comfortably beating Manchester City does not come easily. The two legs against Roma were perhaps not as straightforward but we wouldn't be Liverpool if there weren't a few blips along the way.

Looking at the opposition, they are of course European royalty in their own right but they are by no means perfect. For me, it's a good time to be playing Real Madrid, the Spaniards have had questions hanging over their defence the whole season and while they clearly have a solid attack you would be stupid to question the power of Liverpool's forwards.

It's going to be a huge challenge for the Reds, no doubt about it but they are hungry, prepared and able to win this final. 

A back four rejuvenated by the introduction of Virgil van Dijk will have its work cut out but the Reds have improved immensely on the defensive front and are could keep out Real Madrid. Perhaps not for the whole 90 but for enough time to get the upper hand.

In the midfield, Jordan Henderson must get a mention, I can't say I'm his biggest fan. I've never disliked him but I haven't always sung his praises, however, he has led his team in this European campaign and nobody can doubt his passion. He will be willing the team on from the centre of the field and pulling the strings with a bit of luck.

Then there's the matter of the forwards, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah are a force to be reckoned with. Madrid will argue they have come up against similar, dealing with Messi, Suarez and co but I honestly don't think they've met this type of attack in a very long time.

The Reds' ability to switch up the play so quickly, a front three all injected with immense pace and a real connection on the pitch? I genuinely think they could get stung. Mo Salah has had a phenomenal season, you're telling me he's not going to be giving his absolute all to find the net in the Champions League final? 

Salah WILL score and he will be supported by Firmino and Mane who will both also be chomping at the bit to score for their team mates, manager and fans.

The Spanish papers can brand this a piece of cake all they want. I don't think they truly understand what is coming for them in Kiev on Saturday 26th May.

We've conquered all of Europe, and we're never gonna stop. Fingers crossed for number six.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! I will be in Liverpool with me fella, me brother and me mate if you spot me, say hi!

#AllezAllezAllez

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Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Five Things We Learned From The Etihad Win

1) We can defend

Granted, we conceded after just two minutes but on the whole, Liverpool put on a strong defensive performance. Yes there were a few errors and Karius shouldn't have punched on a couple of occasions but against Man City, at the Etihad, in a semi-final? I think we should be proud to concede just the one.

Over the two legs, the Reds have shown that they can, in fact, defend and the likes of Robertson and Trent double A have been absolutely brilliant.

Image via The Belfast Telegraph

2) We missed Hendo

Henderson is one of those players who you only really appreciate once he's gone. He brings a certain calmness to the side and during the first 45 minutes yesterday I felt like we really missed him.

It will be a positive to reintroduce him to the side for the semi-final. Gini did ok but I just feel as though Hendo adds a bit of balance, it's a weird one because I'm the first to admit I will often be slating Hendo in some fixtures but really he brings more to the side than you realise.

3) Mo Salah is unstoppable


I've genuinely run out of words and paragraphs to explain how good this guy is. He makes things look incredibly easy, that goal last night was by no means a simple one. Mane did well to cause the situation but to have the composure to net that and dink it in too? Stunning.

He's an absolute god.

4) Dejan Lovren played a pivotal role


Lovren is not necessarily a player you would focus on after Tuesday night's result but having read a piece in the Independent today it is clear that he played a pivotal role.

When heads were dropping and frustration began to show early on in the game, including a disgruntled Virgil van Dijk, it was Lovren who stepped in to pull the lads back together.

Shouting at his teammates to keep their heads he did more than he can ever imagine by taking the step to calm the team down. It reminds me of players like Gerrard and Carragher, sometimes you need a player to step up in a big game not just in terms of their play on the pitch but to speak to the team. Fair play Dejan.

5) Firmino worries Mo may have turned into a statue


And finally, I can't stop laughing at this video of Mo celebrating. Firmino looks as though he's trying to figure out if he's still alive or not haha.


