FAVOURITE moment from Saturday? For many of the 3,000 lucky enough to be there, it would have been this one. Martin Skrtel, having just slid on his knees towards the away fans, holds his arms aloft in front of the delirious crowd joined by team-mates so keen to join the fun that a few of them ended up on top of some unlucky camera men.
Or maybe it was this one? Having sent the entire team over to thank the travelling support at the end of the game, and shaking hands with all of them, Jürgen Klopp had his own moment with the fans. Fist clenched and wide smiles while the lower tier of Liverpool fans had a mosh pit to Life is Life by Opus.
These got the biggest roars of the day, even bigger than the goals themselves. We love these connections with the players and manager, when we all feel as one. Best moment of last season? This one. By a country mile.
These footballers. We want to adore them. We pretend we don’t sometimes, moaning about wages and prima donnas. It is undoubtedly the case that the disconnect between fans and players has grown as one has gone much wealthier than the other.
We’ve become less likely to see them in a club on a Saturday night, or a pub on a Sunday afternoon. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still love them on the football pitch. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Martin Skrtel in Pogue Mahones in Liverpool, and Roberto Firmino should think strongly about going to The Kazimier before it closes (end of the year, Bobby…yeah I know, our Council, la).
However the real connection with footballers happens on the pitch, and this was always the case. Whether they were propping up the bar of your local or not.
Jürgen Klopp understands this. Which is why he could be key to ensuring the love-in between fans and players increases in intensity. This is partly because he loves footballers, too.
I’ve never known a manager that thinks footballers are brilliant as much as Klopp does. He hugs them to within an inch of their lives. And Simon Mignolet is in the media today saying he loves it. When Jordon Ibe scored the winner against Kazan, he acted like his dad.
We had heard all this from the German’s Dortmund days of course. The special bond he feels with players is rare for the modern manager.
Famously, Shinji Kagawa and Klopp cried in each others arms for 20 minutes on the day Kagawa left Borussia Dortmund. And only 15 minutes of that was because he had to go and live in Manchester.
It’s from a manager who sees his players more than functioning, or otherwise, parts of a squad. It’s infectious.
He also does things to footballers that make you like them more. Namely, he gets them to run a lot. Loads of us football fans are basic, really.
We like lovely bits of skill, sure, but nothing gets the crowd going more than a crunching tackle, or a fella in red chasing a fella in another colour halfway across the pitch.
You hear it a lot. “He puts in 100 per cent.” There are different ways to put in 100 per cent, but running around a lot is the most obvious one for fans to get onto. It can get the crowd on your side from day one. Just ask Danny Ings.
Now there are many reasons why Jurgen Klopp gets his players pressing so hard. The main one being the opposition hates it. But I’m sure he knows the effect it has on the crowd, too.
So Klopp will do his part. By setting the example with his own love for the players, and getting them doing lots of things we love to see on the pitch.
But it is on us, too. To not spend 90 minutes worrying about how much a lad on the pitch is earning, and focusing on certain things he can’t do. To not worry about how a certain player might leave if he gets a better offer, because one of his mates did. To just love them when they are in a red shirt.
Luckily, for us, loads of them are very lovable. Let’s start with Lucas Leiva. He’s been here forever, his lad is in the academy, he tackles more than anyone else in the world and he does this on the pitch all the time.
That first pump. Aside from that you’ve got two other Brazilians who look like they’re going to cut through everyone. Then you’ve got Mamadou Sakho, who within a week last season tried to tackle someone with his head and then turned up to paint someone’s house.
— Chris Morland (@iChrisMorland) February 12, 2015
You’ve got Daniel Sturridge who scored twice against Everton and then spent the next day driving round Liverpool in a Ferrari. Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana just being lovely, lovely fellas. You’ve got Alberto Moreno bouncing round Sefton Park like this.
— Trending UK News (@UKolizer) September 29, 2015
There’s plenty to love. We’ve just got to follow Jürgen’s lead and get stuck in. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Pack in the negativity. Stop calling goalkeepers knobheads on podcasts…(ahem). Get stuck into the Tricky Reds. Get more out of each other.
We might even end up all staying until the final whistle, stranger things have happened.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo