Liverpool’s Lesson in Silva-Service provides a fitting tribute to the career of Gary Speed

On an incredibly emotional day for football the Premier League’s leaders were pushed all the way at Anfield as they struggled to a draw against Kenny Dalglish’s improving Liverpool side. Perhaps spurred on by their fantastic late win over Chelsea last week and maybe even the saddening events of Sunday morning, Liverpool became the first team to prevent Manchester City from scoring twice in a Premier League game so far this season and in all honesty probably deserved more than their reward of a solitary point.

On Sunday afternoon Anfield, infamous for it’s roaring atmosphere, provided the perfect stage for a huge Premier League game that did justice to the memory of Gary Speed who will forever be regarded as one of the Premier League’s most dedicated and fondly remembered players. Aside from this shocking news there were two other sad stories within the footballing world in the form of Liverpool’s reserve keeper Brad Jones’ son’s passing away, and the tragic death of Togo international players in a fatal bus crash. How fitting it was then that the crowd and players at both of Sunday afternoon’s Premier League fixtures behaved and performed with magnificent valour and respect.

The encounter at Anfield was a terrific showcase of fast-paced and exciting Premier League football and the home side will go away feeling immensely proud of their team’s showing against the division’s outstanding side thus far this season, in spite of how close they came to snatching what would probably have been a deserved victory.

The key to Liverpool’s successes lay primarily with their admirable handling of the division’s outstanding individual so far this season; David Silva. Up to this point no outfit has appeared capable of handling the Spanish playmaker’s incredible league form which has furthered his reputation as one of world football’s most exciting talents. The man whose own team mates call ‘The Magician’ has been electric in nearly every one of City’s league games this season, but Liverpool today somehow mustered up the defensive strength and nouse to limit his impact upon the game.

For the first twenty-to-twenty five minutes City looked every bit the League’s strongest side and were moving the ball around with great confidence and class, spurred on almost inevitably by Silva’s dynamic movement and smart dictation of play. However, from the moment their early dominance put them in front, Liverpool came storming back at them with enormous courage and eventually deserved to walk away with the three points. The way they pressed Silva while he roamed freely behind City’s strikers was magnificent and for almost an hour they completely marked him out of playing a significant role in the match. As the game wore on he cut more and more of a dejected figure as Liverpool’s consistently ferocious pressure denied their opponents the opportunity to feed their diminutive playmaker.

Testament to their unrelenting commitment throughout the game came in ironic fashion when for just a split-second their guard dropped and Silva was presented with the most glorious chance to win the match right on the ninety minute mark. With Edin Dzeko outdoing them on the flank, Liverpool were left bare and seemingly helpless for one of the first times all game only for the Spaniard to spurn his side’s golden opportunity with an uncharacteristic momentary hesitation, which allowed the home side’s dedicated defensive unit to regroup and man the goal-line as Silva eventually conjured up a tame attempt.

The major plaudits for Liverpool’s immense cohesiveness on the day must go to the outstanding Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam who never shirked their respective duties to squeeze City’s most-prized asset out of extensive periods of the game whilst also launching their own side’s numerous counter-attacks. Their commitment to the cause and effective use of possession inspired those around them to produce the best defensive performance that Manchester City have faced thus far this season. Watch and learn Manchester United, watch and learn… This was a performance worthy of a push for a Champions League place and the emotion and honesty conjured up by Liverpool’s players on the day was reflective of Gary Speed’s own and enormously respected football stylings.

Congratulations Liverpool, and I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say R.I.P Gary Speed.

An Ode to Ian Holloway, the Premier League’s gift to the world

The world of Ian Holloway is one I’m certain that we as mere spectators will never be able to fully understand. This week has seen his beloved Blackpool side suffer a continued run of defeats and their talismanic skipper Charlie Adam moving ever closer to a departure from the club. However, Holloway has once again excelled himself in his frank, honest and admirable addresses to the press.

Holloway has found his perfect fit in Blackpool

Tuesday night saw Blackpool two goals to the good against the unbeaten league leaders Manchester United come half time. Dreamland for the Tangerines. However, when they were cruelly denied a stonewall penalty at the start of the second period, the mood became rather ominous. Things just started to feel like they were tilting in United’s direction. The game finished 3-2 to United, the half time score turned completely on it’s head, Blackpool fans and players alike were left in a state of disbelief.

In spite of this disappointment, Ian Holloway once again outdid himself in his post match interview. When quizzed over the controversial penalty decision his response was “deary, deary me”. He was understandably upset by a game changing decision in arguably the biggest match Blackpool have had in decades but he still had the honesty and decency to laud his opposite number Sir Alex Ferguson and his side for their “awesome comeback.” “What a team they are” he proclaimed in awe and respect of the comeback his counterparts had just inflicted upon his side.

This decision to not dwell on the poor decision of the officials and his side’s failure to close out against major opposition, but instead, to heap praise upon their opponents is indicative of Holloway’s sheer love of the game. He is the sort of character than can stand back and appreciate that there will be human error in top-level and fast-paced professional sport. He knows that his side will have had their fair share of luck along the way and is simply appreciative of the finer things his beloved sport has to offer.

It is this infectious attitude towards the game that has inspired Blackpool to the brilliant position the club find themselves in at the moment. The sort of spirit that has, as Holloway so brilliantly portrayed in the week, had the Blackpool players responding to such adversity as the potential loss of their captain to Liverpool by singing “You’ll never walk alone” to him as he entered the dressing room. Only a club run by a character like Holloway, and there aren’t that many of them, could demonstrate such humour and togetherness.

Charlie Adam Charlie Adam of Blackpool is pursued by Christian Poulsen of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackpool and Liverpool at Bloomfield Road on January 12, 2011 in Blackpool, England.

Could Charlie Adam find himself lining up for Liverpool come February?

With the likes of Manchester City and their financial bulk it is easy to believe that football has lost it’s soul and it’s romance. Ian Holloway, whilst leading his Blackpool side to achievements seemingly way beyond their means, has brought heart back into the Premier League in abundance. For the greater good of English football we need teams like Blackpool and managers like Holloway there as a presence in the upper echelons of the game. To say they have been a ‘breath of fresh air’ would be terribly¬†clich√©, but they simply have been.