JÜRGEN Klopp’s post-Newcastle debacle press conference made for an interesting watch for a number of reasons.
First, it was clear he was absolutely fuming and in no mood for bullshit after Liverpool undid much of their recent good work in front of the watching millions.
For all the goofy grins, endearing smiles and jokey moments, it doesn’t take too much dot joining to conclude that when the 6ft 4ins German wants to crack the whip, he is more than capable of doing so. He’s a heart-on-the-sleeve fella, and just like he was still turning over how Liverpool lost to “fucking Palace” weeks later you can bet that this Tyneside tumble will be at the forefront of his mind for weeks to come.
He cut to the chase in front of the assembled media. Liverpool were poor throughout. Newcastle deserved it. Everything had gone wrong. And on a day like that, he would have been happy for Liverpool to escape with a “dirty draw” as he described it. Just get out with something in other words, anything. Know it’s not your day and dog your way to a point. An art Liverpool are yet to master, and a skill Klopp will now add to his lengthening to-do list.
Alberto Moreno had scored a “world class” goal, he said, but perhaps because Liverpool were so “shit”, the linesman had decided the Reds couldn’t have it.
No turd polishing. No spin. It wasn’t good enough. He knows. You can bet the players know. And will be reminded again and again.
The theme continued.
Klopp was then taken down an oft-travelled road of newspaper parlance when a football team falls on its face. Was this a “wake-up call”? Had Liverpool learned their lesson after all the tips for a title chase and talk of a charge to the top of the league? Was it a “reality check”?
Stoney-faced, Klopp replied: “Everybody on your side of the table maybe (said we were title contenders). I didn’t hear anybody on this side of the table talking about it.
“I have no problem with anything you might talk about, but please don’t ask me now about this — I didn’t say before we were title contenders, so why I should say now that we’re not?”
It was an interesting point, particularly in the wake of some supporter debates over the weekend, some of which suggested fans shoudn’t load high expectations on the team by talking of titles.
I disagree. And I’ll venture that Klopp would, too. Clearly, everyone doesn’t think the same way, and life would a drag if we had the same thoughts. But surely manager and players at Liverpool would expect supporters to be excited after watching their team undress Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton by scorelines of 3-1, 4-1 and 6-1?
Surely they wouldn’t think it unreasonable that supporters travelled to Tyneside to watch the Reds face a side that had chalked up just two league wins and expected victory.
And surely they wouldn’t begrudge fans looking at a fixture list that doesn’t look particularly challenging in black and white until the middle of January and daring to dream.
Yet theories have been floated this weekend that fans are somehow adding to the pressure on the players. And that by “deluding” ourselves of Liverpool’s true level we’re some kind of collective embarrassment to the sporting world.
Neither washes. Being a professional sportsman involves pressure. Playing for Liverpool involves pressure. Playing in front of big crowds, with your every move scrutinised to the nth degree is pressure. The players are well rewarded for it. And if they crack, or can’t take it, they are moved on. They are replaced with better. Sport’s ruthless. Liverpool need to be ruthless. And I think Klopp is ruthless.
So what we — as a collective, Liverpool fans — say and do outside of match days? What we write, what we say? Can’t imagine it is influencing too much, to be honest, when it comes to taking to the field.
Don’t get me wrong, I saw plenty in that Liverpool performance yesterday that hinted that the team on the day was not psychologically in the right place. Unforced errors aplenty, no runs at some times and the wrong runs at others. Simple things poorly executed.
It’s more than possible that some of this was down to the context. Nathaniel Clyne mentioned it in his post-match interview. Manchester City losing, Chelsea losing, Manchester United drawing…it felt like a big opportunity for Liverpool to deliver a convincing performance. They were being talked up, by Koeman, by McClaren, by the media, by the bookies. They fluffed their lines. But was that down to supporters getting excited? To fans sensing an opportunity in a league lacking an outstanding team? Doubt it. Noise around the game is there for every team, 24/7.
If you can’t hope, dream and enjoy yourself as a football supporter, what’s the point? It’s the unexpected that keeps us coming back. Why fans fill grounds. Why they fork out for telly subscriptions. Because there’s always a chance. Always the possibility. Yesterday, Newcastle defied odds of 6-1 to beat Liverpool. After all that had come before, I’m sure the Geordies enjoyed a good drink last night. The boot has been on the other foot plenty of times.
Yes, Liverpool’s capitulation at St James’ was an unexpected dig to the gut after what had come before but it has to be viewed in context, something that is perhaps easier today than it was yesterday. Klopp, working with an inherited squad and injuries to key players at key times has got some fans talking about titles after just 12 games in charge.
Of those 12, he has won seven, drawn three and lost two, with Liverpool scoring 21 goals and conceding 10. The Reds are in the semis of the League Cup, have progressed in the Europa League and are just six points off third place in the Premier League. It’s hardly time for tearing out of hair.
Klopp has consistently batted away talk of miracles and magic, of title challenges and being the best right now. And that’s fair enough. He’s got a lot on. He’s got to assess what he’s got, target what he can get and achieve results in the meantime. So far, pretty good. Newcastle will add to his knowledge of what is right and what is wrong about the current set up.
And as for us fans, would he have a problem with us talking about him turning it round quickly? About us still glancing at the table and wondering?
Isn’t that just believing instead of doubting, the atmosphere he is trying to foster among supporters?
As the manager hinted, what he says to his players and within the club is one thing and what he says to us and the media is another. They are different facets of the job and he expects different things from the different sections; the media, the fans, the players.
Our job is easy: support. And enjoy it.
Twenty five years of watching the Reds not win the league always has me worrying when I sense fans are getting carried away with opportunities to lift number 19. But I don’t begrudge them. We’re just different. And the idea it’s creating something to mock from people outside the Liverpool bubble?
Well since when have we given two fucks about that?
The Reds are still coming up the hill, look who’s leading them. I’m not sure when we’ll get to the top but I’ll always dream of getting there. As Jürgen said: “Saying everything is alright after a few weeks is crazy.”
Good job we’ve got this fella for three years then.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo