THERE’S no doubt that Jürgen Klopp was tempted to Liverpool because he spotted something special about the club; something different, something he could work with and use to his advantage.
Behind the smiles and the stony stare, the quips and the takedowns, in Klopp there’s an old football romantic – an idealist who likes atmospheres so good they whisk you away from everyday life, performances so full of passion and pride that they leave your heart pounding and your fist pumping. Football how it should be minus the circus.
He craves that. That’s his ideal. And in Liverpool, the city and the people, and Anfield, the stadium with its history and its power and its purpose when all is well, Klopp thought he had spotted the perfect place for his personality, his football and his way. He identified some potential synergy.
“We will try to start very emotional football as I think this is important at Anfield,” Klopp said in his first press conference as Liverpool manager in October 2015.
“First you need to have the best atmosphere in the world and then you play.”
For Klopp, a partisan and passionate backing in the stands is not a nice-to-have; it’s part of the plan – a must, a priority, a resource that it’s ridiculous not to tap into when it comes to winning football matches.
Europe adds more spice to the mix. Doing battle on the continent has shaped so much of Liverpool’s identity and 11 European trophies on the Anfield honours board says it all. But that’s history and Liverpool need to make more of it. Starting tonight.
The famous nights at Anfield will always be that: Inter Milan in 1965, Bruges in 1976, St Etienne in 1977, Auxerre in 1991, Barcelona in 2001, Roma in 2002, Olympiakos in 2004, Juventus and Chelsea in 2005, Chelsea in 2007… the list goes on.
But what’s important is that Liverpool can still do it – we have to keep the home fires burning.
Whatever else may fill Kopite brains and occupy Liverpool tongues concerning the football club and how it is run right now, now is not the time for distractions, tonight’s not the night.
Instead, Europe, the Champions League – group stages in touching distance, a chance of more great trips, more great tales and more European nights at Anfield like those in folklore above.
The Europa League ties with Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Anfield’s last taste of Europe – the 3-0 win over Villarreal on May 5, 2016 – are proof that this set of supporters, at this ground, under this manager can do European nights the Liverpool way. We’re not living on a legend, this club can still do Europe.
“The Kop created the best half hour that I’ve had in football. I don’t have to say it was the last half hour against Dortmund, the atmosphere in the stadium was the best I’ve ever had – hopefully not the best I will ever have but it was outstanding.”
That was Klopp, our manager – this manager. And if you were there that night, that was you. Not lads on a black and white film swinging rattles around and singing The Beatles – you, us, this crowd: the modern Liverpool.
Klopp held his pre-Hoffenheim press conference at Anfield last night and after batting away the frankly irrelevant questions about Philippe Coutinho he turned his attention to what is important: tonight’s game, a huge match, a vital tie – and one Liverpool simply must win with the players on the pitch.
“The first game was good enough to get the result, the second game needs to be better,” Klopp said.
“Anfield is a main factor, we all know it. It’s a very special place.
“Nothing happens by itself, we have to perform, deliver. We all know the atmosphere can, and will, help.
“I would be concerned if people would think it’s a weak side coming from Hoffenheim and we need to be dominant and each bad pass gets a moan.
“It will not happen because I know we have a football crowd and they know about the quality. We are ready to fight.”
It’s all the right messages, the drums Klopp has been banging since he arrived. Make Anfield a place that gets the blood pumping of our players and intimidates theirs. Get into the head of the officials. Support the lads who are busting a gut to get the result we’re all so desperate for.
There’s another message there though. For all that Klopp has been impressed by what he has found in L4, it’s clear he has frustrations too.
The early leavers have had both barrels. The moaners are under the microscope too.
He wants it to be right because he knows it can be.
After Liverpool had swept aside United on the pitch in March 2016, and demonstrated to them off it how a European night is done, Klopp said: “It was easy to enjoy from the first till the last second. This was Liverpool how I knew it before I came here so that was really, really great and thank you for this.”
As a Liverpool fan, why would you want it any other way? What does slaughtering them achieve? What does the finger pointing at your own do?
Frustrations are understandable but self control shouldn’t expire when there is a greater good in reach.
Anfield will always have its moaners but tonight they need to be drowned out. Sing, shout and see where we go.
Hoffenheim have been cocky in the run up to tonight, perhaps naively so. Their manager Julian Nagelsmann claims playing at Anfield will be no different to anywhere else. His players claim they were the better side in the first leg. We know better on both counts. This club has never been to Anfield. It’s never done battle in the Champions League in a cauldron of fired-up natives.
We’ve waited too long for another European night, let’s do our bit to secure a few more. Get there, and with this manager – who seems perfect for a toe to toe in a big name continental showdown – and who knows?
Importantly, too, we keep the passport stamps coming and the European tradition of The Reds is kept alive.
As Roy Evans once said: “Liverpool without European football is like a banquet without wine.”
Wine for my men, we ride at dawn. See you there.
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