Welcome to the final issue of this year’s instalment of The Saint. All “great” eras must come to an end, though that I doubt that my period in charge of the sports section will go down in the ages. Much like Frank Sinatra once prophesied, I face the final curtain. No more chasing of copy, no more battles with InDesign or Photoshop and perhaps just a little less swearing, though I promise nothing on the last one.
Moreover, I will miss the very rewarding experience I’ve enjoyed over the past year. From watching Hugh Grant throw an almighty tantrum, enjoying the high velocity pace of the gravy train known as the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and working on some excellent features about Scottish football, it has been enjoyable every step of the way.
I first started scribbling for this paper in 2012; it has been a vital part of my St Andrews experience. Over that time I’ve watched it become a high quality newspaper and news outlet. Several people who know who they are have truly revolutionised it; even though as a mere sub-editor and humble sports editor who played only a minor part in that, it was an honour and indeed a pleasure.
Another outfit albeit a bit grander and a bit more storied is undergoing a revolution of its own. While Liverpool have always won things since I started watching football they have never been a force; players like Nunez, Jan Kromkamp, Josemi and N’Gog were always likely to bring players like Carragher, Gerrard and Suarez down.
Clubs can suffer peaks and troughs and trophy droughts but there was always something worse about Liverpool’s ; the success of 2001 and 2005 are probably the highest of the few high points that the club has enjoyed since their last league championship win in 1990.
It is enjoyable to watch their resurgence, particularly given that it is somewhat unexpected. I thought that Liverpool would be in a position to challenge in three or four seasons, not Brendan Rodgers’ second. He would probably concede, despite his occasional fondness of impersonating David Brent, that they are probably ahead of schedule.
However, the insatiable and relentless play of Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez has ripped up those intentions. It is befitting a club with a history of fine players and excellent style that they are coming back to prominence in such a way. It is a fine squad and I hope that they win the league.
The recent victory against Manchester City was perhaps the most obvious sign that momentum is with them on the park, but it would be remiss to ignore the much more significant progress that Liverpool FC, the city itself and several families from Merseyside and beyond have seen in recent weeks and months. The most recent of the inquests into Hillsborough has been taking place. I hope, and I’m sure I speak for everyone, that those families get the justice that they deserve and some form of closure.
The atmosphere at Anfield on the day of the 25th anniversary was one of raw emotion. Steven Gerrard, who lost a cousin on that horrible day in Sheffield, exhibited through his outpouring at the end of the match what it meant to the club. To win the league in this year of all years would be fitting.
Liverpool’s rivals may decry their achievement; after all, the lack of European distractions have seen them play in a more zesty fashion than Manchester City and Chelsea. The benefit of having a striker who can score goals consistently has assisted them too; it is quite remarkable that Chelsea have maintained their challenge with this millstone.
Whatever happens in England this year with regards to the league champions, it cannot be contended that for entertainment value and a potent backing story, Liverpool are the best team in the land and the most deserving too.
2014 is the best kind of year. A World Cup year. As I sweat it out in London this summer in the poorly ventilated office where I will be holed up for June and July, the FIFA sponsored “Greatest show on Earth” ™ will be in full swing, providing ample opportunities for procrastination.
While the quality of football is not necessarily on a par with the European Championships, every football fan enjoys the drama and excitement of it all. I will not fall into the trap of making a prediction given my dubious track record however I hope that it is more enjoyable than the largely tedious borefest that was South Africa 2010.
I am a lucky charm however. 2008, 2010 and 2012 saw me in Spain to watch La Roja triumph and as chance will have it I will be in Madrid this year. If they do make it four in a row then I suspect this party might top the previous three.
My successor Andrew Williams is a fine writer, though I do not expect him to eulogise Liverpool in quite the same way as I just have. I am sure he shall do a fine job in steering the sports section and I wish him all the best.