Alan Hubbard

"It’s Alisson Wonderland" screeched the Sky Sports commentator as Liverpool's tall, dark and handsome goalkeeper raced into the West Bromwich Albion penalty area for a last-ditch corner kick in the dying seconds of added time, as Trent Alexander-Arnold floated the ball into the goalmouth.

Up went their heads, but Alisson's Brazilian nut rose above all of them and he met the ball beautifully and thudded with his forehead and, bullet-like, into the goal.

Sport - and football in particular - has had its fair share of exasperation this past year, but here was a moment of exhilaration.

Alisson's successful venture resulted in that rarity, a goal from the goalkeeper. It was the first by a 'keeper from Liverpool and only the sixth since the inception of the Premier League.

Not only did it give Liverpool, the reigning European champions, a 2-1 victory over West Brom it also kept them, at that moment, very much in the mix for a vital top-four place which would guarantee Jürgen Klopp's men competing again for the trophy next season.

Naturally, Alisson was hailed as a hero and even impartial fans watching on the box savoured the spectacle. I know I certainly did, even as someone holding the forlorn hope that West Ham might make it to that elite quartet. It even brought a brief smile to the face of ex-Liverpool star Graeme Souness - whose surname should more often be spelt "Sourness" to accompany his observations these days.

Yet I could not help wondering what might have been the reaction had that corner kick simply grazed Alisson scalp and dropped at the feet of a West Brom defender who promptly booted it hard and long towards the empty Liverpool goal with Alisson galloping forlornly in pursuit as it rolled into the net.

Alisson spoke eloquently following his remarkable first goal for Liverpool ©Getty Images
Alisson spoke eloquently following his remarkable first goal for Liverpool ©Getty Images

What piece of pun-ditry might have headlined the back pages then? Alisson Blunderland, no doubt.

Afterwards the Liverpool 'keeper gave a sparkling interview. He is one of those talented foreign imports fluent in English and it was good to hear him articulate his feelings so passionately.

It crossed my mind that eloquence has been something of a keynote among footballers past and present of late. Some are so impressive with their opinions and debating skills that you feel they would be equally at home in Parliament as they were on the playing field. I have always felt that another Liverpool legend, the Jamaican-born England winger John Barnes, should have been in politics - he has actually appeared on the political programme Question Time - with his rational views on racism among many other things. Gary Lineker, too, comes across as a man of considerable intelligence who could contribute much outside the realms of football.

I take some pride in the fact that I helped Lineker towards a life outside his sport when, as sports editor of the Observer, I gave him the opportunity to air his views as a pundit and was impressed with the diligence and dedication he applied to the task. Every word he wrote was of his own thinking and was never the work of a ghost.

We have also seen how Marcus Rashford nutmegged Boris Johnson and the United Kingdom Government over the issue of free school meals for underprivileged kids. And how Gary Neville led the way so volubly in ripping apart the wretched scheme that was the thankfully doomed European Super League.

It should not go unnoticed either that more than 100,000 people have signed a Parliamentary petition calling for an independent regulator in English football, that was launched by a group of ex-players.

Marcus Rashford represents a new generation of footballers not afraid to tackle political issues ©Getty Images
Marcus Rashford represents a new generation of footballers not afraid to tackle political issues ©Getty Images

Neville, Jamie Carragher, Rio Ferdinand and Lineker are among players and ex-players to undersign an open letter to fans saying that last month's attempts to break away and form the European Super League demonstrates the need to reform the game’s governance. The fact that it has reached its signatory target means it must now be considered for a Parliamentary debate.

Jamie Redknapp and Micah Richards are also among those who have signed the letter which states: "As football fans we were appalled by the attempt to set up a European super league. It was a direct threat to the integrity of the game. Destroying the concept of sporting merit and open competition. Supporters came together with one voice to oppose the cynical by a well a group of wealthy owners. The furious protests were heard and the breakaway fell apart. Now we must make sure this never happens again!"

In addition to an independent regulator the petition also calls for Government legislation which would stop Premier League clubs from attempting to abandon the football pyramid. This prompted British Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone to promise a fan-led review into football will look into the possibility of an independent regulator.

It is clear that burgeoning player power has never been more evident in sport than it is now and the days of the blazer brigade are surely numbered. The International Olympic Committee seems to be realising it is becoming paramount by finally listening to the voices of participants who, to paraphrase Muhammad Ali, are not as dumb as you sometimes think!

A final postscript to those heady days for Liverpool at the weekend. After yesterday's victory at Burnley it now seems probable they will make that top-four finish; moreover there is heartening news for the future from across the border in Scotland where another Scouse icon who now temporarily belongs to Glasgow is enjoying being elevated to icon status after taking Rangers to the Scottish title in only his third season as their rookie manager.

Steven Gerrard’s success is all the more remarkable as Rangers have remained unbeaten throughout the season for the first time in their history. It now seems a no-brainer that when Klopp decides all his Anfield dreams have been fulfilled, Gerrard will be his ready-made replacement.