In the final Talking Reds column of the year, Simon Steers reflects on the encouraging progress achieved by Liverpool both on and off the pitch during 2013.
A year of progression
As we look forward to a new year, it is a good time to reflect on the steady progress that Liverpool Football Club has made over the past 12 months.
Both on and off the pitch the club has been on a journey of quiet revolution. Behind the scenes, the club's American owners have been putting a plan into action that is slowly starting to influence the thing that matters most - results on the pitch.
To be successful in football you need a sustainable business off the pitch as well as a top football side on it. There has been some real progress made in the past 12 months on some of the issues that will make a significant contribution to our ability to compete and succeed in the future.
The club's recruitment team play an integral role in scouting the right players at the right value.
In January 2013, the signings of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho were evidence of the value added; it wasn't just the impact both players have had at the club, it was also the value for money they have provided.
In the summer, the club acquired players that included Simon Mignolet, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho, who have all contributed to our excellent start to the season, while in addition younger players like Luis Alberto and Tiago Ilori have been brought in with an eye on the future.
Iago Aspas has been unlucky with injury, but has proven his credentials in La Liga.
It is important for Brendan Rodgers to have as much intelligence as possible when looking for new players; it minimises risk and gives a combined view as to a player's value and attributes which can give the club a competitive edge. A prime example of that would be Coutinho - who went under the radar of all of our competitors.
Supporters and community
The creation of the Supporters' Committee was a mechanism for the club's leadership to engage with supporters on key issues that influence the running of the club.
Over the past 12 months, the committee has worked to give supporters a voice on key issues such as ticketing. The announcement of an agreement with Cardiff City on reduced away tickets is an example of how the club and supporters are working together on issues that matter to fans.
Another important building block that the club has put into place is the Liverpool FC Foundation - some of its work may go under the radar of supporters, but the foundation plays a vital role in maintaining links with the community and driving the club's social responsibility.
High-profile initiatives such as Sakho helping children to learn French in a local school are only part of a programme that aims to 'give something back'.
2013 has also seen further progress in the fight for justice, with new inquests scheduled to take place in early 2014.
The truth of the Hillsborough tragedy is now being told, and justice for the 96 is finally in sight. 2013 also saw the club and the city say farewell to one of its true heroines in Anne Williams - a remarkable lady that worked tirelessly and never gave up in the fight for justice. Never to be forgotten.
On the pitch
Since the turn of the year Liverpool have played 37 league games (one short of a total season) and have accumulated 69 points, scoring 84 goals. If we continue that form into 2014 it will give us a very good chance of obtaining our target of a top-four finish, where 70-72 points is often the benchmark.
Of the 84 goals we have scored, Luis Suarez has scored 29; meaning that the team have shared a further 55 goals (of course, Sturridge has also made a significant contribution to that tally).
Both of these metrics are a good signpost that things are going in the right direction under Rodgers. We have found a level of consistency in 2013 that has kept the club in the title hunt at the half-way point - a position we haven't been in since 2008-09.
The average age of the team against Manchester City on Boxing Day was 24.5, with nine of the starting XI under 26 and five aged 23 or under. The level of performance against City, along with the demolition of Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, is the kind of blueprint we can expect to see as this team continues to grow and mature.
Although there is natural disappointment at the two results away to City and Chelsea, they should be put into context against how far we have come over the past 12 months.
We have been the equal of most teams we have played this season, and it has been that experience and mentality that comes with maturity that has perhaps been lacking in the big moments - that will come with time.
Looking ahead to 2014
There is still plenty to play for this season, and 2014 promises to be an exciting year.
This is the most open Barclays Premier League there has ever been, and we are currently well placed just six points behind the leaders having played Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham, City and Chelsea away from home. They all have to come to Anfield in 2014.
There is plenty to be optimistic about heading into the New Year; off the pitch the club continues to grow at pace.
We head into 2014 in the 'title conversation' - although our priority remains a return to the Champions League. We also have one of the best players in the world that is in arguably the prime of his career.
The past 12 months have been a journey of progression to reach this point - now is the time to build on that and for everyone at the club look to the future with optimism and hope.