Tony Evans: The Transfer Ultras Are Back

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These are the worst two weeks of the year. The season’s over. Except it’s not. There are finals to be played — the FA Cup, the Champions League — and it doesn’t feel right when Liverpool are not involved. It’s even more galling when Manchester takes centre stage in what are two dead weeks for us.

That’s bad enough. But the transfer ultras are out again, too. It’s going to be a long 10 weeks until the new campaign starts.

The first arrival of the summer was Jorg Schmadtke. The club are not sure the German’s appointment as sporting director will work. Normally you would expect something other than a short-term arrangement for a position of such importance. The big question is whether he can work with Jurgen Klopp.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. The manager is very demanding and can be a tough critic if he feels colleagues are not producing to his satisfaction. Especially if the individual in question is not his own man.

This should not be a problem in Schmadtke’s case. Klopp and the 59-year-old have known each other for a long time. Both can be confrontational but a little bit of creative tension doesn’t hurt.

The reason the combination of Klopp and Michael Edwards worked is that each man’s style cancelled out the negative aspects of the other’s approach. Mike Gordan, the FSG president, formed the other arm of this successful triumvirate.

Gordon’s priority shifted to the sale after the announcement that the club was on the trading block. This did not help. Edwards’ replacement, Julian Ward, did not have a buffer between him and Klopp. He soon realised that the job wasn’t what he expected it to be. So now Schmadtke takes centre stage. Sort of.

At this point in the year, you would expect much of the groundwork on transfers to be done. The delay in finding out whether the team would be in the Champions League or Europa League obviously didn’t help but most of the preparations should be complete. If Schmadtke is starting from scratch, Liverpool are in trouble.

Everyone expects Alexis Mac Allister to come in. The 24-year-old should be a good addition. The rest of the names being bandied about are less certain.

As for budget, much has been made of FSG keeping the money in the bank last summer because the main target — Jude Bellingham — was not available. Funnily enough, he wasn’t available this year, either. At least not to Liverpool.

But that means there is no real excuse for being parsimonious between now and September. The flaws in the team are fairly obvious. Mac Allister plus two in midfield seems about right, plus a centre back. After that, anything else would be a bonus.

Everyone remembers the transfer committee of the Brendan Rodgers era with a combination of amusement and disdain. It was a mess but that’s largely down to the individuals involved at the time. The reality is that recruitment works at its best when a small group of people thrash out the pros and cons of each signing. Edwards + Rodgers + Ian Ayre = rubbish. Edwards + Klopp + Gordon = good.

Schmadtke has said it’s all about Klopp. Hopefully it will be more than that. Sharing ideas and power is the best way forward. Placing too much pressure on the manager is a dangerous game.

It’s a big summer. We’ll know pretty soon whether they’ve got things right with Schmadtke.

*

My favourite end-of-season story is from 1984. The team had won the League Cup, the title and then, on May 30, the European Cup. We talk about Klopp’s mentality monsters but the greatest feat of psychological toughness in Liverpool’s history came in Rome 39 years ago, when Graeme Souness led the team to victory over Roma in their own stadium. It was the most hostile atmosphere I’ve ever experienced.

The reward for the players? One night at home and then a tour of Swaziland (now renamed Eswatini). Anyway, they finally got back to Anfield near the middle of June. As they disembarked from the coach from the airport to get to their cars, Ronnie Moran was standing at the door. Did he congratulate them for a wonderful season? Did he buggery. Pre-season training was little more than three weeks away and Bugsy let them know.

“Twenty-three days,” he said. “Twenty-three days, you idle, bigheaded bunch of bastards. Go and have fun but remember, in twenty-three days you’re mine.”

And with a malicious smile, he sent them off on their holidays knowing that physical hell was waiting round the corner for them at Melwood when they reported for pre-season. Class.

*

Talking of Melwood, it’s interesting that FSG are in negotiations to buy the training ground back to use for the women’s team. It should never have been sold in the first place.

Klopp urged the owners to keep the land. He thought it could be turned into a museum and visitor attraction and that it was important to the heritage of the club.

Melwood is as significant as Anfield in Liverpool’s history. It will be nice to see it back in the right hands again.

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