When Liverpool faced Brighton at the Amex stadium in September last year; no one cared that much about Luis Suarez. Yes, a few opposition fans hated him; but not to the same extent as they do now…
The Brighton game in the Carling Cup was the first time Suarez and Bellamy had started together, and gave Liverpool fans a glimpse of things to come as they defeated Gus Poyet’s Brighton side who had given a great account of themselves despite the defeat. Fast forward 3 weeks, and Liverpool face Man Utd at Anfield. Even before kick off, Evra was unhappy; arguing with the ref over the coin toss, then in the 2nd half Liverpool’s season was thrown into turmoil as Evra claimed that Suarez had used “a certain word to me at least 10 times”. The FA intervened, and two months later produced a 115 page document outlining reasons why Evra was a more credible witness than Suarez, and Liverpool’s number 7 was subsequently banned for 8 games, a decision the club decided not to appeal against.
Suarez has always maintained his innocence, while the British tabloids took no shame in labelling him guilty until proven otherwise, and ultimately his honesty on a Uruguayan radio station cost him his place in the side for 8 games.
While he was serving his suspension, Suarez was allowed a brief holiday in which he returned to Uruguay, but returned to train at Melwood while the Reds only won 3 of the games that he missed, against Wolves, Oldham and Man Utd in the FA Cup 4th round. The latter being where Evra returned to Anfield to a chorus of boos and a disgraceful monkey gesture from a Liverpool fan, who was identified by his fellow supporters and has since been investigated by the Police.
Suarez’s first game back was against Tottenham at home, and almost won the game with a free header, but the tie finished 0-0. On Saturday, Liverpool played away at Old Trafford; where Suarez had the chance to shake Evra’s hand, however he chose to give the media what they wanted – a pantomime villain. Gary Neville said he had no problem with them not shaking hands, while former players from both clubs have been quick to criticise Liverpool’s number 7. United’s boss Alex Ferguson went as far as saying he should never play for Liverpool again, something Dalglish would have brushed off altogether. Man Utd won the game 2-1 thanks to 2 goals in 5 minutes from Wayne Rooney, while Suarez grabbed a late consolation goal, but nothing more.
Early in the game, Ferdinand and Evra clearly both tried to take Suarez out of the equation, but ended up colliding with each other, and on the stroke of half time, Suarez booted the ball into the crowd leading to arguments in the tunnel and players trying to get into each other’s dressing rooms to confront Suarez. After the game, it was revealed that Suarez had promised Ian Ayre (Liverpool’s MD) and Kenny Dalglish that he would shake hands with Evra, and he was forced to apologise via the club website, alongside statements condemning the striker from Ayre himself.
Since the United game we’ve seen Mick McCarthy sacked and Rangers plunged into administration taking the headlines away from Suarez, for now. At some point, the hysteria has to die down and allow everyone to make headlines for their performances on the pitch, rather than for what they’ve said or the lack of a handshake.
If he’s here for 6 months or 6 years, Suarez will always be remembered for the row with Evra, regardless of what he does on the pitch, so he needs get his head down and score goals rather than doing stupid things – something his former boss Frank De Boer has said Luis Suarez can often do.
Evra is pursuing the league title and the Europa League, while Suarez can hope for a Carling Cup winner’s medal and an FA Cup run at best – should Liverpool progress past Brighton this weekend. Talk of a 4th place finish for Liverpool is just fantasy – the likes of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and even Newcastle have got a better chance of getting the coveted Champion’s League spot.
Guest post by Tony from Travelsupermarket.