“Let’s run and fight and shoot, defend together and attack together, like your best dream about what football looks like.”
Jürgen Klopp, bearded German football mentalist/philosopher
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
Oscar Wilde, unbearded Irish literary genius/philosopher
Early this morning, on the eve of Jürgen Klopp’s first match as the new leader of the Redmen, and as this column was being conceived, your scribbler was part of a giddily whimsical Twitter exchange with two smashing gents, Roy Henderson and Simon Roberts. A daft, pun-based tribute to our new Swabian Kaiser, the silliness and child-like glee of it seemed to capture the zeitgeist, ahead of the dawning of what feels like a rather defining epoch in the history of Liverpool Football Club. The frivolity ran as follows;
Roy: Guten mJürgen
Trev: Top o’ the Norbert
Roy: Just Horst my coffee down my neck. Gunther be a cracker.
Trev: Alright for some. Boss has got his Klaus into me and now I’ve got a Lothar paperwork.
Simon: Once you’re healthy, Trev, that’s all that Matthaus.
Regardless of your tolerance level for forced and atrocious puns like the above, dear reader, you must surely relate to the wave of optimistic abandon that could inspire such capricious nonsense. Only yesterday, I was earnestly informed by a friend, the most dour of gents, that a tilt at the title “could be on.” Such is the level of positivity that even a man, whose demeanour normally makes Eeyore seem excitable, is offering outlandishly upbeat (if patently mad) surmisals of what may be. These are truly strange days. One half-expects a Magnolia-style shower of frogs at any moment, or to at least to see John Travolta and Tom Cruise ascend to the heavens in their custom-built spacecraft as the all-powerful titans of a splinter group of radical Scientology.
If you still doubt the oddness of the times, then imagine a world in which the week-old boss of Liverpool is now the new Paddy Power favourite for the Arsenal job at 4/1, just ahead of Thierry Henry (Stop laughing, Thierry is a very erudite…ahahahahahahahahah! I can’t.) at 10/1. Not weird enough? What if I told you the recently ousted Brendan Rodgers, will give full expression to his loquacious ways as the new pundit on beIN Sports, for such a scenario appears to be in the offing. One wonders if the Antrim native will be in residence by the weekend, in order to join hairy-handed banter-meister, Richard Keys, in a caustic analysis of the post-Rodgers Liverpool. A decent man, Brendan will be conflicted but sorely tempted to retain his best zingers for Aston Villa, in the hope that Tim Sherwood, another noted banterist, will soon be leaving an empty gilet on the Villa Park sideline.
Still not sufficiently batshit? Fair enough. How about an existence in which a well-known journalist in a major newspaper is already tired of the Klopp love-in and has dedicated his column to soberly warning fans of the Black Forest native’s volcanic temper and the surly crank that can lurk behind the affable exterior. Better still, is the sullen observation that nasty Jürgen has a history of impatiently dismissing German hacks and a reminder that such behaviour will not “play well” around these parts. I mean, really? Can we not simply commend the new man’s impressive demeanour to date and at least wait until he roundhouses Sam Allardyce in front of The Kop before we publicly flay him?
Meanwhile, Herr Klopp himself, whilst less than amused by the rabid paparazzi attention he’s receiving, has been at pains to point out that this is but the beginning and to reassure his players that he will be initially content to see pride, energy and self-expression on the field of play. He even admitted to needing to check his own enthusiasm around the playing staff, such is keenness to impart, his ardour for the task at hand. Liverpool fans will lap this up and ask for seconds. Dedication and excellence are the most the wonderful of attributes and should Klopp show both, the opinions of others about his occasional flares of ire, especially journalists’ opinions on said outbursts, will matter not a jot to fans of the Redmen. We love a scrapper. A scrapper who wins is an automatic hero.
“I’ve had a really good time in those four months (away from football),” insisted the bespectacled coach, somewhat unconvincingly. “The holidays were the best of my life because they were the longest of my life but the best moment of this week was the first moment I was back on the pitch. I had to cool down myself a little bit, by not giving them too much information. I feel good. OK, the injuries are not good but we cannot change that. The rest is good. The staff, all the people working here, are very kind and very nice people. They all want to help us. They have a big heart for LFC. It feels good to work here. We have to open our chests. Let’s run and fight and shoot, defend together and attack together, like your best dream about what football looks like. I want to see more braveness, more fun in their eyes. I want to see they like what they do.”
Well. That’s…I mean. Wow. I may have something in my eye, here. Whilst you push down the goosebumps that are now adorning your skin, I shall drive this poor excuse for a column onwards and spare us mutual embarrassment. Anyway, it’s not all positive, damn it. Poor Kloppo has had to deal with an unprecedented level of press attention and even the locals, whom he has encountered on some of his rare but wildly publicised forays into town, have already started to candidly offer the new man their tuppence worth. The manager, however, was pleasingly unfazed by such input.
“I have met two kinds of people in the last week,” he revealed. “Most are: ‘We’ll win the league, we’ll win the league, we’ll win the league.’ And the others look a bit like: ‘What have you done? Why are you here?’ Both are not right. The only thing that matters is we want to get better. We want to get back confidence in our own skills and quality. That takes time. Some things, you can change like this [click of the fingers], like mentality and readiness – but to get really tuned as a team takes time but I am really not interested in the problems we could have on Saturday.”
Indeed, such is the German’s abhorrence of focusing on the negative, that he is insisting on courage and expressiveness from his players as a priority. Critically, for a fan base starved of joy, he also stressed the notion of “fun” and the idea that focussing on “faults’ is both negative and reductive.
“I want to see more bravery, more fun in their eyes,” Klopp thrillingly opined. “I want to see that they like what they do – I saw that in the week and that is good. We want to get back trust from outside, get back confidence in our own skills, our own quality. It is the bravery we need in football, the bravery to make faults. It doesn’t work without faults. Never in history. As a human being we always think about faults, we don’t think about the good things.
“That is what we have to learn again. It is not important how many faults are made in the game, it is very important that no one can remember the faults after the game. That is where we can always get better – to accept that something is not the best decision in your life. Football works because you are prepared for your team-mate making a fault and you can help him. You don’t have to always try the most risky ball in our lives – you have to learn to run and fight and do everything until the moment, and when the moment is there, take it.”
I shall take this moment, kind reader, to draw this shambolic effort to a close. I find myself brimful of emotion and trapped inside the body of an emotionally stunted Irishman. Suffice it to say that this Saturday marks not so much the chance to rescue a solitary season as the opportunity to begin an era, built on a philosophy that chimes melodically with all that has been good in Liverpool’s past. Drink it in, friends. Open your chests, as the boss would have it. No matter what other travails life presents in the near future, supporting Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool promises to be fun.