The calm before the storm. Or rather, the calm before the little squall that precedes the storm, that primes the pump for the downpour to come.
The Community Shield. We're talking about the Community Shield. At Wembley! Before which, Danny Murphy was presenting at the McDonald’s & FA Grassroots Awards, handing out gongs to the national winners at the national stadium – and the former Liverpool and Spurs man made some time to chat to 90min on the day.
The Reds ended up losing on penalties to defending Premier League (and FA Cup, and Carabao Cup) champions on Sunday, but Murphy had already warned against drawing too many conclusions from the glorified pre-season friendly.
"If Liverpool lost today but win the league, is anyone talking about this game?" he asked. "If they lose this game and both games against City in the league, you could argue that the momentum started here, but my gut feeling is that this is only really a stepping stone for the players to get that bit of sharpness against quality opposition ready for next week."
Liverpool got to within a point of their first Premier League title last season and picked up the Champions League title along the way – but some fans have expressed discontent at the lack of new signings the club have made this summer, with only a backup goalkeeper and two youth prospects coming in through the doors at Melwood.
"Time will tell if that's enough," Murphy said, "but Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gomez coming back will be a big plus. I would like to see a forward player come in to compete with the front three with Origi and Shaqiri, maybe push them on.
"When you look at City's front six, it's Mahrez, Sane, Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Jesus and Aguero – their front six sounds stronger than Liverpool's front five. On the other hand, City have only signed Rodri and it looks like he'll just play when Fernandinho doesn't. He's a Fernandinho type but he's not better than him, so for me he doesn't make their first XI better.
"Let me be clear – Rodri's a brilliant signing, a lovely footballer. He's got all the qualities to take this role and be a hell of a player. But here and now, is he better than Fernandinho? No, he's not. Fernandinho has produced top level Premier League performances for five years consistently, I've played against him and he's got the lot. He can score goals, open you up, smash you, run back, tackle, he's a leader...I love him to bits."
He added: "The window isn't closed yet by the way, it wouldn't surprise me if Liverpool do get one in. You could argue that with 97 points and the Champions League, you can't question Jurgen Klopp on anything. You've got to be careful you don't upset what you've already got, which is a brilliant squad of players playing collectively."
Speaking on the McDonald’s & FA Grassroots Awards, Murphy explained: "There's lots of people who help you out at different stages of your journey. My first proper manager was a guy called Cass Cassington, a former army sergeant. He put his heart and soul into the Sunday League team that I played for – arranging the kits, sponsorship, pitches, training, everything.
"He'd come and pick you up from your house if your parents didn't drive, whatever it took to make it happen for you. What McDonald's and the FA are trying to do is keep giving the opportunity to kids to be able to play, and the awards reward people like Cass who, for many many years, was a huge influence on me being able to go and play and enjoy football without the worry of where the ball's coming from."
Danny Murphy was speaking at The FA & McDonald’s Grassroots Awards National Ceremony. The awards reward the volunteers who keep the grassroots game going. To participate in the Fun Football programme, go to mcdonalds.co.uk/FunFootball
- Founded in 2010, The FA Grassroots Football Awards, presented by McDonald’s, recognise and celebrate the volunteers, clubs and leagues across England who dedicate their time to grassroots football in their local community.
- McDonald’s is celebrating 17 years of supporting grassroots football around the UK and is recognising the clubs, coaches, parents and volunteers who give thousands of kids the chance to enjoy football every week.
This is all part of McDonald’s Fun Football Programme which aims to get 500,000 kids playing football for the first time by 2022.