Red, White and New: Klopp is America’s Dream

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As Americans, our growing, yet seemingly sudden love affair with “soccer” (called from here on “football”, for aesthetic reasons) is often times seen as something from a monster story by the more “traditional” fans; our passion, love and desire for our newly adopted teams grafted onto this sporting body and jolted to life by some arbitrary happening. Like a man choosing his soul-mate by picking a name at random in the phone book, so is the life of the American football fan as seen from the European perspective. We choose our teams, seemingly at random, which often times can disconnect us from our counterparts across the pond whose teams unmercifully chose them.

Red White New Klopp Americas Dream

For me, however, it was a slightly different experience. I grew up in the American South, where world football is on par with ballet and Chinese checkers in terms of cultural importance, but six years ago I became fixated with the game and was soon after drawn to and ruthlessly captured by this club running around in stark red uni’s, with a bird on their chest and hope in their hearts. Now at the time, this was 2010, and as you might remember, there was nothing particularly appealing about the club. They had just escaped entering administration, thanks to fellow Americans and all around terrible people, They That Shall Not Be Named. Rafa had just left, meaning I missed out of experiencing the best football in the last two decades and the Uncle Woy Era was well under way on Anfield Road. Then came the tumultuous, yet at times, darkly comical transition between Uncle Roy and club legend Kenny Daglish, who for his part was a nice introduction for me into the team’s rich history, though for the life of me, to this day, I can’t understand a word he says. You might recall, however, these were those heady days of, then, 50 year old dock worker look-a-like Charlie Adam scowling up and down the pitch, of Stewart “What-am-I-doing-here” Downing, and of full-time H&M mannequin/part-time athlete impersonator Andy Carroll wildly hacking at the ground and pretending to play something that we were promised resembled football, but yet I saw it through, sure that at the end of these storms, there would be a golden sky.

I remember shortly after pledging my life-long allegiance to the Redmen, I read an article by an American journalist about how, due to FSG’s holding of the club, LFC was poised to become “America’s English Football Team”. There were stories about excitement in the air and Liverpool kits were being sold at Boston Red Sox games, but there was just one problem, the product on the field didn’t meet the hype and Liverpool have since won just one trophy  (that’s 1, as in more than 0, less than 2) in the years I’ve been following the club, which have largely coincided with FSG’s tenure. The vacuum left by LFC’s failings has since been filled in this country by the likes of Manchester United, the newly successful (see “rich”) Manchester City and the ever-present Arsenal, but there has yet to be one club to catch this new wave of American enthusiasm full on and capture the hearts and minds of the people.

That is, until now. Like a hero emerging from the wilderness, who came swaggering in to England, Herr Jürgen Klopp. Looking more like the protagonist of a Clint Eastwood western, he’s kicked open the door to the saloon and unsettled the place with his steely stare and unnervingly charming laugh. In America, there’s a stereotype of England as being too “buttoned-up” and uptight. Many of us cringe when we hear the standard FA approved post-match press conferences and roll our eyes when a manager softly pumps his fist after and extra-time wonder goal. America loves characters and for my money there is no larger or more likeable character in the whole of world football than Jurgen Klopp and now we have him at our club.

With charisma to spare and a laugh that can crack even the most cynical Scouse curmudgeon, Klopp undoubtedly has the character to break into these golden shores, but the one thing Americans like more than big personalities (and pizza) are winners and Klopp ticks that box too. He’s part psychologist/part physio/ part motivational speaker/ part tactician and all passion. He said in his first few interviews that he believed in the side he had at hand and didn’t think it needed an overhaul. Gone are the days of “rebuilding” the team every window, which Rodgers contended up until the bitter end. Klopp has revitalised an inconsistent Lallana, a moribund Lucas, and instilled a wolverine-like aggression  into a newly rampaging Emre Can (or maybe just playing him in the right position). Even our little Divock, Klopp boosted up with praise and encouragement, showing belief in him until he finally knocked home his first club goal, not to mention first hat-trick, in the last game, looking more the part of a Belgian-baby Sturridge, than the woeful failure we had slotted him as a few weeks ago. Firmino, of whom the word “bust” was thrown around softly under the old regime, is now coming into his own and looks primed to challenge the formally undisputed Coutinho for title of “Liverpool’s Most Exciting Player”. Even Dejan Lovren is starting to look like he’s seen a football before, reminding us again that in one man’s hand a hammer just make holes, in another’s it can build cities and Klopp is constructing ancient Rome under our noses.

So now is the time for FSG to charge into American markets, lead full bore by their German Spartacus. It will be and always should be about the club first and Klopp understands there is no one bigger than the badge on the shirt, but what Klopp can do, however, by virtue of his charm and media savvy, is make the club more accessible to the average American fan. No more hopeless dribble about how “we gave it our all” and “showed great character” in a 3-0 home loss, no more canned responses about how the club is doing and the outlook of the next game. Now are the times, of wise-cracking interviews and full on sprints down the touchline after the game winning goal. Now are the times, of big bear hugs and fatherly face slaps. Now is the time to win. Klopp is the footballing mad-hatter that Americans have been craving and FSG would do well to make him the poster boy of their future forays into this brave, new world of global football.

So where does this leave us American Reds? After many years of toiling, of waking up at the crack of dawn to watch Rickie Lambert on a spotty internet feed lead the line, or becoming so disinterested in the football being played that the most genuinely interesting question was, “who’s really in control here: Kenny or his winter coat?”.  After years of whiny Woys and deluded Brendans, after slipping captains, flailing tactics, and transfers as inexplicable as the Superlambanana (that’s right Scousers, I know about your Lambanana), we finally have a man we can believe in, a man for all seasons, a man with vision, able to inject excitement and belief into the club so thoroughly that it can be felt like electricity thousands of miles away, but most importantly, we finally have a winner. This is the time, you global Reds, especially those in my country, to stand up and be counted, to hold your head up high and walk on. Because from now on, we shouldn’t, won’t and can’t walk alone, Jurgen just won’t let that happen. What a time to be alive.