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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Five Things We Learned: Man United 2 Liverpool 1

1) Liverpool have nothing to be embarrassed about

Yes we lost and yes it was pretty darn terrible but as far as I am concerned, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have nothing to be embarrassed about. That match went perfectly with Mourinho's plan. A couple of long balls and some solid finishing thanks to errors in defence, once United were 2-0 up it was always going to be immensely difficult for the likes of Mane, Salah and Firmino to get through.

Image via Irish Independent
Mourinho plays a very negative game and it gets them results but if anybody tries to tell me United play better football than Liverpool, they can jog on. I would much rather watch the football we play with flair players leading the attack than turn up to watch a relatively bland United side slog out another last-minute win and have Fellaini as a key player. Mourinho is the first to complain when a side plays long ball against his team but when he does it? Genius. It drives me mad. Let them have their moment, I still think we'll finish above them in the table.

2) Lovren not a strong enough partner for VVD

Dejan has definitely improved of late but I'm not convinced he is the long-term partner for Virgil, nor am I convinced that it's Matip. On occasions against United, Lovren was caught completely off guard, VVD has added some command and stability to the defence but he can't ensure his teammates are always making the correct decision. Lovren's positioning at points was questionable, to say the least, and I just don't think it's a workable option for the Reds looking forward to next season.

3) Hendo brings more than we realise

The captain didn't even feature in this clash and I never thought I'd find myself sat there at half time asking for him to come on. I just feel like he would have brought some calmness to the side and would have provided more freedom to Can for example to power forward, both of them could then act as stronger links to the struggling forwards. 

Oxlade-Chamberlain had a pretty poor game and I honestly thought it would be Hendo replacing him.

4) Sadio Mane had an off day

I love Mane, he's on the back of my shirt this year, but bloody hell he had a bit of a mare on Saturday. Passing from the whole side, in general, was sloppy but Mane on several occasions lacked accuracy.

Decision-making while on the attack was also lacking, the link up between Sadio and Firmino/Salah usually comes naturally but it was a real struggle to make things work against United.

5) Klopp doesn't like to make early tactical changes

Point three above led me on to this one, I was trying to think back to big fixtures under Klopp and I'm not sure he's a fan of early tactical changes. Not many managers to be fair will watch a first half, note that there's a tactical issue and then be brave enough to make that change prior to 60 minutes but the Reds have had managers in the past that would stick their neck out and do so.

I felt on Saturday a change was needed relatively quickly, it didn't come until 62 minutes and even when it did it wasn't necessarily a tactical move to switch Oxlade with Lallana. The whole thing just got me thinking, Klopp is very much a subber of like-for-like players, partly because Klopp's tactics are simple in nature; press and attack. There are going to be times though where a clear tactical change is required to salvage something and I'm interested to focus more now on how the boss deals with these situations.

We've seen him chuck on attackers and pull off defenders but I'll be paying more attention I think to the more thoughtful subs in key upcoming fixtures.

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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Reds Throw Away 3-0 Lead

Only Liverpool could let a 3-0 lead slip like that couldn't they? In the grand scheme of things the draw probably won't even matter but it's not the point is it? The Reds are so unbelievably weak at the back and facing a distinct lack of leadership I just don't think we have enough in the attack to carry us through the season. 

Liverpool defence
Image via thisisanfield.com
The game started phenomenally well with a goal inside just two minutes from Bobby Firmino. Swiftly followed by a beautiful header from Mane, Firmino then found Liverpool's third and final goal of the game at the 30 minute mark. 

Back in the dressing room at half time Klopp must have been over the moon. Comfortably winning and knowing his side were not only top of the group but that they would go through with a game to spare. All we had to do was see out the match. 

There's no denying that Sevilla were always going to come out second half with a bit more gusto but there was no excuse for Liverpool crumbling like they did. 

It may seem like I'm singling players out but I'm just highlighting moments. For me there are huge problems concerning all defensive minded players and nobody is solely to blame. 

Moreno though needs discussing. There was a time way back where I stuck with the idea of Moreno in defence, I remember writing a positive article for Shoot trying to convince people to be patient but that era has long gone. Still it seems there are many members of the fan base desperate for Moreno to make it in defence, that would be lovely but he's just not a soddin defender, he's nowhere near. His decision making is shocking and in games like this the panic sets in. Two very poor decisions from the ex-Sevilla man effectively allowed the home side to find two goals in quick succession. Both were scored by the influential Yedder. 

