As Jürgen Klopp celebrates eight years at Liverpool, support from within the club is still resounding, while the outside narrative changes…
IT makes such a difference when your manager is sound.
I mean, you can live with an odious egomaniac if they win you a skipful of trophies — Brian Clough — but it’s nice to have someone relatable in the dugout.
Eight years ago this week, Jürgen Klopp swanned into Anfield and made the Red world love him. He was selling optimism and glory and we were buying. He had us all from that moment.
That takes some doing. We’re not an easy sale. Save for the first few months of Kenny Dalglish’s second term, the whole fanbase hasn’t stood completely behind one man since 2001. Since then, there were 15 years of For and Against camps for Gerard Houllier’s descendents, but save for the odd spoilt online comment, we’ve always been on Jürgen’s side.
And so was everyone else for a while, even the most jaded hack saw him as a breath of fresh air. After all, he’s very difficult to dislike. He’s funny, wise and, above all, human. That means he can occasionally get things wrong. It would be weird if he didn’t. This isn’t Roy of the Rovers and he isn’t Roy Race. It’s how he’s handled those obstacles that makes him what he is.
Yes, the media loved him for a while. Then he started shouting at officials and had the temerity to say that we’ve been cheated after a game where we’d been, well, cheated. They can’t be having that.
The narrative changed after his comments about Paul Tierney and it’s really doubled down since last weekend. Initially, the press went for VAR and the PGMOL first, as both were clearly at fault in GoodProcessGate and they’re always a target. Then they set their sights on the wronged party with ‘what about Madrid 2019!’ (It was a penalty and you lost. Hope that helps.)
Suddenly, Liverpool were ‘demanding the audio’ (The Times) and Jürgen was spitting feathers about a replay. Neither were true.
Liverpool merely asked for the audio as they had a right to, given that the Virgil van Dijk red card footage had already been made public. Then he said that, yes, a replay would be a fair way of putting this to bed though it would never happen, but somehow the language was inflated to make it sound like a diktat delivered from atop a tank while wearing military fatigues.
Those with even the slightest dislike of the club briefed against him instantly. (Lads, I’m sorry, but it really was a pen. You lost 2-0.)
I’m fine with that. If the whole episode has proved one thing it’s that fans aren’t that interested, in fairness. It’s easier to laugh at your target than call for a better way to adjudicate a game. I’m part of that hypocrisy too. Clive Thomas and all that while raging about Simon Hooper.
Then they brought out Howard Webb to tell us that the emperor is fully clothed and the rest of them nodded along like the salivating dogs they are. Thanks for explaining that, Howard. You’ve got to laugh.
That said, I’m over Tottenham now. Seriously. I’m just going to laugh myself hoarse at every blunder when someone else wears it. Good luck with that Kovacic thing, lads. We tried to sort all that but… Y’know.
But back to Jürgen. I love that he’s flawed. We all prefer our heroes built that way. He’ll get it wrong from time to time, but it’s worth it to see him acknowledge and work on his mistakes. With the game changing in terms of tactics and pace, there’s no better way to be.
The changing of the front three, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s new role, the new midfield without a specialised number six etc. These are all ideas he’s playing around with. Other managers would still be trying to get a tune out of something that worked four years ago, but Jürgen likes to move on and work on what might be his second great team.
A nod here to his team, too. Pep Lijnders and particularly Peter Krawietz both deserve huge credit though they seem to prefer the background. I’m fascinated by Krawietz. He has such skin in something I love and I know next to nothing about him.
Eight years of Jürgen, then. Surprisingly that doesn’t even come close to topping the Longest Serving LFC Manager charts, but he is for the current Premier League.
There’ll be a day when he’s not here. I hope the club plan for that awful eventuality one day. It’s going to be the smallest pool of candidates.
It’s great having a great man in the chair. It makes such a difference.