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  1. I was feared for the worst when I saw this column emanated from across the pond (and I’m not taking about Birkenhead!☺)
    I needn’t have worried.. you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. At last we have a charismatic manager again – one who can inspire players. It’s worth bearing in mind that the recent run of good results that the Reds have enjoyed came with the very same squad of players that Jurgen Klopp inherited from Brendan Rodgers.
    Good column Joe..!

  2. Great piece. I have a similar story to you, growing up in the Midwest where American football is life. After becoming intrigued with the sport after world cup 2006, I started watching the Champions league and found myself always pulling for Liverpool, though I hadn’t made my mind up of which team I would support. After Torres and Spain ran riot at the Euros in 2008, Liverpool officially became my team. I have never been more excited to be a Red than now.

  3. I live in Arizona and grew up a huge NFL fan but somehow I became interested in, then addicted to, football. This transformation happened for one reason and that is Liverpool FC. For some reason I became enthralled with the LFC mystique and I now can’t get enough of the club. I began watching every game I could find (which is most these days), read every article, and proudly wore the jersey. And then along came Jürgen Klopp and my obsession grew tenfold. He is simply the most engaging and charismatic figure in world football not to mention the fact that he is a world class manager. Klopp to the Kop was my Birthday and Christmas presents rolled into one and I am now thoroughly enjoying every game, quote, and press conference. I don’t exactly know how or why it happened but my affinity for all things Liverpool is a real blessing.

  4. I’m right there with you man. Joined the Red regime right around the time you did, so one can’t call me a glory hunter. Stuck out those tough times, which I think made me a better supporter, one who was more connected and emotionally invested. I started a supporters club in my home state and the rest is history. Klopp is certainly giving us all hope for a bright, entertaining future that can be sustained. Let’s sit back and enjoy this ride!

  5. I’ve been watching Liverpool since 2006, I was 11 back then. back when the likes of Kuyt and Agger were just becoming house hold names, back when Lucas was supposed to be the equivalent of what Cou is for the club now. Steven Gerrard and Xabi along with Jaiver were hands down the best midfield in Europe. the only thing missing was a manager to inspire the players, now with Klopp we finally have a man at the helm who will help to see liverpool to the glory the club deserves to have

  6. Good read Joe. This article could have been written for every non-English fan. We do love our bird, regardless of where we hail from and can’t get enough. What more can I add about Klopp? He’s not just a breath of fresh air, he’s more hurricane and personality. I am excited at having him at Anfield, even more so seeing how rivals are scared shitless of him leading the Red Army. Good read once more. YNWA!

  7. What a great read, thanks for that Joe. And I’ve really enjoyed the comments as well. I’m a firm believer that it’s the club that chooses you. The colors, the song, the legends, the history, the supporters, the stadium, Stevie fucking G…once my eyes were set upon the redmen it was game over (2003). I’m proud to say that LFC are my greatest passion and I share it with anyone who will listen. It’s awesome to see the sport finally take off over here. Soccer has always been big here in Philly, but now the NBC coverage has brought the best league in the world to the masses. Can’t wait to see where Klopp will lead us. And a massive shout to Anfield Index – providing us global reds with all of the bloody content that we have craved for so long, thank you! YNWA

  8. Lol all these bandwagon americans pretending they know anything we all know once liverpool fails you will resume your duties as a barca or real madrid bandwagon if i were you i would stick to your crappy sports and leave footballl to the rest of us or you support teamm from retirement league a.k.a MLS.

    • In reply to Johnny, we American supporters are no less(or more) valid than you. Speaking for myself, I was drawn to the club around ’06 or so, not for easy glory, but because there is something deeper for Liverpool than that. If I wanted to buy into hype, I’d stand with the Mancs or Chelski. Andrew Crouch(related to Peter?) in a previous comment managed to state the case as succinctly as possible.

      I love the team for its history, the peaks and the valleys equally. As a Chicago sports fan, most of the teams I follow have a similar trajectory, having a rich history, many low points, an adversarial relationship with the mainstream sports media, and a shared identity as a fanbase that goes deeper than most. When I started following the Premier League, the team that came closest to the connection was Liverpool, and I will not relinquish that, even if the team fails to realize the heights of success. I respect the local supporters, and I understand to some degree that you can have some antipathy towards us interlopers from time to time. Even so, we are still all Reds together, and it would be folly to turn allies away.

      To phrase this as politely as possible to the likes of Johnny, if you still think we Americans can’t support Liverpool, you can kindly go take a long walk off a short pier.

  9. I don’t think that’s entirely true about American’s ignorance about Liverpool FC I was born in 81 and I can remember when I was a child they had an almost mythical status here bc of their success and the two fan death disasters. The media here wrote of a far off mania of a sports club that could possibly lead to death. As a 9 or 10 year old I completely ate that up. To the extent that whenever my dad would travel to Scotland to hunt or buy his whiskey usually once or twice a year I’d coax him into taking me and a friend to go to a game. Now that didn’t happen every year but usually once every 2 or 3 years. The area I’m from is predominantly either LFC or United fans and not much else. The older fans I’ve talked to at pubs during games seemed to have developed their fandom from the same timeframe I did, in the aftermath of the fan deaths and the worldwide media attention it received. If I wasn’t in the position to go there and see games it probably would have been tough to follow them but I definitely would have once games started to be shown here regularly in the early 00s. LFC is a special club City, Chelsea, Arsenal, et al do not and cannot compare.


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