Despite this, the Reds were still 3-2 up there was no need to rush, calm it down and hold the ball but it's almost as if the lads know themselves that they won't be able to retain the slim lead and hence opt to attack. Seriously, when was the last time you saw Liverpool switch tactics and solidly defend a lead? It's not pretty football but sometimes you need to do it and we simply are not capable. 

Somehow we managed to grind it out until the 93rd minute but it was easy to guess what was coming when Sevilla collected a late corner. Klavan managed to get a head to it but it was a poor attempt at a defensive clearance, heading down back into the box was never going to end well and Sevilla obviously converted turning Liverpool's secure win into a draw. 

It's not the end of the world, of course it's not but it just bloody does my head in! We're never going to get close to sorting this defensive issue if Klopp doesn't make some big decisions and decide on a set back four. Injuries obviously affect this but he's chopped and changed those lads for all manner of reasons and also does anybody know where Andy Robertson is?

On top of all that there are no leaders in this squad, gone are the days when Gerrard and Carra would be screaming at their team mates for 90 minutes, heck even Lucas used to bring some of that to the table. I have nothing against Henderson but he's not a leader for me but then again, I don't really see who is one in this team? 

Those fooled by a couple of clean sheets against the likes of Southampton and Huddersfield were naive in my opinion, there's a long way to go to solve our woes at the back. Here's hoping the January window helps. 

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Saturday, 15 April 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: West Brom V Liverpool

Liverpool travel to the West Midlands on Easter Sunday as they prepare to face Tony Pulis' West Brom. The Baggies come in to this game on the back of two defeats compared to Liverpool's six match unbeaten run. Pulis' side however are certainly one to contend with and the Reds may struggle with West Brom's style.

Image via The Independent
Injuries for Liverpool mean they are unable to call upon Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. Jurgen Klopp is hoping the latter two players will return to the squad before the end of April. 

For West Brom, manager Tony Pulis has a full strength squad to choose from aside from a mystery couple of players who are apparently nursing minor knocks.

The last time the two sides met was in October last year. Both Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino were on the scoresheet for a 2-1 Liverpool win that day. The Brazilian pairing have proved vital for the Reds so far this season and it is expected both with start on Sunday after only making the bench and being called upon in the second half against Stoke.

Prior to that win in October, the Reds have struggled to pick up three points against the Baggies in recent meetings. A 1-1 draw in May 2016 was preceded by a 2-2 draw in December 2015. The last time West Brom picked up a win against Liverpool at The Hawthorns was in August 2012. Daniel Agger was sent off during that 3-0 loss for the Reds. The Baggies however have beaten Liverpool more recently, collecting a 2-0 win in February 2013.

At the time of writing, the Reds are currently third in the league on 63 points while West Brom are in 8th. Sides around the Reds still have some games in hand so it's important for Liverpool to pick up all three points on Sunday and not falter against what could be difficult opposition.

Jurgen Klopp has struggled all season against sides like West Brom and Liverpool's record as a whole against teams managed by Tony Pulis isn't exactly brilliant. I fully expect the Baggies to find the back of the net on Sunday, probably via a set piece, a headed goal. The Reds just can't seem to deal with that kind of attack at the moment, whilst they have looked more organised of late it only seems to take a second for everything to go to pot.

With the likes of Mane and Lallana missing also, Liverpool may be lacking in attack. It will be interesting to see whether Daniel Sturridge is utilised on Sunday as he will create a different sort of threat. Whatever the starting XI, I feel as though an early goal is required if Liverpool are to go on and win. My heart says 2-1 to us but my head says a score draw.

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool currently have 12 points more than they did at the same stage last season.
  • West Brom have scored 14 goals from corners so far this season.
  • The Reds have collected 18 points from losing situations this season.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Thursday, 30 March 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Everton

The Reds welcome their blue neighbours to Anfield on Saturday and if recent match stats are anything to go by it should be a game filled with chances for the Reds. 



