HOPE is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen”.
My life right now is like a Jurgen Klopp-inspired version of Being John Malkovich; every time I look at someone my brain is superimposing a beard and a pair of glasses on to their face. It’s not too bad when I’m showing my train ticket to the fella from Merseyrail, but it’s made for some interesting dinners with my girlfriend.
Ever since Brendan Rodgers was relieved of his duties as Liverpool manager I’ve immersed myself in the world of the new man. Like most, I’ve watched his interviews, I’ve seen photos of him eating hot dogs and drinking beer and I’ve been engrossed by that vine of him (or someone who looks very like him) jumping off the swing and chucking the ball into the miniature basketball hoop.
There’s something about the appointment of the enigmatic German that feels game-changing for Liverpool Football Club. It is, possibly, the most exciting managerial appointment of my adult life thus far. As Neil Atkinson, Gareth Roberts and John Gibbons have all pointed out, his first day of interviews and press calls went better than most could possibly have expected. Andy Heaton’s also covered the fact that he seems to have united a previously fractured fanbase.
I can’t remember a more universally-approved appointment, with even Whiskey Nose from down the way admitting he’s worried that FSG have made a brilliant call by bringing him in. It’s not just that he’s brought the supporters together and got the old enemy running scared, it’s more than that. He’s given us something we’ve been lacking a bit too much of recently: that hope I mentioned.
People are stopping random fellas with beards in Liverpool One and having pictures taken with them because they look a bit like the new manager; sales of baseball caps are going through the roof and guys that spent thousand of pounds on laser eye surgery are trying to knock their corneas out of place so they can put their specs back on. The Red half of the city has got a spring back in its step.
It was in this context that I went to see an evening of music at The Philharmonic Hall on Saturday. It was an evening conducted by Carl Davis, a man who has composed music for films and TV shows and has also done his own arrangements of more famous songs. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, under his conduction, played music from Bond films and songs by ABBA and The Beatles.
There are a number of things I’ve never been keen on in life and two of those things are classical music and the songs of ABBA. Yet I was transported to another plain for periods of the evening, swept along by listening to things I’d previously thought were a bit naff performed in a totally different way to how I was used to hearing them.
Yet still my Klopp-centric train of thought kicked in: Klopp as the new James Bond; Klopp as a member of ABBA; Klopp on tour with Paul and Ringo. It all seemed especially relevant given the numerous references to Jurgen’s musical tastes since he arrived in Liverpool. Arsenal, we’ve been told, are like a silent orchestra; Klopp’s teams will play in a manner more reminiscent of heavy metal. Sat in the Philharmonic Hall, however, I could see the correlation between Liverpool Football Club and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Made up of a group of people who are perhaps not all from the city of Liverpool but represent it; a group of people who are talented in their own field yet maybe not exceptional; a group who would be good to listen to on their own but, when put together and led in the right direction by someone who knows what they’re doing, they become a transcendent force.
There were two stand out moments. The first came when they were performing You Know My Name, the theme song from Casino Royale. Now I’ll confess I’m a bit of a Bond nerd — especially when it comes to the theme songs — and that’s not one of my favourites. But hearing it played by a live orchestra was something else, especially when it got to the more energetic bits and the violinists were having to give it absolute hell in order to keep up with the pace of the whole thing.
It was genuinely incredible and I understood in that moment, watching these people do their thing, what can be achieved when you’ve got a group of talented individuals all pulling together to make something special happen.
The other moment of note was during their version of The Winner Takes It All, when the bloke on the flute did a solo and over 2,000 people sat in enraptured silence, listening intently at the beauty of the music. Even wonderfully talented groups of people need a stand-out star every now and again. He was applauded by Carl Davis, the crazy, fun American conductor who kept turning to the audience with a beaming smile and encouraging us to clap or sing when it was appropriate to do so.
At drama school one of my favourite directors said to me: “I don’t know how to drive the car but I know where we’re going. You do what you’re good at and I’ll point us in the right direction.” With the right leader, it really is that simple.
On May 11, 2014, I sat in a pub in Liverpool with my dad hoping against hope that a miracle would happen. It didn’t, of course, but the point is that I wanted to be there with my dad so that if it did we could celebrate it together. In 2001 when we won the treble I watched most games and all three finals with my old man, the bloke responsible for me being a Red in the first place. In 2005 I couldn’t be with him but he was the person I wanted to speak to at half time when all seemed lost and after the penalties when I was on top of the world.
We’ve never been ones for publicly stated emotions, my family. My relationship with my dad has been one of hero worship from my end, tender care from his. Football is the main thing we’ve used to connect to each other; whether it be going to the match, watching it on the telly together or talking about it, it’s the main way we communicate. With each passing year I’ve been terrified that we might not be able to celebrate Liverpool winning the ultimate prize together as adults, aware as I am of both of our mortalities in a way that I never appreciated as a child.
Up to and including the Derby, the likelihood that my dad and I would be able to go to the pub together and have a pint in toast of Liverpool as the champions of England seemed to be getting further and further away with each passing day. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher may think that winning the Premier League is the one trophy that’s eluded them both, but it’s eluded us, too.
Then Jurgen Klopp swept into Anfield, spoke of emotional football and of the need to kill the opposition and suddenly I’ve begun to hope again — begun to believe that the impossible is possible. Sons and daughters with mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who want to celebrate the Reds winning the league are feeling like it might not be such a pipe dream after all.
Some people say it’s the hope that kills you, I think it’s the hope that makes you feel alive. As Roy Henderson tweeted recently: “If a football club, or anything else in life, is gonna overachieve, the starting point is everyone having unreasonable expectations.”
United and Everton fans will call us deluded; City and Chelsea fans will laugh at little old Liverpool trying to punch above their weight — let them. We need to believe it’s possible starting right now, or else what’s the point in the whole exercise?
Jurgen Klopp might feel that an orchestra’s not what he wants, but he’s wrong. An orchestra is a classical way of playing music, but the music itself doesn’t need to be old hat. It’s about team work, timing and working together under the guidance of the right person. Put the right man in charge and even ABBA can sound good. I’ll leave the last word to the Swedish sensations:
“The judges will decide/The likes of me abide/Spectators of the show/Always staying low/The game is on again/A lover or a friend/A big thing or a small/The winner takes it all.”
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo.Com & PA Images