CHELSEA supporters love Jose Mourinho. They love the absolute bones of him. They will sing his name on Saturday at their game. They will say things on social media that will be mocked because they are deemed over the top or too emotional. They will be angry with their players who have let themselves, their former manager and the football club down.
And I respect this. They should be emotional. How can you not be? They identify with the man. He brought silverware. He knocked the club into shape — the sort of shape where it could win the Champions League in 2012.
The club knocked him into shape — gave him the stage and the licence to be disliked. Think back 10 years when both Mourinho and Chelsea were the nouveau riche. They made sense of each other, Mourinho and those supporters — made one another more despicable, locked in a loving embrace outsiders would hate.
Fair play to them. This is football in its purest form. Us versus them. All the us versus all the them.
There are managers that just make clear sense in places. And some that don’t.
This is why, for all the undertow talk of how Liverpool may have acted cleverly and quickly to secure Jürgen Klopp before Chelsea came knocking, it’s worth remembering that Klopp wanted to be Liverpool manager and that there is no guarantee of success anywhere but especially where you don’t fit. Klopp at Chelsea would have been disjointed because there is a uniqueness to either club, either support.
Some managers fit some clubs and others don’t. Talking to a couple of Manchester United supporters last week, it was clear how much Louis van Gaal simply can’t fit. They don’t want him.
One remarked he would have loved Klopp. “Nah,” said the other. “He doesn’t seem enough of a cunt to be United manager.”
You’d be concerned by Diego Simeone going anywhere but especially Manchester United or Chelsea. Manchester United and Chelsea love being feared and despised. They revel in it. It is their thing. Manchester City want to be loved, want to be fluffy and collegiate, want to be megastars so Pep Guardiola going there is a worry on top of his actual ability as a manager of elite players.
Managers knock clubs into shape. Clubs, supports, knock managers into shape.
Which inevitably brings us to what we want and how we want it. We want the football club to act as a vehicle for the city’s exceptionalism.
Liverpool is an exceptional city in the United Kingdom. Often there is a desire to link it with Belfast or Glasgow. It has as much in common with Manchester as either, in different ways.
Liverpool doesn’t want to be feared or despised. Liverpool doesn’t want your fluffy love. Liverpool wants your staggering respect. Liverpool wants your admiration. It wants you to know it is exceptional, it stands as its own glorious infuriating mad bastard thing, which can so often do your head in whether you like it or not. Liverpool is right, whether it agrees with itself or not. Liverpool is right. 18 leagues and five European Cups. How can we be wrong?
This isn’t a parochialism. Far from it. Liverpool looks outwards from England, yes. Away from the English (with the Mancunian exception we don’t talk about) towards the aforementioned Irish and Scots. Towards the continent, across the oceans.
Liverpool gets French puppets to provide its huge scale street theatre. Allez les verts. Liverpool takes those puppets and makes them Scouse. Allez les Rouges. Had those puppets been from Basingstoke they wouldn’t have got in the place. They wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Respect is a complex thing that has been in relatively short supply at and around many football clubs in recent years. Part of Liverpool’s exceptionalism is that it sits at the heart of many — perhaps too many and almost certainly too knotted — footballing problems. Supporters don’t feel sufficiently respected by football clubs, players and managers. They feel knocked around by television.
Those clubs are too often suspicious of supporters, Liverpool falling over itself at times to find bloody stupid ways to alienate support beyond the industry-wide issue around ticket prices. Footballers seem like distant gilded beings when they are just lads running round the pitch, chasing a ball. We fall back into old certainties, into old ways. Us versus them, yes. But ‘them’ can become the club. At times, ‘them’ can be the actual players while playing football for Liverpool.
It’s in the context of all of this — much of which he probably, thankfully, isn’t even aware of — that Jürgen Klopp does something exceptional and exceptionally un-English when he brings the players over. It’s part of him knocking us into shape.
It’s a bit uncool, especially having failed to win. It’s bit awkward, especially as the players look ropey about it. But it is heartfelt and it is about respect. Mutual respect, mutual admiration — the players are being reminded as much as anyone else. These pay this money and make this noise for you. Don’t forget it.
The only us versus them that can make proper sense is the us being all of us. The them being all of them. Build us up, a bastion of invincibility, make them send a team from Mars to beat us. They all laugh at us, they all mock at us, they all say…
Klopp doesn’t want to be a hero, he’s made that crystal clear. He doesn’t want to be seen as a demi-god. He wants his team and supporters to admire each other. He wants Liverpool’s football and graft to elicit respect.
That’s Liverpudlian — putting a stint in. Forget the English and those across the world who want their football support to be influenced by English football support with its self-imposed rules. Forget all that. Let’s make one another happy.
Allez les Rouges.
Pics: Propaganda-Photo–David Rawcliffe