Liverpool are currently in 4th, four points ahead of Manchester United and six points clear of Arsenal but both of these sides have two games in hand. Then follows Everton who are in 7th matching Arsenal's 50 points but having played more fixtures. 

Everton's last match was on the 18th March against Hull, the Toffees put four in the net thanks to Calvert-Lewin, Valencia and a brace from Lukaku. 

Liverpool's last game came against Manchester City. I was in Turin at the time (if you haven't seen it yet, check out my blog post on my trip to see Torino v Inter Milan) so watched the match in our hotel room with Italian commentary. I know a bit of Italian but it didn't take a top translator to figure out what was being said when Lallana missed that sitter. The Reds however came away with a draw and to be honest I'd of taken that prior to kick off. 

For the Merseyside Derby, Liverpool will be forced to play without Adam Lallana who picked up a thigh injury whilst playing for England. Some outlets would have you believe Henderson is going to return while others disagree so we'll have to wait and see on that one and apparently Firmino and Coutinho are getting a private jet in order to get back and prep. In positive news for the Reds though, Daniel Sturridge has returned to training.

Everton also have their own injury woes to contend with as McCarthy remains a doubt and Funes Mori has been ruled out with a knee injury. Seamus Coleman of course broke his leg on international duty.

The last time the two sides met was in December last year. A single goal from Sadio Mane on 90 minutes was enough to split the two sides. In April 2016 the Reds won 4-0, Funes Mori was sent off that day with Origi, Sakho, Sturridge and Coutinho on the scoresheet. 

Everton haven't won a Merseyside Derby since 2010. A league game at Goodison Park, the Toffees scored two without a return from Liverpool. 

The Reds should be a shoe in for this one but I can't help but worry. The Reds have walked away with some interesting results this season to put it politely and although we appear to play better in the games where the opposition really comes out to attack (which Everton will) I'm just concerned we might blow this. 

The game is always a massive one but with the battle for 4th really hotting up and  the Reds sitting in a really good position knowing United and Arsenal are chasing, we simply must win this. 

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 

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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Southampton

The Reds welcome Southampton to Anfield on Wednesday evening as they look to break a poor run of form and turn their 1-0 deficit around. Liverpool's recent loss to Swansea created major damage to their already dwindling title hopes. With the Saints semi-final followed by an FA Cup tie with Wolves then Chelsea in the league... Jurgen Klopp certainly has his work cut out. 

Image via 90min.com
A Nathan Redmond goal is all that separates the two sides in this semi-final and whilst Southampton put on an impressive performance at home, whatever form the Reds are in, you'd be a fool to bet against them at Anfield in such an important match. 

The last time the two sides met prior to this league cup draw was in November 2016. A game lacking in action at St Mary's ended 0-0. The Saints last trip to Anfield was in October 2015, another draw, this time 1-1 with Benteke bagging the Liverpool goal and Sadio Mane finding a late equaliser then being sent off shortly afterwards. 

In the last ten matches between the sides in all competitions Liverpool have won four while Southampton have also picked up four wins. The two draws remaining were the games discussed previously. 

Joel Matip has finally been cleared to play after FIFA couldn't decide what their own rules were but it's not clear whether the defender will feature on Wednesday. There are also concerns over the fitness of Jordan Henderson who picked up a knock against Swansea. 

The latest news at the time of writing is relatively positive for Southampton however Virgil van Dijk may not be ready for the game. 

Depending on the team put out by Klopp, Liverpool should walk away with a place in the final on Wednesday night. First of all because they now have a massive point to prove. Some people may not wish to admit to the levels of complacency from the team against Swansea but I for one agree that the Reds sometimes take their position for granted, they simply cannot afford to do that against Southampton with a final at stake. 

Secondly, because on paper and with the type of players we have available the Reds should be beating Southampton under Klopp at home, if they don't, then something is wrong. As many have pointed out we're in need of more depth (doesn't look like we're gonna sign anyone though) but while I agree we need more options and there are areas we need to strengthen I don't think anyone can deny the amount of options we have in attack? 

