BEING away on holiday with limited internet access while Liverpool Football Club sacked Brendan Rodgers and appointed Jurgen Klopp was a strange experience, writes NEIL DOCKING.
Admittedly our villa in Menorca had a pretty good wi-fi signal. But then I used up the entire allowance downloading the four TAW Rodgers Reaction podcasts on Sunday night, while trying to grill some burgers on an ant-infested barbecue.
After defeating an insect colony and listening to an inspiring ‘state-of-the-fanbase’ rant from Gareth Roberts, I was ready to eat some well-cooked meat and to devour every bit of information possible about the next LFC manager.
Frustratingly, at a time when I wanted to digest every last morsel of speculation, I had to make do with megabyte-sized chunks. The last time I checked 3 Mobile told me I’d spent £35.03 on extra data!
There is only so long you can sit in a bar with free wi-fi holding a pint and clutching a crying baby. I was relying on text messages from friends and reduced to scouring the pages of day-old newspapers during the most exciting week in months.
Yet on Friday morning, on the way back from a chorizo and cheese supermarket run, we stumbled upon a grimy English pub. It was the sort of place I normally avoid like the plague on holiday. But there on the wall was a flatscreen TV broadcasting Sky Sports News.
Better yet, the yellow breaking news ticker promised Klopp’s first press conference was coming up next, with a picture of the Reds’ resplendent new boss photoshopped against the Kop.
I convinced the Spanish barman to turn off the country and western music and turn up the TV, communicating by the universal sign language of pointing at my ears.
Stood right in front of the screen like a loon because I was still struggling to hear, I formed a few early impressions of our new leader.
Klopp was near perfect — charismatic, humble, witty and utterly convincing. Clearly he wasn’t a manager attempting to persuade himself as much as us that he was the right man for the job. He had the cool, calm and collected demeanour of a proven winner. I on the other hand was bouncing about and punching the air.
Several of his comments stood out for me above all else.
Firstly, Klopp repeatedly said it was “a good moment” to take the job. Then the German coach said “we have strong, fast players with flair” before adding that he believed in the potential of the team.
He said: “There are four or five strikers I can work with, experienced defenders… the goalkeeper is really good.”
During my brief (and expensive) forays online, I’d seen fans suggesting that Rodgers hadn’t left too many able players for his replacement to work with and this was a weak squad. Jurgen didn’t seem to agree.
Now obviously he wasn’t likely to set out his stall by saying “this lot are hopeless, you’ll have to lower your expectations”. He isn’t Roy Hodgson. However, he was particularly effusive in his praise for certain key components of the team, and there must be a reason he took this particular approach.
Liverpool do have attacking riches. We are the only Premier League side with two proven 20-goal-a-season strikers. We have Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke, while our Champions League rivals have only one guaranteed goalscorer at best. Sturridge is statistically up there with the greatest forwards in the club’s history, while Benteke is an established one-in-two man.
That pair, ably supported by Ings, possess strength, pace and flair. As do the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino (based on his time in Germany) who are players coveted across Europe for their ingenuity.
Klopp didn’t mention Liverpool’s midfield, where he has a clutch of willing grafters in Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva, who will play it simple, run and press all day for you (or in Lucas’ case, until his legs fall off on the hour mark).
He did however specifically highlight Liverpool’s widely-acknowledged ‘problem positions’.
Perhaps while watching us against Aston Villa, Klopp was baffled by the shambles served up by international stalwarts like Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho and our erratic goalkeeper’s crippling indecision.
A week later against Everton, when that trio were largely faultless and Simon Mignolet produced at least two great saves, he may have wondered why they aren’t capable of consistently producing the goods.
A lot of Liverpool fans would have replaced our Belgian stopper in the summer. Klopp may still take that decision when the opportunity arises. But from the get-go his words will have reassured Mignolet and hopefully boosted his fragile confidence. Knowing someone believes in you is a big part of beginning to believe in yourself and fulfilling your potential.
Klopp’s opening statement of intent should provide a shot of adrenaline in the arm of every player on our books and for every jaded supporter who has lost the faith since May 2014.
Whether you’ve spent the last week reading every last word on our enigmatic new manager and his Gegenpress revolution, or like me relied on titbits while dozing on a sun lounger dreaming of a Borussia Dortmund-like march to improbable league titles, it’s time to start believing that the Reds can be great again.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo.Com & PA Images