Eric Roberts may not be a household name in the acting community, but it’s highly likely that you will recognise his face if you see him. Some of you may know him as “Julia Roberts’ brother”, which I feel is a terribly impersonal way to be remembered (I can relate as at my son’s school I have no identity of my own and I’m known as “T’s Dad”). Eric Roberts gets leading roles, the kind of leading roles in B-grade films that go straight to DVD without ever appearing on the big screen. One of his best roles (in my opinion) was in the karate trilogy Best of the Best, which saw Eric overact his way through three of the cheesiest and worst-scripted films of all time.
I can’t confirm it in any way, shape or form, but I feel that Mr Roberts is comfortable with his niche as a lead actor in certain types of films. And that’s the beauty of being Eric Roberts – he is comfortable with who he is and has accepted the range of his talents.
Liverpool Football Club were formerly equivalent to A-list Hollywood acting royalty – a Julia Roberts, if you will, that was invited to all of the glamorous parties and society events that people at such levels get invited to. However, we all know that those glory days have long since passed (25 years and counting) and perhaps it’s time for the club and supporters to acknowledge that they are now more Eric Roberts than Julia Roberts.
One of the biggest challenges to being Liverpool is the massive expectation that comes with every season – expectation to win the league (this will be our year!) to be in the Champions League, to win silverware and to consistently challenge historical rival teams. Liverpool used to be a footballing powerhouse, but the money and the game have changed significantly since those days and Liverpool has failed to keep pace.
The main problem with this unrealistic expectation is that the fans keep hoping and praying that somehow the glory days will magically return to the club. The 2013/14 season where Liverpool unexpectedly challenged for the title was the worst possible thing that could have happened, as expectations rose as high as the anticipation for a new Apple product launch.
Unfortunately, the reality is very different as the gap will continue to widen between Liverpool and the likes of Chelsea, the red and blue Manchesters and Arsenal. The Liverpool faithful need to adjust the rose-tinted spectacles to the harsh reality of life as an Eric Roberts in the league.
Another issue for the club is that one problem merely leads to another problem. In order to attract the right calibre of player to the club, you need money – and Liverpool doesn’t have a Russian oligarch or a Middle Eastern sugar daddy to provide an unlimited supply. This means that the type of player they can attract is limited for financial reasons.
Players also move to a club because of the manager’s reputation and history (see: Torres, Fernando and Alonso, Xabi during the Rafa Benitez era). Unfortunately, Brendan Rodgers has not exactly set the managerial world alight during his spell at Liverpool and therefore it would be difficult to lure high profile players based on his reputation alone.
Without the advantage of Champion’s League Liverpool find themselves in a real catch-22 situation. It’s easy enough to point fingers and blame the club for “only” signing the likes of Fabio Borini or Lazar Markovic, but the harsh reality is that Liverpool doesn’t actually have many viable alternatives. This is also the reason why a gamble was taken on Mario Balotelli – a player whom even Jose Mourinho (man manager extraordinaire) failed to keep in line.
Crystal ball time
So what does the future hold for Liverpool in the season ahead? The club has moved swiftly in the transfer window announcing the signings of James Milner on a free and Danny Ings from Burnley – the two players are decent footballers and hopefully will provide some of that famed “English grit” which will be handy against the likes of Stoke away in the rain in January.
The other current talking point is the recently released fixture list that sees the club face last season’s top four finishers in the opening seven games. Modern football “analysis” suggests that if Liverpool lose half of these games, then the “season will be over” and “Rodgers will be the first managerial casualty of the season”. If Liverpool get off to a flyer and miraculously win half of their games, then “this will be our year!”.
Realistically, I’ve accepted Liverpool’s current role in the league. I’m not expecting the team to challenge for the title or even a Champions League position. My expectations are simply for the club to play some attractive and entertaining football, to play with a bit of confidence and to defend like professional players and not like a group of guys who went out on the piss the night before.
Liverpool may not be Julia Roberts, and that’s fine. But perhaps the club can focus on being the best Eric Roberts it can be instead.