IT is one of those strange football contradictions: you never quite know what you are going to get from Jürgen Klopp, even when asking the most simple of questions.
Yet the manager strives for a form of consistency; a predictability even, in his forcefulness that all visits to Anfield should be a prospect that consumes opponents with dread.
I remember interviewing Francis Lee, Manchester City’s stocky part-time centre forward, full-time provocateur. Liverpool considered signing him from Bolton Wanderers in the 1960s before City moved in and this is catalogued in Secret Diary of a Liverpool Scout (details to follow conveniently — especially with Christmas coming soon).
Lee was dubbed Lee Won Pen, when later he fell too easily while playing for Derby County against Leeds United in the mud of the old Baseball Ground. It prompted a scrap with Norman Hunter featuring a thump that George Foreman would have been satisfied with.
Lee was fearless. I thought he was exaggerating when he claimed that he couldn’t remember winning a single game at Anfield despite “at least a dozen or so” attempts.
Quick trawls through history books reveal Lee was right. In 12 games at Anfield, he lost eight and drew four. He reasoned that the crowd influenced the outcome — and this wasn’t misty-eyed codswallop or a consequence of Beatles songs being played on the public address system while the Kop swayed simultaneously.
“They were moaners at Anfield,” he told me. “The linesmen must have had a hell of a time. He must have worried about where his car was parked, let me tell you. I remember winning a throw-in once. I felt like celebrating.”
There have been other articles published on the Anfield Wrap since Klopp targeted the issue of atmosphere inside the stadium in the aftermath of the first defeat of his reign, focusing particularly on crowd reaction to setbacks.
Lee had insisted that above everything else, Anfield’s mystique arose from the team he was facing: the players and particularly, the manager in charge of them, Bill Shankly.
I interviewed Lee in 2009 and even then, 28 years after Shankly’s death, Lee continued to call him “Mr. Shankly.” In passing commentary elsewhere during the conversation, Brian Clough remained “Brian Clough” and Don Revie, “Don Revie”.
It takes a special character to manage Liverpool. I am convinced that at this moment in the club’s history, it needed someone with a remarkable ability and personality to make it rise again because above him — at boardroom level — it is yet to be proven in five years of ownership that the people who can help make Liverpool successful on the pitch are in place.
Thinking they can’t really have an effect — that results are dictated absolutely by players, managers, coaches, scouts and a bit of luck — is a rejection of responsibility. Shankly leant on Peter Robinson for support. Where is Liverpool’s Peter Robinson presently?
So here we are with Klopp, a manager who in less than a month has achieved what his predecessor did not in three-and-a-bit seasons: away victories at two of the clubs consistently referred to as being part of the top-four status quo.
After trashing City at the weekend, Klopp mentioned that he wished the victory had been at home, at Anfield, and the comment is significant.
Away is good, because it reflects a team’s potential, but it’s at home where confidence and reputations are really built — where the fear originates and begins to spread like fire in a wood, as it did in the brilliant 2013-14 season under Brendan Rodgers before all of his work was undone in one slash-and-burn summer.
Rodgers spoke a lot, of course, but Klopp has a command of his words, a real trust.
“I would love to win a game like this at Anfield,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure our fans want to stay 20 minutes after the whistle.”
And then he was asked how this happens.
“If you are stuck in the forest and its dark and you are afraid and someone tells you not to be, it doesn’t work,” he said. “It’s your own mind. Only you can affect that.”
In placing an emphasis on the individuality of the players, he is putting himself under pressure to find a solution.
Just as it is overlooked that Leicester City’s surge to the top of the Premier League has coincided with a generous fixture list that has included only five games against last season’s top 10 — and three of them were at home, two of which were with Arsenal and Tottenham, and neither ended in victory — it hasn’t really been widely acknowledged that Liverpool have already played Chelsea, both Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Tottenham, Stoke City and Everton away from Anfield, achieving a reasonable tally of 12 points from a possible 21 in those encounters.
It means that Liverpool’s season will now be defined by their home games and Klopp clearly appreciates that.
It explains why he is highlighting it. It illustrates, too, that Klopp is more pragmatic and rationally minded than he appears to be, not just an emotional vessel, who attempts to navigate the high tides of feeling based merely on instinct.
The reputation does not seem to annoy him because he likes the attention that accompanies being branded as different, certainly in the generic industry in which he works. Perhaps the caricature disguises the reality, that he is actually a manager with deep tactical thought and a vision of how to execute those thoughts practically.
“When people speak about other persons, in this case about me, they make it black or white often; because they don’t know this person personally,” he said before the win over City.
By cuffing Jordon Ibe across the face or by giving him, or any of his team-mates, a bear hug it suggests that Klopp is a man ruled by passion.
Yet maybe there is more to him than that. Perhaps his tactile spirit is a method of control: telling players that the 6ft 4ins German bloke with floppy blond hair, glasses and a tracksuit is not afraid to handle you; that the player, indeed, is not too old for a slap — that dealing with reputation and ego is not beyond his governance.
Maybe truth is in the contradiction.
