I HAVE spent a lot of time recently thinking about Roald Dahl and his sheer unapologetic brilliance.
There’s an attitude to what Dahl wrote. It is something about being determined to be awkward and ungainly. That being those things is simultaneously something to be, something to desire and exploit — a life to live but occasionally something to mock. Huge characters. Witches, Friendly Giants, chocolate factory owners. Words. Frobscottle. Crodsquinkled. Vermicious Knids.
Miss Trunchbull grabbing children by the hair and swirling them round. Veruca Salt. Mike Teevee. Danny, the Champion of the World.
I can’t stop thinking about Dahl. Him taking an enormous universe and making it bigger. Every sentence expanding brains, young brains at that.
The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar, the man who can see through cards and gave all his winnings to charity.
Klopp is like a Dahl character. In games like today’s — dull, frankly — he’s compelling. Bigger than the pitch in front of him. Bigger than the players. He’s outsized. Enthralling and ridiculous. Miss Turnbull swirling underperforming squad players round his head. Gentle and charismatic, switching to larger than life fury. He could be drawn by Quentin Blake. His body angular. His face generous to characterisation.
Since he arrived, much of this campaign, in which Liverpool have finally finished eighth, has been obscured by these features, these explosions, this charisma. You’ve seen him get more from many of these players than seemed plausible. He’s given lads a chance. But 10 per cent more doesn’t become enough. Willing but limited. Smith labouring at full back an example. He isn’t alone.
Generally, it isn’t enough. You can fill your own mitigating circumstances in at your own pace but eighth isn’t good enough in these parts. Wednesday night is a dream to blow into our heads through a trumpet but a dream that needs to become a constant reality; needs to become bread and butter. It isn’t a difficult path to make it bread and butter. Liverpool finished 11 points off second. Practically nothing in real terms.
Today though emphasised that doing that and having quality in other tournaments will be difficult. The only side above us whose season hadn’t finished mid-April for better or worse is Manchester United. And they will be underwhelmed with their finish and points total. This is a league which takes its toll. Which knocks lumps out of you.
Today Liverpool earned their point with graft and the moment of purest quality in the game. Ibe doing what has been too fleeting. Running at them and finishing. It is his first league goal for Liverpool. Suspect it will be his last but today isn’t the day for that.
Some of those lads will not play for Liverpool again. I hope they have enjoyed the chocolate factory. I hope they have taken the sheer life out of the giant peach. Because what else is it, this thing, if it isn’t life enriching?
Wednesday to come for a different set of Reds broadly speaking. Wednesday that defines a season and defines careers. Wednesday, either way a milestone on a journey. Liverpool in the great glass elevator. Where shall we stop? Milner, Can, Sturridge and Lovren will have a lot to say about that.
So will Klopp. Screaming and shouting. Kissing and cuddling. Business to do but it can never be too business-like. Never in a million years. It is more. It is life.
At the final whistle a visibly upset Martin Skrtel approaches us. He claps almost tentatively. Kloppo grabs him. Hugs him. In that moment loves him, just loves him more than you would think possible. Marks him as his when he is leaving Liverpool presumably at Klopp’s behest. But this. This thing. These lads. Us. All the us. All the Reds. Be happy that you got this, Martin. Be happy that we have this, Reds. Be happy in this moment. Full with love, enormous Quentin Blake-drawn love. The opposite of the Grand High Witch.
Jürgen, the Champion of the World.