To look at Liverpool’s first team now is to look at a sleek, near-perfect collection of footballers. These are players who possess unrivalled technique, unmatched skill, and a coach-imposed winning mentality that has carried the team to the position of runaway Premier League winners. World champions, European champions, Premier League champions – Liverpool are at the helm of world football at the moment, always fancied in the football betting odds, carried along by the waves of their own consistent excellence.
With their plundering of English football having reached its peak with the capture of the league title, perhaps it’s a good time to take stock of where the club is now compared with ten years ago. Rafael Benítez’s reign had just come to an end in the summer of 2010, the Spaniard a victim of the catastrophic John Hicks and George Gillett ownership which left the club on its knees.
But the off-field turmoil at Liverpool in the late noughties did not prevent the club from making some fine memories, with some fan-favourites in the team at the time. The likes of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Jamie Carragher all wore the red shirt at the time, but perhaps a player who doesn’t get the credit he deserves from that team is Dirk Kuyt.
Kuyt arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2006 from Feyenoord, boasting a fine record for the Dutch side in the Eredivisie. His first season at Anfield was a successful one, scoring 14 goals and building something of a cult status among Liverpool supporters. There was something different about Kuyt, something about his long, flowing golden locks bouncing around as he hassled and harried every opponent. He was a player who was easy to root for, embodying that one characteristic that supporters value above all others: effort.
Kuyt’s best season in a red shirt was the 2008-09 campaign, a season in which Liverpool pushed Manchester United all the way in the Premier League title race. That was an all-time classic Liverpool starting XI – Pepe Reina in goal, the likes of Carragher, Daniel Agger, Martin Škrtel and the venerable Sami Hyypiä providing the defensive steel, a midfield anchorage of Alonso and Javier Mascherano, with Gerrard supporting Kuyt and Torres up front.
It was a fine scoring return that year for the Dutchman, as he notched 15 goals in all competitions, and although Liverpool missed out on the title, Kuyt had established himself as an Anfield hero. Of course, Liverpool’s fortunes would take a turn for the worst in the following few seasons, and Kuyt was present as Benítez’s tenure came to an end, and through turbulent reigns of Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish.
But the Dutchman remained a reliable figure in the team throughout those difficult years. Perhaps the reason Kuyt is not held in the same regard as the likes of Torres and Alonso is because he stuck around through the difficult times as well. But most Liverpool fans recognise the contribution Kuyt made to the club.
Although Liverpool are flying high now, basking in the glow of their first Premier League title in 30 years, fans still hold a special place in their hearts for players like Kuyt – those who were there through thick and thin, giving their all time and time again.