“IT’S always this little plus if they come from Liverpool.
“If I have two players, same quality, but one speaks proper English and the other one speaks Scouse, the Scouser is in!
“That’s why we are Liverpool.”
It’s a small statement from Jürgen Klopp, but it is music to this city’s ears.
While so much has happened at the club down the years, one of the feelings that was hard to escape was that, as Liverpool spiralled into the globalised world of modern football, it had left the community that surrounded it behind.
It could be argued that it started under Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but in truth their reign and constant boardroom battles with fan favourite Rafa Benitez were just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
There was a point where it felt as though the only thing the community had to cling to within the club was the presence of an ageing Steven Gerrard in the side. They were desperate times.
The days where an endless production line of talent from the local area were long gone, it felt as though we’d never see another Gerrard, Jamie Carragher or Robbie Fowler — with seemingly little being done to push local talent through. But not only that, local supporters had been completely forgotten about.
Even before Hicks and Gillett began exploring plans to build a new stadium on Stanley Park, houses around Anfield were bought up by the club and left deserted. The popular Vernon Sangster sports centre was demolished to make way for the proposed 60,000-seater stadium, and as those plans fell by the wayside so did the promise of a replacement within the new ground. Tensions were at an all-time high.
However, as highlighted in a great piece by David Conn written in the aftermath of Liverpool’s 5-2 win at home to Roma, the club have stepped up and started to rebuild relations with the community. The current ownership haven’t always got things right, but — as I highlighted in a piece after Kyiv — they’re listening now and Klopp has played a big part in creating the perfect atmosphere to allow the right people to have their voices heard.
The LFC Foundation and “Red Neighbours” have also played a more than active part, running various schemes for locals in a bid to give back to the community. The latest of those taking place this past Saturday, as the club invited around 5,000 locals for a residents’ day at Anfield. The day was a chance for the club to say thank you to local residents given the additional home fixtures throughout The Reds’ Champions League run last season.
Though it will seem a small gesture from the outside, it is a far cry from the darkest days under the previous ownership — and, not only does it seem to be appreciated by the locals, it will have young fans wanting to return which is crucial for the future of the club’s support.
Although lots more can still be done, the club have also made an effort to improve accessibility for locals through the introduction of the £9 tickets. And for the upcoming friendly at home to Torino, the club have taken things a step further, with events throughout the day in the buildup to the game which the club hope will bring in a local crowd.
Just as it is good to see young, local lads in the crowd, seeing them on the pitch is also important for the next generation, to have people who they can relate to and aspire to be like in the future. And the club now have two great beacons of hope in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones.
Jones in particular has made his mark throughout pre season, with some impressive performances on the pitch and and an even more pleasing attitude off the pitch. Like Trent, it seems the 17-year-old possesses all the self confidence necessary to stand up and be counted in a team littered with world-class talent — with a good measure of the Scouse swagger that supporters love to see.
Jones will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Trent, who impressed so much last season. The 19-year-old played an important role in The Reds reaching the Champions League final and also did the club proud off the pitch — showing a great attitude and willingness to give back to the community.
In fact, just the other day Trent was at it again showing exactly why a growing number of supporters see him as a future captain of the club, with this tweet:
— Trent Arnold (@trentaa98) 3 August 2018
It’s gestures like that which make you proud to be a part of this club, and increase the realisation that its getting its Scouse heart back. Klopp understands, Trent obviously understands, but most importantly the club seem like they’re starting to understand.
Liverpool Football Club are blessed to have such a wide-reaching supporter base, and it’s always great to see that on The Reds’ pre-season tours — as with the US tour just gone. However, it’s crucial that community remains at the heart of everything.
While we’ll sing songs of Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker and the other world stars making a big impact on the pitch at Anfield, the most pride will come from seeing local lads on the pitch, in the stands, and the community being given the love and attention it deserves.
After all, to quote our great manager, that’s why we are Liverpool.
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“There were always little jokes of saying ‘When you two make it big are you going to come and help out [with the charity]’?” 🎥
“A part of me never really took it as a joke.” 👏
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 2 April 2018