MOST fans believe that top four should be the realistic target, with Jürgen Klopp’s first full season on Merseyside fast approaching, but why can’t we dream like of bigger, asks IAN RYAN.
My book of choice at the minute is Jürgen Klopp’s Biography by Elmar Neveling. Modern technology tells me I’m currently 24% through Jürgen’s journey but in the remaining 76% I doubt I’ll come across a quote that resonates quite as much as the one below – when Jürgen Norbert Klopp had just started his 2nd job in German football as the manager of Borussia Dortmund.
“What we can do is give people a distraction, make people happy. I can’t do anything to improve the political circumstances, I can’t change anything about social reality – but we can give these people a moment of happiness”.
Now that quote might well have been voiced whilst in charge of another club, responsible for the happiness of another set of fans but it’s just as appropriate now as it was in 2008, and my god, do we crave that moment of happiness just as much as those Dortmund fans did eight years ago.
Happiness in football terms could be anything – a cup run, avoiding relegation or if you’re from the other side of Stanley Park, happiness is to win a derby, if only to have the chance to bring out another DVD.
However, for Liverpool fans, happiness used to mean winning the league title.
1990 seems like a lifetime ago. I was 11 years old and the proud owner of a season ticket the last time the Reds were crowned champions of England for the 18th time. I’d love to say I remember every game, every goal, every save but I don’t. I have vague memories of that season, moments of brilliance from John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Ian Rush were never far away but for an 11 year old lad most of it blurs into one. Of course, some stand-out memories will last forever – the 9-0 demolition of Crystal Palace, the derby win at Anfield and that sunny day in April against QPR – coming from behind with goals from Rush and Barnes to secure the title. Those memories burn slightly brighter than most that season but it still doesn’t feel like I’ve seen the reds win the league, not properly.
We came close two years ago, closer than we have for a long time. That would have been different, that would have meant everything. Old enough to enjoy it, old enough to understand it and old enough to be able to remember every single minute of every single game. It wasn’t meant to be but it gave us a taste of what it would be like. To win the league now, with this manager in charge would be incredible. Imagine the scenes.
One of the best things about the 2013/14 season, aside from the obvious joy of watching Luis Suarez terrorise the entire league were the nights out that followed. Seeing the happiness etched on people’s faces, most of which you’d never seen before and probably would never see again.
Those days and nights were glorious. We drank, we sang and we all just got along. No Twitter fume about team selections. No Transfer Committee chat. It was just fans getting behind a group of lads who were playing football without fear, without a care in the world. I want those days and nights back.
So to the present day and Klopp’s Reds – is it too much to expect a title challenge?
Many on social media are demanding the need to remain realistic, fourth would be success this season wouldn’t it? But isn’t it more fun to dream?
We’re football fans, we support one of the most successful clubs in world football, if we can’t dream then what’s the point?
I’ll be honest, 4th place can fuck off. I want the league.
In less than three weeks, I’ll be watching Gary Lineker present Match of the Day in his underpants – honouring a bet he made back in December – to prove stranger things have happened than Liverpool mounting a title challenge in the upcoming season.
In times where cash is king and only the wealthiest can win, Leicester ripped up the rule book last year, proving a team with a decent manager, team spirit and good organisation can achieve the impossible. Some will say, it was a fluke, a one off, other teams were well below their best.
Some of that may be true – but then you see Portugal win the Euro’s. Despite being around joint sixth favourites prior to the tournament, there first three games had many writing them off. But, they had a manager who could find a way, made them hard to beat, tactically switched on and ensuring they always had a threat in the final third. The manager, the first 11, the subs and the fans – they all bought into it.
If we are to mount a title challenge next season, the fans will need to play a massive part. At our best we are a force to be reckoned with, even if we might not have supporters hanging off scaffolding for every game we can make sure we’re in the ground early, fired up and ready to get behind the lads from the first minute until the last.
Sometimes I go the game and think we’ve lost what makes us special, lost what separates us from other fans but at times last year we got our identity back. That Europa League run felt like a flashback to the latter stages of the 2013/14 season, or the early days of Rafa’s reign when we had the rest of Europe on the ropes.
Our league form last season was poor but there’s no doubt the journey to the Europa League final played a significant part in our eighth placed finish. With only domestic football on the horizon, you’d expect a dramatic improvement in our ability to be able to compete with the very best the league has to offer over the next nine months.
At a time when most of our rivals have felt the need to recruit a new manager we surely have an opportunity to take advantage of any settling in period?
Some will say Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are the best in the business but I genuinely wouldn’t swap our manager for anyone. If there is a more perfect fit for Liverpool Football Club than Jürgen Klopp than I haven’t seen him. Football is all about partnerships – he gets us and we get him.
Seven new faces have been brought through the door and added to a squad that already had sprinkles of quality. We now have a greater attacking threat with more pace and the potential for more goals. That extra quality brought in should allow for much more flexibility in how we might set-up and if things aren’t going to plan, we now have a bench full of options, lads capable of coming on and making an impact.
There’s an argument to be made – one which I fully endorse – about the need to improve the defence, and in particular the left back area, but with the new season still a few weeks away, we can have every confidence that behind the scenes there is still work being done.
I’d also hope to see another midfielder coming in, one who could control and dominate the middle of the pitch whilst giving the back-four the protection it needs. Not since the days of Javier Mascherano have we had a gnarly bastard in the middle of the park, getting through the work of two men, doing all the dirty work and allowing the ball players to get on the ball and influence the game. Improve those two areas and any remaining doubters might just start believing.
Anyway, I started this piece with a quote from our manager so it seems only right that I finish with one.
“We will conquer the ball. Yeah? Each fucking time. We will chase the ball. We will run more. Fight more. We will work more together. Better together. We have to find our own way to play. The result is only at the end”.
We go again.
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