JÜRGEN Klopp’s journey from touchline to press room after the final whistle fascinates me. I would like to be able to follow him and observe, especially after occasions like Villarreal where it seems as though passion has carried him to another place. How does he find a way back to sanity?
In that period, he addresses his players. He also has short television interviews to complete. Sometimes, he will look at replays. There is only a tiny window to rationalise his thoughts and become a calmer person capable of delivering a clear message as well as considered analysis at reasonable length.
In the madness of the event and among all of the other quotable lines, maybe we overlooked an admission and a compliment last Thursday — that maybe Liverpool had achieved his idea of football perfection by being “emotional and smart” in the victory.
There is so much focus on the way Klopp appears to be. Amid the technical area prowling, the rabble-rousing and the wild celebrations, there is a chance we have overlooked the inner Zen — his ability to interpret coldly and quickly before acting accordingly.
Re-reading an interview with Steve Peters, Liverpool’s former psychiatrist, conducted in 2013 by The Independent’s redoubtable Ian Herbert, made me think about Klopp and why he is among the elite in his profession.
It might be a risk quoting Peters when related to the current Liverpool manager because it was Brendan Rodgers who brought him to the club and not, of course, Klopp.
During the 2013-14 season, Peters’ role was awarded a lot of coverage and possibly too much at a point where Liverpool seemed to forget it might be a good idea to keep their secrets private, especially if they were working well.
Critics would say this is where Rodgers displayed his inexperience. So much was said and written about Peters that it began to seem as though Liverpool had some kind of voodoo warrior behind them; a force that opponents would worry about because they could not figure out why, precisely, he was sitting on the substitutes’ bench in full tracksuit, as he did in a game at West Ham.
Because Liverpool did not win the league and because Rodgers is no longer in charge, it does not make Peters’ theories or practice irrelevant, however.
His book, The Chimp Paradox, explores how the brain comprises a rational “human” element and an emotional, rash “chimp” component, with a third part, “the computer”, storing information and history.
Peters had worked with Chris Hoy, the cycling champion, and when speaking to The Independent, he told the story of how at a World Championships, he saw Hoy staring at a giant screen having discovered that a rival had broken his record. Hoy had not prepared for this and Peters was concerned by what he saw, appreciating it would cause anxiety and possibly affect the performance that followed. Instead Hoy defeated the chimp, responding immediately by setting his own world record.
Having fallen to such a late defeat in the first leg to Villarreal, I checked my phone just as we began the journey home an hour after the match had finished. Many of my friends were concerned and I could understand why. Liverpool were seconds away from an excellent performance and result. The outcome was flattening.
Villarreal rejoiced. Their manager Marcelino skipped around the touchline with his arms out. It was all very triumphant and yet, it was still only half time.
There had been confrontation between Klopp and Marcelino during the game and I figured Klopp would be in a bristling, frustrated mood when meeting the media so soon afterwards, maybe even downcast.
Instead he switched on the charm before finishing with a warning — even a threat — putting it on the toes of Villarreal’s players, questioning whether they’d be able to deal with the pressure of Anfield.
It reminded me a bit of the time Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest conceded three goals at home against Cologne in the 1979 European Cup semi-final first leg, to draw 3-3. Cologne’s equaliser had arrived with five minutes to go. “We’re despondent obviously having surrendered the lead,” Clough said. “But we’re far from out of the competition. I hope there isn’t anyone stupid enough to write us off…”
With that, Forest progressed. With that, Liverpool progressed, too. Klopp, Clough and Hoy and all witnessed the same disappointments but straight away, they were able to rationalise their feelings and get back on the offensive.
Perhaps it is in these moments, they reveal themselves as winners.
Like a boss.