At the final whistle of the first leg I was 100% confident that we'd turn the tie around however what has unfolded since then has fed some doubt into my mind. 

It should be a very interesting game either way. Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 

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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Five Things We Learned From The Chelsea Game

1) Best ever finish with a black eye?

Who knew Dejan Lovren had it in him?! Opening up the scoring after 17 minutes, the defender pulled off a finish any striker would have been proud of. Not only this but his positioning and decision to remain up top meant he was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

I was pretty merry last night after several ciders in celebration but I still found myself questioning at 2am this morning in the taxi home "How'd he do that though? As if Lovren scored that".

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that is the best goal scored by somebody with a black eye. If you have any other entries please feel free to tweet me.

2) Jordan Henderson can get it right

I love Jordan Henderson, I honestly do but I find him extremely frustrating at times, none more so than when he tries to have a pop at goal from 25 yards out and ends up sending his effort out the ground. That wasn't the case on Friday night though after the ball splayed to Hendo in plenty of space he perfectly executed his long range effort sending the ball high to the right of goal.

It was a brilliant goal and the expression on his face when celebrating signalled what it meant to him. Jordan Henderson has always had and continues to have the potential to be a Liverpool great I just hope he can increase his consistency levels and maybe grab a few more goals because it's fantastic to see!

3) Antonio Conte met his match

As mentioned in the preview post here on The Liver Bird, I suggested that Conte may face a tough test against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool on Friday and he certainly did. Up to yet, Conte hasn't had to face any huge sides and Klopp's fast paced and pressing style completely caught the Italian off guard.

In the opening half Chelsea were made to look bang average by a confident Liverpool side. The Reds did fade in a similar fashion to the game against Arsenal however they managed to hold their nerve, even when Conte in what I felt was a very desperate act, decided to make a triple substitution late on. I still feel Conte will do pretty well with Chelsea but he needs a lot more than David Luiz in his transfer pocket to make any real damage in my opinion.

4) Diego Costa is overrated, yes I said it

Bias creeping in here definitely but honestly, is Diego Costa all that good? He's brilliant at what he does, don't get me wrong. If hanging around and being a bit of a brute apparently constitutes the making of a top class striker then fair enough but Friday proved that Costa can go utterly missing in a game unless he is served correctly by his team.

We've seen this ourselves at Liverpool especially with regards to Christian Benteke and for me, this is why Costa is slightly overrated. If he was a truly great striker he would bring more to his game, Chelsea would be able to rely on the Brazilian to create chances for himself and bring his teammates into the game with some box play but he doesn't, he just hangs around and annoyingly always seems to find the back of the net. If it works, I suppose it's all good.

5) Cracking start from the Reds

We're just five games in to the 2016/2017 season and I think we need to praise Liverpool's performances so far. Granted we messed up against Burnley, but if you think back to when the fixture lists were released and almost everybody was worried with our difficult start?

Ten points from five games that included a trip to the Emirates, a trip to White Hart Lane, a trip to Stamford Bridge and welcoming the league champions Leicester to Anfield... Well, that's not all that bad now is it?

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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Five Things We Learned From Spurs Away

1) James Milner

Despite a dodgy moment which some would argue helped create Spurs' equaliser I felt James Milner deserved a highlight for today's round up. James is one of those players that sort of just gets on with it, he doesn't really like the limelight, always puts his team before himself and it was fantastic to see him score the penalty yesterday.

James Milner scores a penalty against Tottenham Hotspur
Image via theguardian.com
His defensive performances of late have proven how adaptable he is, following up Moreno isn't exactly a difficult task but he has demonstrated that he is more than reliable at the back. Some players would raise concern with being moved out of position but Milner has just knuckled down and we all know how much Klopp loves a hard worker.

2) Premier League Badges

Whilst watching the game on Saturday I had a bit of an OCD moment whilst looking at the new Premier League patches and it appears our kitman or whoever irons them on may well be in for a rollicking off the Premier League brand managers because they've been stuck on bent...

