Oldham encounter about purging demons for Liverpool

The last time Liverpool met Oldham, there was plenty of embarrassment to go around for Brendan Rodgers’ men.

Matt Smith stepped away from professional football after being let go by Cheltenham at the age of 18, only to return to the fold with the Latics after spending time on non-league pitches as a student at the University of Manchester.

And nineteen months on from signing a two-year deal at Boundary Park in May 2011, the Birmingham-born striker stuck two past one of England’s most famed clubs as Oldham dumped the Anfield outfit out of the FA Cup in the fourth round.

This story, of course, isn’t about Smith. But it has plenty to do with his exploits on January 27 of the year just gone by.

Like the now-Leeds United man, Liverpool have undergone a rebirth of sorts. The past summer didn’t witness a managerial change, revolution of sorts or mega-money purchase - though did include the saga of Luis Suarez’s potential departure – yet plenty has changed for the Reds.

The loss to Oldham was a microcosm of life on Merseyside in recent times – expectations high, with results unsatisfactory – coming amidst a campaign in which a seventh place Premier League finish stood as an enduring symbol that no glory was to be had.

Returning to the present, Liverpool sit in fourth on the table, deprived of their Christmas Day status as leaders only by a pair of narrow losses to title contenders in Manchester City and Chelsea.

The Reds have been doubted, written off and continually cast aside in comparison to their fellows in the classy part of the table. Yet they’ve hung around and shown the maturity that has been sorely lacking of late at Anfield.

Oldham visit Liverpool’s vaunted ground on Sunday this time around in a reverse of the fixture 12 months ago. Whilst a victory is simply expected and wouldn’t be hailed with any sort of fanfare, it is nonetheless an important potential triumph in a certain sense – in stating that business as usual will be taken care of going forward.

Losing to a League One side with a starting eleven that contained Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Martin Skrtel amongst others, was a massive blemish on Rodgers’ record at the helm and surely is a memory those present on the day are yet to forget.

Vanquishing it at the weekend can be a triumph of morale, of advancement for a side that so desperately were in need of the type of imposing the personality the squad seems to have at last adopted this campaign.

Certainly, dispatching Oldham should simply be a formality. But on Sunday, it may further be a part of the purging of the demons that have dragged Liverpool down over the past years.

image: © nathan17

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