LIVERPOOL won — and won well, coming back from a goal down to the champions — at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Not that you’d know it looking at some of the mainstream media ever since. It’s been Jose Mourinho this, Jose Mourinho that, Chelsea’s mistakes and the Stamford Bridge crisis.
The smell of managerial blood is thick in the air. So who cares about Liverpool and what could prove to be a significant win on the road in the Jürgen Klopp revolution?
Well, we do, obviously. And lost among the fallout since the Reds’ 3-1 win in London was a small window on how Klopp could soon have us tumbling over seats, punching the air, hugging strangers and singing ourselves hoarse on a regular basis.
To outsiders looking in, the moment Klopp berated fourth official Lee Mason and immediately followed it up by fronting José Morais, a member of Chelsea’s backroom staff, might have been little more than a sideshow to the main event.
But for many Reds it was a moment to make the heart skip — and more evidence that we’ve got the right man patrolling the Liverpool technical area week in, week out.
It’s all about what you want from a manager — how he can best serve, recognise and represent the fans and the city.
And lots of Liverpool supporters want a man with passion, with fight — a man who won’t take nonsense from the opposite dugout, or from journalists asking stupid questions, or from players who are too big for their boots.
He’s not a manager (yet) but when you see Jamie Carragher candidly admitting on Monday Night Football that Chelsea and Liverpool don’t like each other, it’s that kind of honesty we respect and yearn for in a world too over-exposed to media-trained PR soundbites.
We’ve seen the two sides to Klopp in his press conferences: the charm, the smile and the clever answers on one side; the frown, the glare and the cutting replies on the other.
Fighting the fight was something Brendan Rodgers didn’t always get to grips with. He had his moments — serving up a metaphorical dig in the ribs to David Moyes after Liverpool bossed it 3-0 at Old Trafford with this line (after Moyes had declared the Reds to be favourites pre-match): “I was probably surprised when I heard we were supposedly coming to Old Trafford as favourites. I would never say that at Liverpool — even if I was bottom of the league.”
He also had a pop at Mourinho, accusing him of “parking two buses”. By the end though it felt like he was fighting his fight, not Liverpool’s, with the accusations of “hysteria” and people “outside the club” with an agenda against him particularly hard to stomach.
Before Rodgers, we had Kenny Dalglish for his second spell and he knew all about the good fight. Traditionally spiky in press conferences, he took on the managerial fighting trait a step further when he told Arsene Wenger to “piss off” (and to “fuck off” for good measure).
The Luis Suarez t-shirts with hindsight… hmmm. But even that was motivated — however misguided in that circumstance — by fighting for the Liverpool cause, sticking up for your own, taking no nonsense.
It was something Dalglish did in his first spell at the club, too, famously so after a 3-3 draw between Liverpool and Manchester United in 1988 when Alex Ferguson was furious about having a man sent off.
As The Purple One threatened to spontaneously combust, Dalglish walked past his rival in the tunnel while carrying his young daughter Lauren, saying to the radio interviewer speaking to Ferguson: “You’d be better off talking to my baby. She’s only six weeks old but you’d get more sense from her than him.”
Maybe all this shouldn’t matter, but it does. Because when you’re passionately living your support for your club every day you want to see that your manager does something approaching the same.
It must feel good for the players, too, to know they have a manager who will come out swinging if needed. Bill Shankly famously said: “For a player to be good enough to play for Liverpool, he must be prepared to run through a brick wall for me then come out fighting on the other side.” To get that buy in, surely the manager must display the same traits.
It’s why for many Liverpool fans there remains a fond fascination with Rafa Benitez — and a deep hatred for Roy Hodgson.
Because while Benitez undoubtedly loved the fight – with the owners, with Ferguson, with just about anyone – Hodgson never did.
Remember when Ferguson accused Fernando Torres of cheating in the 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford? “He made an absolute meal of it to get our player sent off,” he told the media.
That’s a fight your corner moment. And what did Hodgson do? He said this: “Sir Alex is entitled to any opinion he wants to have but I’m not going to come here and say I agree or disagree.”
Entitled to any opinion he wants?
Or the time Manchester United was linked with a move for Torres. “We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” says Hodgson. “We wouldn’t sell to them in a million years,” is what we wanted to hear.
There are more, many more (see here). Remember him lauding “the great man Mourinho” for his view that “Liverpool will get worse and worse”?
It’s why Hodgson’s sacking was much a cause for celebration among Liverpool fans as the appointment and impression of Klopp so far is now. He was wrong, this man is right.
Liverpool are competing at the top end of football in a fight, an unfair one — every advantage needs to be played on, every possible edge exploited. Including getting a manager who understands what he is working with.
When the Reds have a leader in charge who is worthy of the name, who will fight the fights and inspire fans and players, Liverpool are a force to be reckoned with.
We’re not there yet. But at least it feels like we’re heading in the right direction with a man who knows how to battle and has a track record to prove it.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo