A grinning Jürgen Klopp — clearly buoyed by the best home performance of the season — was on the pitch embracing his players as usual. As he congratulated the last of them, just yards outside the penalty area at the Kop end, he cast a brief glance upwards towards the fans.
Half of them had gone, the rest were on their way to the exits. Klopp reluctantly turned his back and headed for the tunnel. No defiant salute, no acknowledgment, not even a cheery wave.
It could have been the ideal moment to express that players and manager appreciated the backing from the thousands at Wembley; that the pain of the weekend’s defeat had been channelled into producing a landmark performance and that we kick on from here — together.
But, Klopp would have looked daft conducting a bonding session with a half-empty ground. Sure, it was a midweek night and we’ve all got work in the morning. Yes, it was in the wake of crushing dismay at losing a cup final. And, it was hard to recall a league fixture which on the face of it, mattered so little in the build up.
By half-time though everyone was buzzing. There was excited chit chat on the concourse under The Kop and the positivity carried on throughout the second half with a brilliant third goal. We had moved on and a night that could have sounded the death knell to our league campaign suddenly renewed hope for an end-of-season charge.
The irony though is that a half-hearted attempt at You’ll Never Walk Alone on 85 minutes was the signal, like someone ringing a bell, for everyone to get off.
New paragraph. I’ll get back to the point in a minute. Lads, there’s no need for You’ll Never Walk Alone at the end of every bloody game.
Back in the day, we only sang our anthem to signal a magnificent fightback or, very occasionally, to soothe after a heroic defeat — in massive games.
This season, we sang it four times against Carlisle fucking United in the third frigging round of the League Cup. Once at the start, again at 90 mins, for good measure another crap rendition at half-time in extra time, and all over again before penalties. Against Carlisle United. Madness.
We’ve turned our hymn of battle, which once inspired generations of greats to Leagues and European cups into a ritualistic piece of end-of- evening nonsense.
Once it’s out of the way, You’ll Never Walk Alone — now a chore completed akin to emptying the dishwasher — we can all go home. Or so it seems.
Of course, this isn’t the only trigger for people leaving before the end. Some fans will have justifiable reasons for an early dart, but the en masse departure of thousands just sends out the wrong message; a message an intuitive person like Klopp will pick up on.
Kloppo won’t be up to speed or particularly arsed with congestion on Walton Lane, the scramble for the Soccer Bus, or the long walk to Bank Hall station.
How long before Klopp begins to think; it’s too hard to connect with this lot? They’ve all gone home before I get the chance to say “Guten Nacht”. And, let’s not forget his words back in the autumn when a Crystal Palace winner sounded the exit bell. Later, against West Brom, he led the players to salute the fans for their support.
In different circumstances the other night, we saw that his plea for us to stay to the end and connect with the team has fallen largely on deaf ears. How long before Klopp senses the human raw materials he used at the Westfalenstadion to create a hugely powerful collective, simply aren’t present at tired, old Anfield?
A massive part of his managerial philosophy is to harness the power of the supporters through a key relationship with players.
In this country, recreating what he had at Dortmund is a huge challenge. We just don’t feel the same about our cosseted, super-rich footballers. The Bundesliga lads are hardly paupers but there is more of a connection between players and fans who aren’t paying through the nose.
Supporters in Germany are closer in age to their counterparts on the pitch with enthusiasm and energy to match. No-one should expect swathes of middle-aged Liverpudlians to be swinging their shirts above their heads, but it’s not too much to ask that we stay until the final whistle and send them off with cheers ringing in their ears at the end of a good night’s work
Until we get that, how can Klopp recreate and foster Shankly’s Holy Trinity of manager, players and fans; united as we embrace this new era?
The supreme irony is that away from Anfield, everyone is buzzing off Klopp. Results haven’t been quite what we would have hoped for, but things are looking up and there are signs his influence is beginning to rub off on the team.
Fans are hanging on his every last word and the internet is awash with clips and vines of his latest soundbite or comedy moment.
The more mature among us respect his more serious and astute analysis of players and performance as we read between the lines and see who he fancies for next season. Inside the ground though, there is nothing for Klopp to sense the esteem in which he is held by the supporters; not even a a simple song widely adopted to gladden his heart.
The debate over atmosphere, ticket prices and access, and the changed demographic of the Liverpool crowd is a red-herring here. There are still 40,000-plus people inside Anfield, all of whom love the Reds and even more so in some cases, Klopp. But, we’re giving him nothing to feed off; nothing for him to create the synergy that is the crux of his managerial ethos.
He would be hard pressed to guess that for Liverpool fans he’s already a hero six months into his Anfield career. He might even wonder what he’s done wrong as we routinely head for the exits without singing his name.
“You come out and the place explodes — out of the darkness, into the light. You look to your left and it seems like there’s 150,000 people up on the terrace all going completely nuts.”
Dortmund’s Yellow Wall is a far cry from any stale terrace in the Premier League, the Kop included. It’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll ever create such passion in England ever again.
No doubt Klopp was sold a vision of support at Liverpool that would match his love affair with those on the Südtribüne in Germany. It was a false promise, but at the very least we should be trying to kid him a while longer.