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Six months ago Liverpool FC’s season was coming undone before a ball had been kicked.

Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger were both heavily linked with switching Anfield for Eastlands and we would lose our biggest success of our 2011/2012 campaign – our centre-back duo.

The hysteria of losing the tattooed, talismanic twosome was explosive amongst the Anfield faithful. How could Brendan Rodgers possibly replace either of them? The message from the fans was clear; they were not to be sold at any price. Fortunately, we managed to ward off the interest of England’s newly crowned champions and retained what we thought would remain a rock hard defence.

Anfields tattooed twosome Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel

Anfields tattooed twosome Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel

Fast forward to February 2013. After a collectively terrible performance from the team against Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup, Skrtel has been the most high profile casualty, unceremoniously dumped onto the bench as Jamie Carragher has been partnered alongside Daniel Agger in successive games. All of a sudden, a large percentage of supporters are calling for the Slovakian to be shipped out in the summer, at figures half the size of what Manchester City reportedly offered in the off-season. The rumour mill runs overtime, conjuring up ludicrous names that ‘knowledgeable’ supporters reckon Rodgers and FSG should pursue to replace our number 37.

The fickle nature of these armchair pundits is ridiculous and it is clear they know little of the world of football, but rather regurgitate sensationalist media tabloids of an overly-critical nature from a select few papers. This in turn furthers the sensationalism in our national papers. Yet, despite the worthlessness of their words, their opinions gain a peculiar amount of momentum behind them to such an extent that fully fledged journalists – people considered to have intelligence when it comes to analysing our beautiful game and to have the ability to recognise a trustworthy source – begin to churn out the words they see in some back alley of a social networking site.

Just last season, Martin Skrtel was our Player of the Year, and by a considerable margin. He played every minute of all 38 Premier League games, one of only two players to achieve this in the entire league (Leighton Baines is the other), and our defence ended up being the third best in the league, just a few goals behind Manchester United and Manchester City. His performance in the Carling Cup final typified his season, scoring the equalising goal and becoming a rallying force to win us the trophy. Yet now, he’s an expendable member of the squad? No.

Liverpool's Player of the Year 2012 - Martin Skrtel Celebrates

Liverpool’s Player of the Year 2012 – Martin Skrtel Celebrates

By no means has he been in the same dominating form. He has made two errors this year that has directly led to a goal, memorably the backpass intercepted by Carlos Tevez when his summer suitors came to town in September. Statistically speaking, he has been our third best defender this year behind Agger and Carragher, but we have to take into consideration that he has played almost four times as much football than Carragher and so has had more opportunity to make mistakes. He has formed a formidable partnership with our Dane, and to break that up and start from scratch – just as our vice-captain decides to hang up his boots – would be undoing next year’s campaign before the current one is even finished.

It seems to be the norm nowadays to think that footballers are invincible, non-human beings that should be incapable of mistakes or a decline in form. To too many fickle football fans, the concept of a dip in form is alien. Martin Skrtel is temporarily not playing to the best of his ability due to a number of fixable factors such as mental and physical fatigue (after so much constant football). This has in turn led to a small number of errors, which has led to a loss of confidence, which has led to criticism and being put in the spotlight, which has led to a further loss of confidence. Our role in this equation as supporters is to help him out of this difficult situation by letting him know we are behind him and believe in him – not to get involved in mass public criticism and begin a fantastical process of identifying unrealistic replacements.

The same supporters then have the nerve to criticise him for speaking out publicly on the situation he finds himself in, saying he should keep quiet and work hard to get himself back into the team. If so many supporters will not speak up for him on his behalf, why shouldn’t he himself do so? Firstly, to have a public interview does not mean he has not been working hard to get back into the team. Secondly, he is injured at this moment in time. I would prefer he hadn’t commented on the manager in the interview, I would prefer things to be kept in-house, but he was not trying to create a problem – he was clearly trying to dispel any danger of that happening while at the same time shedding a bit of light on the reasoning behind his exclusion from the team. This is something that a majority of fans need, but they refuse to see this side of his actions and choose to see a well paid sportsman complaining through the media. Despite it not being what I would have done in his position, I can understand his reasoning.

Liverpool supporters are credited with being amongst the most informed in world football. Time to show this by shutting up and supporting Skrtel, not hounding him.

Post written by Stuart McKimm
Blog: The Melwood Chat, Twitter: @StuartMcKimm

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