There a wide variety of shithouses. From Keanes to Herreras, Mascheranos to Fernandinhos there isn’t a particular size or shape, creed or color that identifies a Premier League shithouse. One characteristic, however, does—gnarl.
They don’t have to be hard. Nor do they need to be big. They just need to be good at being bad (reads: get away with it more often than not). A shithouse revels in the villainy. Relishes the needle. They are artisans in arseholery. Captains of the cynical.
Everyone loves their own shithouse. The mucker that does just that, mucks it up. Few things outside of a shithouse-on-shithouse coming together elicits more anticipatory, gleeful hand rubbing.
Shithousery, after all, is an art form. It is exactly why shithouses and their generally aberrant behavior eludes more stringent stricture from referees.
Shithouses are well known to refs. They probably discuss them at Professional Game Match Officials Limited meetings. And yet, they let them engage in said shithousery. Week in and week out. They are accepted as part of the game. Both in the stands and on the pitch.
You can almost rank EPL shithouses. Most teams have at least one.
You won’t, however, find a current Liverpool player in the top 10 of that list. There’s an argument for Emre Can. But he’s not a true shithouse. He is stung into shithousery. It is not an innate quality. Like Axl Rose singing Opera, it can be entertaining, but it’s hardly art.
The last true shithouse to don the famous Red is arguably Luis Suarez. He had the needle. He had the gnarl. He would hang a late challenge on an opponent and look at the ref with absolute, unpracticed incredulity as he was shown a yellow. The biting was a bridge too far, though. Shithouses like to leave their marks in other ways—and other places.
It has been noted by many smarter, maybe those that are shithouses at heart, that Liverpool are too, well, nice.
Don’t mistake this as a lament. The way that Liverpool Football Club currently play their football, when in full-throated chorus, is a thing of true beauty. The inclusion of a shithouse would somehow sully performances that could well be immortalized in bronze. On pedestals. In the Louvre.
However, it is when things are ugly, when the calligraphic movements around the pitch are reduced to shorthand, we lack the real ability to bare-knuckle it through the most important rounds.
This is evidenced in two of the most recent matches, the Derby and against West Brom. Both came to stymy, stagnate and general stink the joint out, and both sets of opposing players were allowed to shithouse their way through wasting close to a quarter of each match.
The Anfield faithful weren’t having it, but the men in Red seemed resigned to it happening. Rather than remonstrating with the ref about the 35 seconds that Jordan Pickford needed to get the ball back into play every time it went out of play, they meekly waited. And Craig Pawson, less shithouse and more bellend, seemed equally disinterested in speeding it up.
You’d think that this would’ve been addressed for the next match. Nope. Same thing. And no one in the ref’s face and/or ear offering an alternative view.
A shithouse would’ve been useful here. Although a shithouse might not be able to directly influence those around him when the other team seems disinterested in holding onto the ball, he can make it difficult for those that hold sway in a less nuanced way.
Outside of inspiring fear of injury and pain, one of a shithouse’s most effective weapons is to sow seeds of discord and doubt. Whether the ref knows it or not, he has been alerted to shithousery by one who deals in it.
Liverpool Football Club could use a shithouse. Teams know that they can impune themselves at home and away against us, because there is no one on the other side of the park capable of administering retribution, by fair means or foul.
The Reds have needed one in their employ for quite a while. They need a curled lip, a snide heel clip and a snort of derision when someone has the temerity to question intent.
With the way that Liverpool is skillfully and routinely slicing teams up, there are going to be those fixtures where gravel and grit will be a necessity. Where pleasantries will need to be summarily executed. Where cold, calculated cynicism is called upon. Where the hero will be a villain.
And who doesn’t love a good villain?