Friday, 8 August 2008

The pressure's Red Hot at Anfield

The swift and seemingly money-no-object capture of Robbie Keane shows one thing in spades.

At every level of Liverpool Football Club: the board, management and probably senior players too - all realise that time is running out to sustain a realistic annual tilt for the title.

The board knows it: without a bigger stadium and without sufficient funds to finance the proposed new home in Stanley Park, the Reds won't be able to compete with Manchester United and Chelsea for much longer. The fact is the big two have too much muscle.

And Rafa knows it: his squad's in danger of being Premier League also-rans even if they keep finishing third or fourth. Eleven points adrift of the Champions last season was progress, but it's still way short of a baying Kop who accept nothing less.

Most clubs would've dropped the pursuit of Gareth Barry months ago but his capture's all wrapped up with pacifying Steven Gerrard to create a squad they think can win the title NOW. It smells like "It's Now Or Never".

Stanley Park's looking a more dim and distant dream every day. The double whammy of the Credit Crunch and the spiralling cost of building materials means Anfield will be Liverpool's home for the foreseeable future - unless there's a change of ownership. In these troubled times, who exactly is out there?

And Rafa's capture of the Spurs striker is a swift departure from his patient investment in teenage Latinos. He's moved up a couple of gears. Keane's in to unlock Torres, to score goals, to win the Premier League. If they can't do it this year, then when will they mount a serious challenge?

Whenever that is, one thing's guaranteed; it'll be without Gillett, Hicks and Benitez.

2008/9 is this regime's last throw of the dice at Anfield.