A question of football passion: What the game means to you in the modern era - by Jason Harris
As football fans, we have just witnessed unbridled joy and complete devastation as the final few nations have qualified for the 2018 World Cup.
It was hard not to get swept up in the emotions of Sweden and Denmark as they completed very impressive triumphs in the playoffs, while feeling a bit of empathy for the Irish and Italian teams along the way.
International football gets a bad wrap, and in some cases rightfully so when meaningless friendlies are concerned, but when they mean something like qualifying for the World Cup, it still has a sense of passionate patriotism attached to it.
After the stop-start nature of the league season to date, we now get a fair bit of continuity over the next few months.
Over the past few weeks, my thoughts have switched to the game in general and wondering whether the everyday fan feels the same about the game as they once did.
For this piece Instead of profiling an individual player, I thought I would ask the question:
What does the game of football mean to you in this current day?
Now this is not to deride the game and club one bit, as for me, it is certainly the best sport in the world.
However it is worth questioning whether the general fan has the same feelings as they they once did, especially as we have a completely different landscape than we did as little as ten years ago.
Take Liverpool as a prime example.
Once seen as bedrock for stability, we have seen a swathe of changes in managers, ownership and the squad in general.
Quite understandably some supporters lost their passion when Rafa Benitez and Kenny Dalglish were replaced as managers, as they each had the club running through their veins.
They understood what it meant to be a Liverpool person, and were there was a perfect connection between them and the fans as they spoke our type of language.
Their replacements in Roy Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers were 'company men', not wanting to rock the boat too much with actions and words, hence a level of disconnect between the club and fans.
The transfer landscape has also undergone a sweeping change over time with player power probably at its highest level and contracts not worth the paper it is written on and loyalty it seems is something from a bygone era.
There was a time when as fans, you got an excited little tingle up your spine when a quality player was linked and eventually signed by the club.
Sure, there might a cringe factor when at the introductory press conference they trot the line 'I've been a Reds fan all my life' but at least there was a slight sense of identity attached to it.
You could envisage enjoying watching that player for a good period of their career, and young kids would look to model themselves on their mannerisms.
Sadly nowadays, unless you are a Barcelona, Real Madrid and now perhaps Man City, you are unlikely to see a star player grow with the club for the best part of their career.
A case in point with Liverpool is Philippe Coutinho.
In my mind, the club has played a big part in nurturing him from being the bit-part player he was Inter Milan, to the in-demand star he is today.
However with what went on in the summer regarding the transfer saga, when I watch him play now, I feel a level of emptiness towards him that I just can't shake.
Now it is not a matter of questioning his professionalism as he will undoubtedly be giving his all on the pitch, it has to do with the fact that I know deep down that come the end of the season he will be off to pastures new.
While I certainly don’t believe in keeping a player who does not want to be here, on this occasion, I think the way this whole episode transpired was a bit unsightly and unwarranted.
However as I previously stated, it is a whole new Football landscape.
I grew up with countless Reds strips in my wardrobe adorned with the names of Owen, Gerrard, Torres, and Suarez along with a Xabi Alonso coffee mug for good measure.
I still have the framed picture of the 2004/5 Liverpool squad which fought against all the odds to create history in Istanbul.
You see I can identify with those players, however if I'm asked to name a favourite player in the current squad, I'm somewhat loathe to do so.
It is not that they are unlikeable, or not good enough for my liking, it is just that the better they are, the likelihood grows that they will not be with us in the long term, and are almost like a rental player.
It seems you just can't grow too attached to players, otherwise you are building yourself for disappointment.
While I am not overly fussed whether Emre Can stays or goes in the summer, it is the more irreplaceable types in Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, who we have to make sure have a long term future at the club.
Their consistently impressive performances are sure to put their names on the radar of the 'cashed up' clubs like those previously mentioned along with PSG and possibly Bayern Munich too.
Basically we certainly do not want to become a club that players showcase their talents for a little while before moving on to what they may deem a bigger stage.
We actually want to be that club which becomes a desirable destination for players.
While this piece has highlighted some personal thoughts around some of the negatives of modern football, there are positives to look ahead to, which hopefully we can build upon.
Admittedly having world-class players is vitally important, but it is also crucial to build from within to maintain the clubs' identity.
Liverpool are in a real exciting phase in terms of their youth development programs where it is currently producing the best talent in well over a decade.
We can only hope that the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn, Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster can be the faces of the club in ten years time in much the same way that Fowler, Owen, Gerrard and Carragher were in their time.
We also now a manager in Jurgen Klopp who "gets us" as we are a unique club and he is a unique character.
You could say it is a marriage made in Football heaven.
Fingers crossed he will be with the club for the long haul and be able to build us into a true force once again.
For all the frustrations that we share as supporters about the running of the club, and the mistakes made by individuals, my overall passion for the club remains very strong.
That will naturally differ from person to person and that's why I personally think it is an interesting discussion to be had.
As the saying goes, each to their own.