OH, Jürgen. What have you gone and done?
“Eighty-two minutes — game over. I turned around and I felt pretty alone at this moment. We have to decide when it is over.”
Rarely has a manager’s theme been warmed to so gleefully. He’s saying what loads of us have been saying for years. That the ground has changed. That the modern fan is the type who gets off early. They’re killing the atmosphere. Killing Anfield. They’re not like us. We don’t leave early. We want it to be like it once was.
Of course, in the face of an agenda, Klopp was powerless to communicate his intended message, which was (of course) not intended as a criticism of Liverpool fans: “I am not disappointed about this, the fans leaving, they have reasons. But we are responsible that nobody can leave the stadium a minute before the last whistle because everything can happen.
“Between 82 minutes and 94 you can make eight goals, if you want, but you have to work for it. That is what we have to show and we didn’t.”
Yes, as well as directing a message to his neurotic playing squad, he was clearly hinting that there is a culture of defeatism that has engulfed the club. He was not however blaming the cart ahead of the horse, as is roundly being suggested.
Something good may come of the (mis)interpretation of Jürgen’s words. It is obviously a better thing for the Liverpool cause if people feel inclined to stay cheering on the team to the bitter end. Maybe the publicising of the issues will make a few pause and think that those extra five minutes’ advantage gained are not preferable to the thrill that would be gleaned from witnessing a late Liverpool goal.
Perhaps they will come to “believe”, as Jurgen wants us all to “believe”, that things are changing. Anything is possible. Late goals need not be considered miracles but part of the plan, perhaps.
Regrettably, more certain to manifest itself will be a brand new away supporter chorus at Anfield: “Jurgen’s right, you’re fans are shite.” God knows we’ve been singing that at the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United for the last few years, having leapt upon fairly tame reported comments about their fans by Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho.
What will also have been given new wind, unfortunately, will be the bluster from a core of the fan base that expresses its frustrations with the team in relentless criticism of fellow fans. Comrades become new fans, day-trippers, corporates, half-and-half scarf merchants, and wools.
All these interlopers poison us, sent from the enemies of freedom to rain on our parade, to change our ways, to disrespect our culture and traditions, to steal our purity. Because we always sang. We never left early. We were always “the best fans in the world”.
Well, yes we were. But mainly when we were winning stuff. A good thumping victory and the smell of trophy glory keeps a smile on the face and a song in the heart. Seeing your team record just five league Anfield wins in a calendar year is not so conducive.
When was the last time Anfield truly rocked? The 80s? The Istanbul year? Nope. Wrong. It was 2014. For all the home games in the second half of that season, as the goals rained in, as Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge plundered away, as Brendan’s Mighty Reds made us dare to dream again.
Were you there against City for the 3-2? Spurs for the 4-0? Arsenal for the 5-1? The derby at Anfield? No library vibes on those days. No Liverpool manager feeling chilled and alone as the final whistle blew on glorious victories and a ground punched the air and hugged itself home.
Often forgotten when we get dewy-eyed about our wonderful Kop and we get romantic about how only a city as fantastically rambunctious as Liverpool could have spawned it, is the fact that a good portion of the town aren’t actually Reds and would rather be seen dead than on that hallowed shelf.
Now the Everton blues can certainly produce a fair old din at Goodison when they’re so minded, but they will grudgingly admit that they do not have the world-famous reputation that The Kop has for being a crowd that produces a special atmosphere.
Let’s remember that these are Liverpool people, too. Many of them share homes with Red mums, dads, brothers and sisters. There’s not something in the Scouse DNA or irrigation system that makes football grounds unduly frisky and tuneful. Granted, there may be a sociology paper to be written about the Irish influence on Liverpool culture and its propensity for a sing-song when the mood presents, but much the same could be said of the Welsh and their valleys-inspired choral traditions.
The one thing a Liverpool crowd has over its Blue brethren is simply that it has witnessed a hell of a lot more winning football. From 1963 to 1990 nearly three decades of close to total spectrum dominance of the English game. To be blunt. Even since the 80s there has been loads to cheer about. Cups, European trophies and the odd brush with the top of the table. Everton haven’t seen silverware since 1995. No dreams. No songs to sing.
Let’s get back to 2014 for a second. That was a thoroughly modern Liverpool FC-supporting match-goer that played his and her part in making most of that season at Anfield so memorable. That rocking atmosphere was the product of a melting pot that included boys, girls, arl arse Scousers, young buck Scousers, Irish people, Scandinavian people, Asian people, and even suits and day-trippers.
All of them came together to celebrate Suarez and Raheem Sterling and Sturridge and Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson. All of them joined in symphony to sing about the poetry in motion before them. And none of them (well, not so that you would notice) got off before the 90, looked to beat the traffic or whatever.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that rush to judgement of the recent spate of early-darters is little more than simple scapegoat-ism. We’re all properly pissed off at that which has been served up at our home ground for going on 18 months now. It’s not acceptable. It’s not palatable and someone’s going to get it. It was the last manager for a while. Kicking him served a purpose.
As John Aldridge noted in his Echo column this week, both leaving matches early is not a modern phenomenon to Liverpool FC, nor is the concept of us calling people out for it:“Fans leaving before the end is nothing new. I remember being in the Kop in the 70s and 80s and we’d always slaughter fans in the Kemlyn Road who got off 10 minutes from time, telling them to sit down.
“They would be wanting to get away to beat the traffic or the queues in the pub as they headed for a quick pint. It’s not great to see and I’ve never been one to leave early. I used to always head for the top of the Kop towards the end of a game so I could getaway as soon as the final whistle went.
“Then I’d leg it to the chippy and then jump on the Woodcutters bus back to Garston, usually celebrating a win!”
Lovely stuff. Even hardcore John is admitting he had half an eye to business in the chippy come the end of the game. He should have been focusing on his Koppite duty of roaring the boys over the line, when instead he was prematurely fixating on his carb fix. For shame.
I’m a homer and an awayer. I’ve seen — and been — every species of Liverpool fan down my 38 years of attending Liverpool games.
About 20 years ago I went to a couple of aways with some moody lads who (to my horror) had no concerns about missing the kick-off to a match. The bonhomie of an extra pint in the boozer was worth missing the first five minutes for.
Also, take a look at a Liverpool end five minutes before half-time at any fixture over the last few decades. Our end thins out considerably with top hardcore away-supporting Liverpool lads hitting the exits to beat the queues for that essential half-time scoop. Loads of these are also more than likely not to make it back to their seats precisely in time for the second-half resumption. I know because I’m very much one of them.
But leaving five minutes before the end of a game? It’s not a smart move if the game’s result is in doubt, let’s be right. You do kind of need to be wanting to see how the thing turned out, or why bother going in the first place? But is it a crime against the club and your fellow man? No, it isn’t.
Your fellow man (and woman) happily trundles in late to games and considers the half-time bevvy every bit as important as the fayre the actual team are serving up. Few of us can truly afford to be getting too pious abount total minutes clocked up in front of a football pitch.
Jürgen’s point, which seems hopelessly lost, is about unity and togetherness. He would be appalled if he realised it was being used as a stick by one fan to beat another fan with. The Kloppmeister knows and is preaching like an evangelist that the only way this thing gets to work, gets to come together, is if we all realise we’re in it together. That we take collective responsibility.
He’s after groupthink. Unity. Harmony. Dare it be said, united we stand. Divided we’ll fall. Let’s take that message home with us.
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