Monday the 21st September 2015, the Amaranto are away at the Stadio Libero Liberati to face Ternana.
The season has started perfectly for the club after the debacle at the end of last season where they somehow contrived to miss out on the play-offs. This season though they have started a perfect three wins from three and are expected to beat a Ternana side, whose manager would be sacked a few days later, with reasonable comfort.
The match however starts poorly as they find themselves 1-0 down inside five minutes. A minute past the half hour mark Nicola Belloni makes it 2-0 for the Rossoverdi, Livorno’s perfect start looks very much in jeopardy as a sense of déjà vu washes over you in seeing another Amaranto collapse.
On the touchline manager Christian Panucci remains calm despite his side having been dismantled in the opening 30 minutes. It is as if he is in on his own little personal joke that nobody else can understand. Eight minutes later we see the reason for his un-panicked demeanour.
Mattia Aramu picks the ball up on the edge of the penalty area, shifting it out of his feet he curls an inch perfect left footed curler into the top corner past the fully outstretched Luca Mazzoni. With half time fast approaching Livorno have been handed a lifeline.
They come out for the second half buzzing, there looks a new steely resolve about this team. Backed by the perfect start to the season they have confidence flowing through them and fully believe in their ability to go on and win the match.
Two minutes into the second half they are back level, Daniele Vantaggiato heading home from a tight angle. Ternana hit back but are repulsed by a now air tight defence. Then with only four minutes remaining Vantaggiato performs a delectable dummy in the box leaving the ball roll on to Cristian Pasquato. Using the defenders as almost a wall in the keeper’s line of vision he bends the ball into the bottom corner to earn the win for Livorno.
The win keeps them top of the table, the only remaining side with a 100% record in Serie B. Livorno look to have found their mojo the Amaranto are dreaming of Serie A again.
Flash forward to the 16th January 2016, Livorno have just lost 2-1 away to Pescara. It is their 11th loss of the campaign. Since that win over Ternana the Amaranto have won only twice in 18 matches. They have now gone from dreaming of Serie A to worrying about Lega Pro, a very real prospect given that they sit only two points off the automatic relegation spots.
The poor form has seen average attendance drop although only marginally, however fans dissatisfaction is on the rise.
Naturally enough in an attempt to arrest the decline out went manager Panucci at the end of November. In truth it was a move akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Panucci was never up to the job in the first place.
He had taken over the job in March of the 2014/15 season, with the club underperforming but still reasonably comfortable in a play-off position. In the remaining months of that season Panucci managed to somehow oversee the clubs slide down the table to the point where they missed out on the play-offs all together.
This should have been a big enough signal for those in the charge to go okay it’s time to look elsewhere. Instead they decided to persist with him into the new season, which at first did look to be paying dividend but rather quickly went off the cliff.
Come November the club finally bowed to the inevitable and gave Panucci the boot. In his 27 matches in charge of the club Panucci managed to win a paltry nine drawing nine and losing nine all whilst using a staggering 37 players.
With Panucci now gone the club were faced with a delicate choice, there was still time to turn the season around but only if they made the smart choice on who to bring in. The man they plumped for was Bortolo Mutti who so far into his reign at the club has managed to make Panucci look like Pep Guardiola.
Mutti has looked out of touch with the modern game and far from arresting the clubs slide he has only manged to speed it up. In his eight matches so far Mutti is still yet to record a win, losing six. On the pitch his players are visibly losing confidence. The question has now become not will Livorno lose but what kind of ridiculous way will they contrive to mess up this week.
Another question that must then be asked, with the player’s confidence having sunk as low as the Titanic how is Mutti still in a job. I mean Maurizio Zamparini would have hired and fired about a 100 managers in this period why are the club persisting with him.
The answer for that lies solely in the mind of Aldo Spinelli the man who has owned and run the club since 1999. It has been rumoured recently that Spinelli has been looking to sell the club, with a potential offer from a Chinese consortium rumoured last August.
Spinelli denied that he was close to selling the club but as they say there’s no smoke without fire. And if Spinelli is potentially looking to sell the club he is not going to want to invest much money in it in the meantime possibly leaving them in a limbo situation akin to Aston Villa in England.
As mentioned earlier fans patience is beginning to break, as on the sixth of January the clubs Ultras placed numerous banners around the city calling for the heads of both Mutti and Spinelli. One banner even gave a fake phone number for former fan favourite Alessandro Diamanti who Spinelli was said to be keen in bringing back.
The message was clear either put up or shut up. Another banner read “Spinelli Buffone: Hai Rubato Anche i Re Magi,”- Spinelli Fool: You stole even the three Kings. The banner was put up on the sixth of January the date traditionally given for when the three wise men arrived to see Jesus in the manger. It is also the Feast of the Epiphany, a national holiday in Italy.
Livorno is a club in crisis with the light at the end of the tunnel being a long way away. This weekend it has the potential to get a whole lot worst as they play host to the leagues bottom side Como. A defeat in this match will surely signal the end for Mutti, more worryingly far the fans it may be signalling the end of their stay in Serie B.
A season that started with promise has turned into a nightmare. Livorno are a runaway train that is Lega Pro bound.