I don't really like the new patches to be honest but there was just something strange about Liverpool's on Saturday. Our patches appear to have been lined up by the text when really it's the lion's head that should be lined up. See Spurs' for comparison...

Sadio Mane v Tottenham Hotspur
Image via theguardian.com
That's my eagle eyed moment of the month anyway.

3) "You let your country down!"

Is this the most Southern thing to ever happen?

During the match yesterday when Jordan Henderson stepped up for a corner, a loud jibe from the Spurs end could be heard "You let your country down!" came the shout from the clearly disgruntled fan...

Firstly, who the hell cares enough about the national team to be shouting that at a corner? Secondly, Henderson hardly played unlike half your Spurs side. Thirdly, who shouts that? Just call him a twat like a normal person would.

Hilarious.

4) Daniel Sturridge

His face said it all from the sidelines when Divock Origi was due to enter play and for me, I have to say he has a point. Daniel Sturridge may be injury prone and he may have had a quiet game against Burnley but he's a proven goalscorer and he should be featuring regularly.

I totally understand Klopp's decision to start with Mane, Firmino and Coutinho on Saturday as this formation tends to work well away from home but in the second half when you hit the hour mark for me I find myself constantly wondering why we don't just try two up top. Chuck Sturridge on with Mane? Or something to that effect. Danny had what, three minutes yesterday to try and put a stamp on the game? Pointless.

I have nothing against Origi either, really like him too I just think Sturridge could have made an impact against Spurs given some more game time but hey ho.

5) Is a draw a bad result?

Finally, I learned yesterday that some fans are extremely hard to please. While I can appreciate the frustration of not finding the net more often, for me a draw at White Hart Lane is a good result. If you'd have told me the game would end 1-1 before kick off I would have taken that.

Obviously it was a bit frustrating because for the majority of the game it felt as though Liverpool had the upper hand and some great chances but it just wasn't to be. Playing three away games on the trot will have it's pressures and collecting four points from Arsenal and Spurs away is pretty good in my book.

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Saturday, 16 April 2016

MATCH PREVIEW: Bournemouth V Liverpool

After the madness of beating Dortmund 4-3 on Thursday I genuinely forgot that we actually had to play a league game this weekend. How bad is that? Despite my memory lapse, we do in fact have to continue playing in the league and that means a trip down south for Jurgen Klopp's side as they prepare to face Bournemouth.

Image via www.theanfieldwrap.com

Injuries

Injuries for Liverpool have taken a blow this week after Emre Can ruptured his ankle ligaments in the Dortmund game. Also unavailable is captain Jordan Henderson and Christian Benteke remains a doubt.

For Bournemouth Benik Afobe doesn't look like he's going to make the game as he recovers from a hamstring issue. Harry Arter and Adam Smith are also unavailable for manager Eddie Howe.

Previous Meetings

The last time the two sides met was in the League Cup in October 2015. The 1-0 win over Bournemouth was Jurgen Klopp's first win as Liverpool manager as Nathaniel Clyne found the back of the net after just 17 minutes.

The last meeting between the sides in the league was in August last year, again a 1-0 victory for Liverpool, this time with Christian Benteke on the score sheet. 

In all eight meetings between the two sides in history, Bournemouth have yet to record a win.

Form 

Liverpool come into this game on a massive high after somehow getting past Dortmund in the Europa League and the Reds have also won three from their last five games in the league. Currently sitting in 7th at the time of writing, the Reds do still have a couple of games in hand against Everton and Chelsea.

Bournemouth are currently in 13th on 41 points. Eddie Howe's side have also won three out of their last five in the league.

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool have scored 20 goals in their last seven league games.
  • Bournemouth have lost four of their last seven league games at home.
  • James Milner has scored five goals in the league for the Reds so far this season and set up nine.

Betting

Deposit and bet a full £10 and get £30 free to play with, just click the Paddy Power add in the sidebar.

A 2-1 win for Liverpool tomorrow is currently down as 8/1, if you fancy a strong victory from Liverpool with no reply from Bournemouth 3-0 is priced at 20/1 while 2-0 is at 10/1.

