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It’s been an odd couple of days for those of us obsessed with the state of affairs at Liverpool Football Club. For one cohort, the aftermath of Manchester United’s Europa League victory was the perfect opportunity for the kind of moaning and masochistic self-flagellation that seems to be de rigeur amongst them. They truly seem to hate themselves and the rest of the world, this lot. It was all over now, you see. The Mancs would beat us to all the players. They were back on track. We’d won nothing. FSG had done nothing…or had done something, I can’t recall which. Everything, to use the appropriate technical term, was shit.
Others, opting for the novel option of pretending there was nothing else happening outside LFC, chose to plug their ears and wallow in endless online video compilations to celebrate the 12th anniversary of Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League win in Istanbul. Now, your columnist will admit to finding all of that a bit much and more than a little cringe-inducing, given the timing, but who am I to judge? It was a glorious moment and at least they seemed happier than the sad sacks from paragraph one.
Thankfully, as they were suitably distracted, the nostalgia merchants weren’t joining the mobilisation of incensed Liverpool fans petitioning the club to divest Michael Owen of his symbolic role at LFC on the back of his somewhat one-eyed commentary on the aforementioned final in Stockholm. Seriously, how is it new to these people that Owen is far from the most partisan of former Redmen? He’s an ex-pro gob for hire who was a great player for Liverpool but seems to have been even more enchanted by his time at Old Trafford. Fair play to him. Simply, remember the FA Cup final in 2001, leave Michael to his corporate helicopter-based Dubai promos and go out for a nice walk in the fresh air.
For another, slightly less maudlin group of us, there was much glee to be derived from the frankly remarkable images of Jürgen Klopp trying his hand at some traditional Aboriginal dancing, ‘playing’ a didgeridoo and lobbing about a spear and a boomerang in a way that the club’s health and safety people will not have approved of. By his own admission, the gaffer, like most of us modern males, would probably struggle were he ever faced with having to survive in the bush, but his ego-free lamentable public attempts were highly amusing to watch, at least for those of us not caught up in an endless spiral of hate and self-loathing.
I honestly believe the amiability of the German gaffer is a real problem for people whose default setting is snide derision. It’s genuinely difficult to manufacture any reason to actively dislike Klopp and the securing of fourth place and a Champions League qualifier is real and tangible progress for the club. Even as one not given to flights of fanciful optimism, this Irishman is convinced that the good days under Klopp are only tentatively beginning.
Certainly, to listen to Steven Gerrard, who seemed to genuinely revel in the chance to pull on the shirt again in the recent Sydney friendly, Liverpool have found themselves quite the manager. Needless to say, this being the Huyton man, he managed to sound vaguely depressed about something. In this instance, it was the way the stars had aligned in terms of his departure and Klopp’s arrival.
“I was looking around and it was a strange feeling out there,” insisted the Reds legend. “I was thinking if Jürgen Klopp had been at the club a bit earlier what might have been. There’s no doubt about it, if he had been here three or four years I believe I would have been part of him delivering big trophies for this club. It’s his aura and the way he is with you – how he makes you feel. I went out there to play in a friendly and I felt like it was the World Cup final. That’s what he gives player.”
In an observation which may help jolly a few of the more fatalistic fans out of their dour summer transfer predictions, Gerrard was unequivocal about the attractiveness of the bearded Swabian to players considering a move to L4, even managing a not-so-subtle reminder to the boss that he can still do a job should he be needed.
“If I’m a top player around Europe and Jürgen picks the phone up and I get offered the chance to play for this club, which is moving forward in every single department and has a world class manager leading it, I’d be jumping at that opportunity. I want to play for him and I am 37 next week! For me, it’s such an exciting project. Not just because we qualified for the Champions League but the whole project. The next three, four, five, six years, whatever it turns out to be, are going to be very exciting and players will want to be a part of what Jurgen is doing.”
That is the magic of Klopp. We all want to be a part of what he is doing. Apart from the dancing. I could live without the dancing. But if you’re talking spear throwing, didgeridoo playing and rallying the Reds for an assault on the top tier of European football, well then, like Steven Gerrard, I’m in.