EVERY game I’m watching him, glancing over at him with some adolescent yearning for approval.
Every time the collective angst in Anfield rises through a slightly sideways Jordan Henderson pass or a Simon Mignolet lob-wedged attempt at a clearance, I find myself wincing in his direction as I know what’s coming.
He doesn’t like us, does he? He doesn’t get us, does he? This isn’t the way this was supposed to work out.
In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about my own indirect relationship with Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. I’ve fascinatingly watched Klopp a lot this season, the shaking of his head, the verbal berating of the discontented voices behind him, the yearning for more both pre and post match from supporters collectively.
To watch it at times is like stretching a rubber band. He snaps, on rare occasions we’ve snapped back and all the time I feel slightly more like the rambunctious German is left feeling crestfallen by the nostalgic perception of Anfield as the ethereal fortress he had once envisaged.
This might just be me; I could be alone in this.
When Klopp first arrived it felt like all our prayers had been answered. Here was a manager who was set to unite everyone and show us the collective direction. We were already well on the road to believers from doubters the minute he waltzed into Anfield sporting in jeans, a suit jacket and shirt.
My own perception of Klopp has been very different to what has evidently transpired. I somewhat unfairly envisaged a manager who would cheerlead The Kop back to its vociferous best, who would lap up the affection shown to a Liverpool manager we feel worthy of verbal endearment from the stands, who would build a team to embody all of our collective anger, joy, hunger to see “it” come back. This is whatever “it” is we now feel missing, as time has skewed the narrative so much you can lose sight of your biggest feeling of loss and identity in football. Whatever all of this was, we felt he would fix it.
Although he has gone some way to fix it, I feel a little foolish about my own preempted assumptions of a man who I really only ever saw through the spectacle of a European highlight reel.
It goes without saying that Klopp has brought a huge amount of passion, emotion and at times a refreshing outlook at life that I for one can hugely relate to, especially when entrenching myself in the vehement environment of modern day elite football.
Yet at times I almost feel disengaged from Klopp. Like he has in some ways given up on us slightly and taken us for the conventional football audience we have arguably become. It is easy to overlook we are by our nature more distrustful than ever before due to past experience, but if I’m honest I expected more from all of us on this journey. More West Brom at home moments, more chest pumps, more gnarl encapsulated with more overwhelming joy and unity. The fact this is so absent and I feel more and more like we’re all guilty of coasting is something I now find I’m struggling with at every game I attend.
Is it me? Am I alone in this?
Maybe we all need to have it out. Maybe Jürgen and his players need to summon up some Delia Smith-type Dutch courage prior to the next game and take to the centre circle armed with a microphone and let us all have it. Let the captain tell us he really doesn’t get the criticism he gets at times, let the manager tell us that when we all get nervous it affects the whole environment and all of his players as a result, let Albie Moreno tell us what he had for his breakfast and that he is going out on his scooter when he gets home. You get the gist.
I am of course, being slightly facetious. My point however is that I can’t help but feel something has to give with all of this, that we all need to change this. The Liverpool manager needs a change of tact slightly, to fully trust us as a crowd and let us in more. To encourage us more, to not restrict us on what we sing and when we sing it.
The club needs to change and actually address the atmosphere issue in line with all of the improvements they’ve made to the community around Anfield. They need to realise that if they can address this and actually encourage it, the thing they actually market as an attraction for supporters worldwide would actually be seen more often and monotonous away chants about our famous atmosphere could actually be drowned out on occasion.
And then there’s us as match-going fans. We feel tired in parts, in need of livening up in others, we need to open up the songbook and create beatific pop-filled bangers which incorporate the names of Mo Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Honestly, if we can’t make a decent song out of Trent and Chamberlain’s glorious tongue-tying treble barrelled names then I give up.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Maybe Klopp should not be doing all this by himself. In previous years, there have always been managers on the pitch, embodiments of the boss’s vision and players the crowd can identify with as true characters. Graeme Souness, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and to lesser extent Dirk Kuyt and Pepe Reina, were all able to rouse and personify the overall aim and objective in how they played, albeit naturally in most cases with those players and their tenacious natures.
It’s valid to argue this team needs more natural leaders and characters flowing through it to help bring out all of Klopp’s personality when they pass the white line. All of this cannot and should not be placed on the shoulders of the current captain.
There is also the disparity between fan culture in England and other countries. The questions about the Anfield atmosphere have been examined in many forms over the years. I often wonder whether was it ever what we nostalgically believe it was, other than in the fleeting moments.
At our best, we’ve always been there when we were truly needed by the team. At our worst, we’ve been disjointed and muted by our own mundane sense of expectancy and longing. What we cannot therefore be is a constantly lulled, choreographed wall of background noise that you experience from European counterparts in Germany and beyond. This is an impulsive crowd that reacts to passion, to any form of resistance, to football being played one million miles an hour.
All of this culminates in a feeling of wanting more. We can all fix this, as fans we can drown out the discerning voices around us, the minority. Those people who just want to see the world burn. We own some of them, we can’t pretend otherwise.
As a manager, Klopp can choose not to berate the collective if they sing his name or when they decide to symphonise a collective rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as a match nears an end.
As a club, Liverpool can do all they can to integrate socialism, atmosphere and attitude in all the ways we know they could and should do more often.
Every game I’m watching him, needing his approval, wondering if he likes me. None of this should matter but it does.
So let us in, Jürgen. It’s time we took the next step together. It’s time we took our relationship to the next level.