IF there’s one thing that could prompt Brendan Rodgers to lose his appetite, it was this.
The promise of another free slap-up meal was clearly not enough for Liverpool to avoid suffering one of the most humiliating FA Cup defeats in their history.
So much for the hunger of continuing an upturn in fortunes in recent months that has encouraged talk of a charge for Champions League qualification.
Rodgers had promised his players another afternoon at a local Italian restaurant should they again secure three successive victories.
But after devouring Norwich City last week, Liverpool were yesterday consumed by a 6ft 6ins former Solihull Moors forward who, while studying at Manchester University for a degree in international business management, played up front alongside comedian Jack Whitehall.
Nobody at Liverpool will be laughing this morning, however, as they sift through the wreckage of a hugely embarrassing setback that poses serious questions for Rodgers and Anfield owners Fenway Sports Group.
Not least the policy to rely heavily on youth. A Liverpool starting line-up for whom only three players were over the age of 23 were bullied into submission by League One opponents Oldham Athletic with two-goal striker Matt Smith the terror-in-chief.
Rodgers was perfectly justified to point the finger at his team’s youngsters, the manager’s faith misplaced as Jack Robinson, Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini all suffered.
Experience came in the belated arrival of Steven Gerrard from the bench. And while the skipper transformed injected hope and impetus into a dire performance – denied only by the crossbar from salvaging a replay in the 90th minute – Liverpool cannot keep turning to the talismanic midfielder in their hour of need.
Incredibly, Oldham’s precarious position hovering above the League One drop zone after just one point from 24 means they are expected to sack manager Paul Dickov this morning.
If so, this was quite a leaving present as the Latics became the first team outside the top two divisions to scores three goals against Liverpool in the FA Cup since Scunthorpe United in 1956.
The Anfield outfit escaped with a 3-3 draw that day, but not yesterday.
It was a nightmare for Brad Jones who, playing through the pain of a cortisone injection in an injured shoulder, was culpable for Oldham’s first two goals.
But the goalkeeper wasn’t alone. Smith tormented makeshift central-back duo Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates, the latter’s alarming display casting doubt over his long-term future at the club.
How Liverpool missed the nous and organisational skills of Jamie Carragher. Influential in the previous round at Mansfield Town, he remained in cold storage on the bench, presumably spared for Wednesday’s Premier League trip to Arsenal. Yet, like Gerrard, Carragher won’t be around forever.
Liverpool recovered to win 5-1 having gone behind to Oldham in the third round last season, but there was no route back once their sloppy start was punished by the opener after only three minutes.