THE Normal One. You absolutely nailed it there, Jurgen, lad. Hit it out the park. A press conference is a game and the new boss won it. The gathered media pack from all around the world had descended on Anfield this morning searching for a line. They got the line.
Liverpool fans, too, all around the world, tuned in for signs. To look at him. To listen. All the talk before he stepped out of a people carrier and in through the automatic doors in the middle of the Centenary Stand at Anfield had been of this left-field loon, a man who celebrates like crazy, necks ale, loves the fans, walks home with a rucksack — he was pitched as a rock star; a working class hero, something to be. Maybe all that will come later. First, there is the business of being the manager of Liverpool to deal with.
“Does he get it?” we all wondered. On the evidence of the first press conference at least, he gets it. All the issues, as Neil said in his piece earlier, tackled and boxed off. Get me to Melwood, lads. I’ve got a team to sort out.
Simon Hughes nudged me before a beaming Klopp walked in to a crowded room. “Do you reckon he’ll be the first manager to enter a press conference to heavy metal music?”
Would he stage dive on to the table and stun the world, we wondered. Do something mad? Walk in with a pint. He’s all wacky and zany after all, right? You’ve all seen the videos.
He did something better. He was cool, clear, calm and charming. He had the room eating from the palm of his hand. “He’s a cool bastard isn’t he?” I said to Melissa Reddy. She agreed.
And this wasn’t a room full of Liverpool supporters. This room contained people who will take great delight if it all goes wrong for this man. Lads who write about Liverpool clinging to the past and being a fallen giant what seems like every other weekend. I nearly had a word to be honest…
But Jurgen was enjoying himself, an almost permanent smile etched on his face throughout proceedings, a booming laugh so loud that when he was stood on the centre circle holding the scarf you could hear it halfway up the Centenary Stand.
There was almost a nonchalance about him; a sense of ‘it’s easy this, hurry up, I’ve got a team to manage’. He was bemused by the stage management of it all. The tinted windows on the car, the security, the fuss, the process — you sensed from him that he’d rather go and spend time with the players or have a look round town.
“The press don’t matter.”
“Hiding while people try to take photographs in the bathroom — it’s not my idea.”
Every question was fielded with ease. The Normal One line — it seemed like it was off the top of his head, and yet it had people almost squealing with delight.
Klopp is clearly a man who backs himself, and also a man who doesn’t take any nonsense. Yet he is also a man you could listen to all day. We’ll win but we need patience. Play your part. “Don’t say I’m Jesus then criticise me for not being able to walk on water.” What a line that is by the way. One of many.
Liverpool needs more than a man who can coach on the football pitch. Liverpool needs a leader. A man who can exude confidence but keep it classy. A man who is sure of himself but isn’t cocky. Surety, not ego. Klopp is all of this. Asked about the level of scrutiny the Liverpool job attracts, about the army of ex-players who will monitor and comment on his every action, he shrugged. “That’s your job,” he said. “I criticise myself I don’t need it from outside. I don’t think my decisions are perfect.”
It’s this binding of confidence and humility, alongside the track record of success, the European pedigree and, yes, the fact that he can be a bit mad, that has got us all so excited. And rightly so. If he’s so easily lifted a room of people who are renowned for their cynicism imagine what he can do to a room full of people on the same side as him who want to win football matches.
Appointing Jurgen Klopp was in many ways a common sense thing to do. Go out there and get the best man available for the job. But it was also a ballsy, bold and brilliant thing to do. And we’ve waited a long time for Liverpool to do something like that off the pitch.
Klopp hasn’t managed his first Liverpool match yet and it was ‘only a press conference’ yet Klopp nailed it. He put on a show but he wasn’t showy. He wasn’t a rock star but you wanted an encore.
Will Liverpool improve under Jurgen Klopp? As the man said himself, “Don’t ask silly questions and you won’t get silly answers.”
Pics: Propaganda Photo