Football: Liverpool feel the love, even as trouble brews

Liverpool's Luis Suarez (black) waves to fans at the end of training at the Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand, July 27, 2013.

BANGKOK - So begins Liverpool Football Club's anthem. Aptly, this pretty much sums up the current state of affairs at Anfield, and how this once-mighty club find themselves confronted with questions - over the future of Luis Suarez and the club's ownership - on their pre-season tour.

But the Reds have had plenty of moments of comfort to savour too. Legions have turned up in Jakarta, Melbourne and now Bangkok to see their heroes.

At Central World mall, where Liverpool's main sponsor Standard Chartered launched a new gift card on Saturday, Steven Gerrard certainly held his head high, smiling for the fans and cameras and bowing only when he whispered to team-mates Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique and Simon Mignolet to make the traditional wai greeting.

This is a club that are still relevant in this part of the world, a club that still command a mighty following and as Ian Rush and Dietmar Hamann found out, a club that even inspired one hardcore fan to tattoo You'll Never Walk Alone all over his torso.

Although the crowd was told Gerrard and Co would not be speaking, the captain still addressed his devotees at the end of the 15-minute appearance.

"We are looking forward to a very enjoyable stay and we are looking forward to a good win on Sunday night," he said, to loud applause, even if he had promised to defeat the Thai national team.

That brief appearance left many on a high as Gerrard and Co departed Central World mall, serenaded to You'll Never Walk Alone.

These fans know every detail about the Reds.

To fire up the crowd at Central World, the emcees gave replica shirts to fans who could answer Liverpool trivia.

Steven George Gerrard, one replied when asked the skipper's full name. A mint red shirt with the Liverbird was handed over to the young chap who confirmed his allegiance and encyclopaedic knowledge of the club.

A floor up, striker Fabio Borini posed with fans for another sponsor and drew another big crowd, even if he had just one Premier League goal to his name.

At the end of the storm There's a golden sky And the sweet silver song of a lark

No Champions League football.Not even the Europa League. But Liverpool's storied past and massive following still attract an A-list sponsor in banking giant Standard Chartered, which has renewed its deal for another two years, said to be worth £20 million (S$38 million) a season.

Gerrard and his three amigos helped launch StanChart's new gift card - a series of four cards that had great names from Anfield's past and present embossed on it.

Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Graeme Souness, John Barnes, Ian Rush, Jamie Redknapp, Jamie Carragher and, from the current vintage, Gerrard and Daniel Agger.

Suarez, arguably Liverpool's best player last season, is conspicuous by his absence.

Walk on through the wind Walk on through the rain Though your dreams be tossed and blown

After the euphoria of this tour dies down, when the Premier League resumes, Liverpool fans will have a reality check. For this is a club that have become an organ donor to the rich.

Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano - the heart, brains and lungs of the side are gone. And there is no sign of a new blockbuster signing. Gerrard remains the symbol of the club, but at 33, how long can he continue carrying his team, his fans and his city?

Add to that the potential double whammy of American owners Fenway Sports Group trying to sell the club after less than three years, speculation which was furiously denied by Liverpool on Saturday.

Walk on, walk on With hope in your heart And you'll never walk alone You'll never walk alone

Not even a heavy evening downpour could stop some 15,000 fans cheering their heroes on at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Training over, the crowd, which had turned the stands into a sea of red with their scarves and banners, surged forward towards a passageway where the players were filing past.

Suarez signed some autographs, waved, smiled and disappeared down the tunnel.

Maybe, just maybe, there is some hope that the Uruguayan will stay. But, if he does not, life must go on.

As another famous song from the city goes... Let It Be.

meng@sph.com.sg


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