– Secret Diary Of A Liverpool Scout is available in paperback from Amazon and all leading bookstores
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo
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Everybody has a rational part of their personality and an emotional part. Most of us have a preference for one aspect or the other.
Like all good leaders, Klopp appears to be really skilled at accessing both parts of his personality and using the appropriate style in different circumstances. He is analytical and rational when planning tactics, and emotional when encouraging individual players and us as fans. A less skilled individual might use only their preferred style in all circumstances. So we see very emotional people who aren’t particularly good tacticians (based on limited evidence admittedly, but it might be argued that Tim Sherwood is of this type). And we see analytical/logical people who aren’t very good at managing individual people (I suspect that Rafa might be like this but gets away with it most of the time because he is an exceptionally skilled tactician).
On what we’ve seen so far, and as you’ve observed Simon, Jurgen uses both styles. Sometimes he’s emotional and passionate: sometimes he’s analytical and logical. Even more impressively, he seems to choose the most appropriate styles for different circumstances and do so very naturally.
As he says, he’s not “black and white”. And that is a massive strength.
Klopp’s main strength is his ability to make people want him to like them. As fans, we talk about what he thinks of us, as much as what we think of him. It wouldn’t surprise me if the hacks are the same.
I don’t think he cares what anyone thinks of him, because he is confident enough to know he always does the right thing or at least tries to.
His imposing physicality and casual strength, combined with his positive outlook and determination to enjoy life is a potent cocktail.
Football is full of bullies and braggarts. Most find some way of betraying their fundamental lack of self-belief. Klopp is rare, in that he genuinely looks comfortable in his own skin and in the world in which he inhabits.
We might not kill this one.
Which is quite different from someone from LVG. Sure LVG has been generally successful but he’s not really lasted that long at any one place, has he?
Not quite right Si, Franny Lee twatted the cowardly Hunter who was left slithering about on is arse.
Klopp’s one in a million, what else is there to say? He truly is a special one.
Tactics, check, PR skills, check, people skills, check, charisma, check. He has the lot. Smart too.
you forgot the bit about him probably being hard as fucking nails if need be. I’d not like to get on wrong side of Jurgen Klopp. He won’t fuck about.
Yes like kind old Uncle. Bob and Genial Joe
Agree entirely with this and have thought since the start that he is cleverly using his emotional side to get important messages through deliberately rather than just winging it.
He’s walked into a big club, seen a talented bunch of players whose confidence is at rock bottom and a fanbase all too eager to get on their backs.
Since then he’s geared himself to repair both those things. Firstly, by reminding the players of what they’re capable of but more importantly by getting them into a settled line up, with a more solid defensive aspect and also, crucially, a more balanced response to both victories and defeats. Just keep reminding them of what he wants, praising the good and correcting the bad. The Palace game then gave him the chance to have a little go at the fans and remind them of their role in this.
He paints it all with a Nicholson-esque grin and more enthusiasm than a box of puppies but the message shouldn’t be mistaken for being as professionally and carefully composed as anything Rafa could come up with; he just presents it much more warmly.
Klopp’s a naturalist psychologist. When Rodgers said something I got the feeling there was more to the comment than met the eye but in a negative way (sorry Ellie). When Klopp says something I think there’s always a hidden message somewhere. Maybe I’m just like that guy who was found sleeping in John Lennon’s garden and in a round about way asked John if he was thinking about him when he wrote the songs. He’s become such a hero of mine I’m maybe looking too much into his every word, haha. I do see him as as much a psychologist as a manager. I think he’s gonna heal our wounds.
When he came over to the Liverpool fans after the city game he was like a godlike figure. I’ve seen Paisley walk over to the Kop a few times and salute us but don’t have any recollection of Shankly. I’m guessing saturday was the closest you could to how it must have felt when Shankly came over. Let me make it clear to the wankers who comment on here and look for any excuse to try and look smart, I’m not comparing them after 6 weeks in the job. But, when he came over I sensed a man I completely trusted. I trust him to get the best out of the players, I trust he knows what he’s doing and I trust he can get the best out of the fans. I’ve loved the last few weeks debating about how shit are fans are. I appreciate it’s a complex situation but it needed saying.
After saying that, I suppose it’s more accurate to say, I’m fully convinced he knows what he’s doing away from home. I have full confidence he’ll fix our home form but it’s a different style required than counter attacking football. We struggle breaking shite down. I’ll be honest, I’ve been to games when I’ve been a little hungover, feeling cold and thinking I can’t really be arsed with this today. I mean, no one else seemed arsed i.e. the players and the Kop so why should I. Now, I go to games pumped up because I know we’ve got a manager who wants it as much as I do on a good day. I know the players will be pumped up in the hope a good performance might earn a hug and who can blame them? Jesus! On Sunday I felt rough and I started thinking if only I could get a little hug of Jurgen. Everything would seem ok, haha.
I’m convinced Klopp can bring the good times back and if he does then the crowd follow. I really feel we’ve got a man who we can look up to with confidence. If Klopp can’t make Anfield a fortress with his combination of excellent football knowledge, psychology and humble attitude then no one can.