Divock Origi has been on fire lately and he's currently 6/1, Dejan Lovren in case you've got your eye on him for first goalscorer is priced at 33/1.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Saturday, 23 January 2016

Lallana Nets In Riveting 5-4 Win

Image via theguardian.com
Five four, I keep saying it but it just won't sink in, five four. What on earth just happened? I will attempt to explain to some extent in the following match report. Liverpool are right to feel ecstatic with the 5-4 victory over Norwich but when the dust has settled there are several questions that need to be asked, particularly concerning the defence.

The game began with continued pressure from Norwich who started the match far more brightly than Liverpool but against the run of play, Klopp's side opened up the scoring after just 18 minutes. A Firmino effort which should have been saved by goalkeeper Declan Rudd somehow managed to spin back towards goal and provided the Reds with their first of the game. It wasn't clear then however that another eight goals would be scored!

Naismith was quick to make his mark on the game when initially he made a crunching tackle on Lucas Leiva, it was a bad one in my opinion and I'm surprised he wasn't shown a yellow card. Probably just still bitter about all those Merseyside derbies he's lost playing against Lucas eh? He would later get his own back though with a great strike.

Prior to that Norwich managed to find an equaliser via Mbokani after some shambolic defending from Liverpool. The play originally began from a corner which wasn't dealt with by the back four, a ball back into the box then enabled Mbokani to score with a neatly timed back heel. Just 12 minutes later and it was Naismith's turn, the ex Evertonian broke past three Liverpool players in the box and struck low to the far left of goal, Simon Mignolet really should have done better from that angle and the Reds were now well and truly on the back foot.

Both teams came out in the second half having made zero changes and it was Norwich once again who began strongly. After eight minutes this time they'd once again found the back of the net. Alberto Moreno was at fault for this one and I don't see how he can escape any criticism because it really was just a stupid piece of play. His first challenge that brought down Naismith in the box was disregarded by the ref and Moreno should have realised he was a lucky boy there but no, he just kicked the back of Naismith again, idiotic. I really like Moreno but it was just a daft decision from him. Wes Hoolahan converted the penalty despite Simon Mignolet heading in the right direction.

After being 1-0 up and now 3-1 down after 53 minutes I was struggling to see how the Reds were going to get back into this one but just seconds after the penalty Liverpool were up the other end of the pitch. A completely unmarked Jordan Henderson was gifted the ball in the box and scored with a powerful finish to make the scoreline 3-2.

Adam Lallana then entered the fray replacing Jordon Ibe who to be honest was one of few influential players on the pitch, it seemed like a questionable substitution but would turn out to be perfect. Lallana was immediately involved in the game offering an assist to an encroaching Roberto Firmino who with a lovely finish put the Reds level in the game. This game was just ridiculous 3-3 after just an hour and there were still several signs that there were still more goals to come.

At 74 minutes it was James Milner's turn to join the party, he's been quite in several games this season but I thought he held his composure well in the one on one chance with the keeper, he remained strong and converted an important goal to put Liverpool into what looked like a final lead to obtain all three points.

When the fourth official held up the board with five minutes, Klopp and the majority of Liverpool fans appeared to be disgruntled little did we know that the extra time would be precious. It sure didn't feel like it though when Bassong sent home a beautiful strike with his left foot from outside the box. I couldn't believe it, shouting and swearing I was convinced we'd thrown away a vital three points.

With just two minutes left of the game and after watching Liverpool's performance in the 90 it just didn't feel like we'd be able to find a glorious last minute winner but we did, we bloody did! Adam Lallana, a man who also perhaps hasn't been justifying his massive price tag of late was never going to let this chance go flying. With 94 minutes on the clock the ex Southampton man scored with his left foot from the centre of the box. Phenomenal, how we had managed to win 5-4 I have no idea but I didn't care about the mishaps and dodgy performance at this point, I was too fixated on Jurgen Klopp who had made a sprint for Adam Lallana, been bombarded by the team and nearly lost his glasses in the process. Just brilliant.

Next up for Liverpool is a massive game against Stoke in the league cup semi final!

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