One of the greatest things about Jurgen Klopp is that he makes football fun. He is brilliant at contextualising the game and setting the expectation that something even better is just around the corner.
The biggest impact Klopp has had so far on Liverpool is that he has given the entire club a swagger. Both on the pitch and off it you can sense the transformation in how the players and supporters all believe in where the club is heading.
The reality is that all of the same barriers to success that existed prior to Klopp’s arrival still exist – but all of a sudden, they don’t seem so insurmountable.
With the arrival of Klopp, all of the excellent work that has happened away from the pitch is now in total alignment with ambition on it. When you start to look at where the club is now and where it is heading, there is a lot to be excited about.
We may not like to admit it, but if we look hard at ourselves as a football club and a fan base we have lost some of that mystique that used to make the club feel special. There are many reasons for that, and there are times when the fans and club connect to create something truly special. But, it doesn’t happen often enough.
If Klopp was seduced by the romance of Liverpool Football Club, he will be quickly learning that there is much work to do to rebuild the culture that used to give the club such a unique identity.
If there are two words that define the magic ingredient they are probably collectiveness and unity. The two key strengths that have helped the club to so much success and overcome such adversity in the past.
The erosion of identity is something that Klopp looks desperate to rebuild. That is exactly why he wants his players to show unity in front of supporters – that is exactly why he is urging supporters on at Anfield – he is looking to build something special – and he wants everybody at the club to enjoy the highs, and move on quickly from the lows as one.
The power of Klopp’s personality is contagious. He connects with people – he knows from his time at Dortmund that the force of unity can take you a long way.
He isn’t going to get everything right all of the time, but his intention is to close the gap between the club and its supporters, to recreate that sense of unity that makes anything seem possible. It is that intention that is one of the things that makes Klopp a truly brilliant manager and leader.
One of the biggest barriers to us competing at the top end of the game has been the strength of our competitors both at home and abroad. Although the guiding principle of deepest pockets = success is a sound formula, the beauty is that it doesn’t have to be scientific.
We have seen some great trends recently where clubs are finding it easier to keep hold of top players, rather than having them cherry picked by richer clubs. With the influx of television money into the Premier League more clubs can afford to pay top wages to top players, which brings other equations into play such as game time.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, Raheem Sterling being one of them who felt he wanted more of an opportunity to win things. Time will tell if he made the right decision, but his old club have recently given him a lesson that there is no shortage of ambition to win things there as well.
Although there are clubs at home and abroad with more resources than Liverpool, I think that there is a huge opportunity to bridge that gap in the short and long term.
One of the reasons for that is that there is a gap in the Premier League for the style of high tempo, emotional football that Liverpool will play under Klopp.
In many ways the timing of Klopp’s appointment at Liverpool is perfect. Our top 4 competitors in the Premier League are all in various states of transition, with managerial changes a very real prospect in the summer.
If Klopp can take advantage of the transitioning of others, and get his team playing the type of football he wants consistently, then those financial barriers that have been so difficult to break down in the past can be overcome in the short term.
If there is one thing that FSG have got absolutely right at Liverpool, it is the growth of the club away from the pitch. When the new main stand opens in 2016/17 it will give the club a huge injection of revenue and a better ability to compete in the long term.
The club has made huge strides in the commercial operation since FSG took over; we now look, think and act like a global football club with a global footprint. If we want to compete with the biggest clubs in the world on the pitch, we have to compete with them off it as well.
Unlike some of the current big guns in world football, we aren’t reliant on benefactor investment for our growth. Both Manchester United and Arsenal prove that if you can get the model of self-sustainability right that can translate into being competitive on the pitch.
We have already seen the green shoots of the self-sustainability model at Liverpool produce some progress, but there is still a lot of growth to come.
In less than 12 months-time there will be 55,000 people watching a Jürgen Klopp led Liverpool team at Anfield. Away from the pitch the stadium expansion will boost revenue even further to bridge the financial gap to our competitors with the only significant debt on the balance sheet being a loan to the club from its ownership group for redevelopment.
When you look at the phases of our development under FSG, there has been a real commitment to making sure we keep progressing. It has been incremental steps at times, and not every decision has been a good one, but Liverpool look and act like a club on an upward trajectory.
There is still a lot of work to do, as there always will be, but it does look like there is an alignment happening at Liverpool with progress off the pitch, to ambition on it.
Although Klopp is not a messiah or a miracle worker, his appointment at Liverpool was a huge statement of intent. It made the point that good is not good enough; and also that the best in world football share the same ambitions as Liverpool Football Club.
When you look at the journey we have taken under FSG there is a clear direction of travel that looks a little bit like Regression (Hodgson) – Transition (Dalglish) – Progression (Rodgers) – Ambition (Klopp).
I think the hope for many was that incremental progression would translate into ambition with Rodgers; but it became clear that for the club to move up to a different level again, a change was needed.
Although it is still early days in Klopp’s tenure at Liverpool, we have already seen evidence of the type of culture he wants to nurture, and the type of team he wants to build.
There is still a lot of work to build the team that he wants, but his determination to give his squad the chance to be part of his revolution is to be admired. I get the sense with Klopp that chopping and changing his squad isn’t something he will want to do – he will want to keep a close knit group of players that can grow together and that he can mould.
That doesn’t mean he won’t add to the squad, but I do think he has genuine belief in his ability to work on a model of evolution, not revolution when it comes to building the team that he wants.
One of the great things about Klopp is that he gives you hope – he gives you hope because he is a dreamer, at times there are going to be other clubs that don’t get what Klopp is about or what he is doing, but there is nothing wrong with being a dreamer – and he’s not the only one! As long as we are with him, that’s all that matters.
He shares the dream of supporters about making Liverpool great again, not just the team, but also the club. If you buckle yourselves in and enjoy the ride he may just get us there.