“We have to change from doubter to believer. Now!”
Jürgen Klopp, clever German bloke
“I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief.”
Immanuel Kant, another clever German bloke
When it comes to carving out a unique niche in the over-congested world of football ‘personalities,’ Jürgen Norbert Klopp has it down. His predecessor, Brendan Rodgers, a publicly sedate and dignified man, made it his business to evoke the spirit of Shankly in his initial utterances as Liverpool boss. He overtly courted the gravitas of close association with the greatest manager in the club’s history and embraced the earnestness of his task, armed with a line in high-blown rhetoric that excited many of us at first but ultimately rang a little hollow. By the end, adversity had caused compromise. Compromise had caused disillusionment. The dream had evaporated, and whilst much of that was on Rodgers, the Antrim man deserved far better than he received from some elements of the Liverpool support.
By contrast, Klopp, a proven winner at the highest level, has rolled into town espousing a sentiment that seems to run contrary to Shankly’s most famous epigram about the “life and death” nature of football. The passionate Swabian insisted that “football is not so important – we don’t save lives or things like that, we are not doctors.” Ironically, the genuine empathy, passion and enthusiasm that surrounded this self-deprecating observation, allied to the understanding he seems to have for the fans, just made him seem even more in line with the socialist philosophy of the legendary Scot. He just seemed to GET it immediately — not simply the true nature of the complex role of being Liverpool manager but also the need for wit and fun alongside the solemnity.
In a deliberate reference to the strutting peacock of the King’s Road, Klopp insisted to the press that he was “a totally normal guy. I’m the Normal One, maybe…if you want.” In one droll comment the 48 year old made a clear statement. Unlike Jose Mourinho, who flaunted that he was different and by implication, better, Klopp had the good sense to come across as an Everyman, who could not “do wonder” and whose dear old Ma was watching her television with quiet pride. His thoughts, earlier, about how football should serve the fans were most revealing, echoing the humility one associates with the true greats of Liverpool Football Club.
“It’s our job to let them forget their problems for 90 minutes and then they can talk for three days about the last game and talk for two days about the next game,” the excitable Black Forest native opined. “That’s how I want to live – if I am not a manager, that’s the way I would live because I love this game so much. That’s why I try to be as close as possible to the fans, but it’s not always so possible to be close to the fans because of the job. I have to work and I need time to work, so it’s not always as the fans want but it’s as often as possible.”
When an interview is dubbed “electrifying” by the perpetually cheerless Mark Lawrenson, you know that it’s probably worth your time and what the jowly sourpuss in the LFCtv studios was sensing was the raw charismatic energy of a man who feels he has found THE project for himself. Klopp cut through the fluff and nonsense and, with humour and a latent excitement, expressed the kind of passion that has seen fans clogging up social media with effusive and fawning praise and a plethora of the most unfortunate puns. Starved of excitement and joy for so long, one cannot blame them, although tracking the flight of his plane to Liverpool was a touch excessive, even for this hopeless romantic.
When encouraged by Claire Rourke to hold forth on how much he was looking forward to his first game at Anfield, Klopp apologised for his inadequate English before going on to paint an eloquently visceral picture of his desires.
“I want to see it, I want to feel it, I want to smell it – I want to do everything,” he gushed. “When I came here with Dortmund a year ago, I was really excited. I came in and saw the dressing room for the away team and asked myself if I needed some colour to paint or something like this! ‘The derby starts at this moment!’ – you go into that dressing room and you think, ‘OK, they want to kick us!’ For me, it was historical.
“It’s a great place – I’ve been to some places in the world with football, but this was the most special place I’d been. Borussia Dortmund’s stadium – Signal Iduna Park – is a great stadium and I had another perfect little, little stadium with Mainz 05, but this [Anfield] is the most historic place. I am looking forward to it and at this moment I don’t know what I will feel, but it will be good.”
Along with his two “brothers in mind,” Zeljko Buvac and Peter Krawietz, Klopp will look to implement his preferred type of “full throttle” football or Vollgasfußball, as our Teutonic chums would have it. However, although he jokes that the style his LFC will adopt will be “a wild one” in which the players “must take it to the limit in every single game,” the amiable coach is not naive, and those of us who have cringed our way through successive seasons of defensive calamities will draw no end of solace from the emphasis he seems to place on being solid at the back.
“In football, all the world-class teams play possession football, that’s cool,” says the new gaffer (he says things are ‘cool’ a lot). “I like to watch this; Bayern Munich, great team, great club; Barcelona, yes; Real Madrid; maybe on some days, Manchester City. But nobody starts as a ball possession team. You cannot start and say ‘OK, we have the ball and the other players have to wait’. The first thing, always, maybe in life, you need to have a stable defence. That’s the first thing, always. Because you can only stay confident in a game when you know not each offensive move of the other team is a goal.”
Well, it certainly has been for Liverpool lately, Jürgen, old bean.
Of course, there will be cynics; hard-nosed, embittered types who fail to glean much joy from what they’ll perceive as the circus of Klopp’s unveiling. They will dourly withold judgement and arch a sardonic eyebrow at the rest of us revelling, like kids on Christmas morning, in all the exciting quotes and Vines and memes. Perhaps, such sepulchral souls have a point, but one thing about Herr Klopp struck me more than anything the man actually said. It was the way he said it. This is a man who is unafraid to speak honestly, without a guard or a layer of spin to hide behind. He can be searingly insightful but he can also unabashedly act like a massive dork. That will do for me, folks. Jürgen Norbert Klopp will do for me.
— BetVictor (@BetVictor) October 9, 2015