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Chelsea didn't do Liverpool a favour... it was more a disservice

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Heartiest congratulations to Liverpool. There, I've said it. Can I go now?

Infantile churlishness aside, you have to take your hat off to such worthy, emphatic Premier League winners.

Getting over the line with seven games to spare, 23 points ahead of defending champions Manchester City; well, it brooks no argument. Enjoy being back 'on the perch' lads, it won't be for long.

If I was a Liverpool fan, however, I'd be miffed at oft-repeated suggestions that Chelsea had done Jurgen Klopp's all-conquering team 'a favour' by beating City at Stamford Bridge, thus ending the 18-time top-flight champions' 30-year wait for that elusive 19th.

I mean, did the Merseysiders, whose coronation destiny date went from 'if' to 'when' months ago, need a favour from a rival club their fans historically detest?

While obviously overjoyed at winning the thing last week, this was not the way genuine Koppites of my acquaintance wanted it to go, notwithstanding this already bizarre, unparalleled, coronavirus-ridden season.

Some 27 years ago I was at Old Trafford watching United beat Blackburn 3-1 and celebrating the end of 26 barren years - but it wasn't as simplistic as it sounds.

Due to satellite TV's May Bank Holiday weekend scheduling, Aston Villa (going toe-to-toe with United for the title) would be at home to relegation-threatened Oldham on the Sunday, with Alex Ferguson's men handed a Monday tea-time kick-off for their expected clinching of the Holy Grail.

Flights and accommodation had been booked just after United captain Steve Bruce's late brace of bullet headers against Sheffield Wednesday etched the name onto the trophy three weeks earlier.

But then Oldham's Nicky Henry - born and bred in Liverpool - scored a shock winner at Villa Park to hand United the title without, as they say, kicking a ball.

Asked afterwards about how he felt about "doing Manchester United a favour", Henry replied: "I couldn't care less about that lot," (although, from memory, those sentiments may have been expressed a little stronger than that).

When the title was 'won' last Thursday for instance, most pictures on the next day's back pages were of blue-shirted players, not red-shirted ones, celebrating.

The Blackburn game was fun; a pleasant memory. We even laughed when the visitors took an early lead; like, who cares?

There was no Stretford End back then due to major renovation work at the ground, but 40,447 jubilant fans still managed to squeeze themselves into OT to relish the historic occasion. It still felt a little anticlimactic though; bereft of the twitchiness, uncertainty and, ultimately, relief and rapturous, unbridled euphoria as the final whistle sounds.

Fast-forward two years and Blackburn needing to beat Liverpool at Anfield to thwart a third successive crown for Fergie and end their own top-tier title drought - a mere 81 years.

United fans - and many of their players - were convinced fourth-placed Liverpool would 'lie down' to visitors managed by Kop legend Kenny Dalglish.

In the end, Liverpool beat them 2-1, while United failed to hold their end up, drawing 1-1 at West Ham and conceding the title to Blackburn by a solitary point.

When Derby won the championship under Brian Clough in 1972 the players, having finished their 42-match campaign, were lying on a beach in Majorca as Leeds, a point behind them, lost to Wolves while Liverpool, two points behind, could only draw with Arsenal.

Pivotal games were also 'staggered' 20 years later when Leeds were crowned champions a few hours after beating Sheffield United in a lunchtime game at Bramall Lane, their anxious fans having to wait for Liverpool to put the final nail in United's coffin at Anfield later that afternoon.

For us media types, such denouements are unsatisfactory.

When the title was 'won' last Thursday for instance, most pictures on the next day's back pages were of blue-shirted players, not red-shirted ones, celebrating.

Not long after the printed papers had been put to bed, however, news outlets and social media were showing thousands of jubilant Scousers, brandishing flares and fireworks, blatantly defying social distancing rules outside Anfield.

It came at least a week earlier than authorities had expected, and ill-prepared police made no attempt to say "calm down, calm down" and disperse the crowd. This mass gathering was, however, reported in more upbeat tones than the shocking scenes from Bournemouth beach just a few hours earlier.

The following night, a similar impromptu congregation at the Pier Head led to crowd disorder, criminal damage and LFC themselves condemning "wholly unacceptable behaviour".

In their statement, the club reminded fans that "the region is still disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic", a none-too-subtle reference to the legacy of the ill-timed March 11 Champions League encounter with Atletico Madrid which, with hindsight, should never have gone ahead.

With the city of Leicester possibly facing a 'localised lockdown' after a worrying spike in coronavirus cases, the good people of Merseyside should perhaps now brace themselves for something similar.

You still think Chelsea did Liverpool a favour the other night?


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