LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 26, 2019: Liverpool's James Milner (C) celebrates scoring the second goal, from a penalty kick, with team-mate Georginio Wijnaldum (L), captain Jordan Henderson (R) and Roberto Firmino (top) during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

From pain to perspective: Why I’m embracing Liverpool’s delayed title surge

It’s not how any of us had envisioned a 30-year title wait to come to an end, but no one, even the ‘null and voiders’ can discredit the remarkable feats of Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League-toppling Reds. 

I had a tweet ready to go. Two, in fact. Two tweets I was going to send when Liverpool won the title; one immediately after it happened and another on the morning of the Chelsea game, just before I made my way to Anfield on what was set to be a beautiful day in more ways than one.

Sun out, Hendo lifting the trophy, and my mates and I partying in the Kop. The day of all days, the day we’d been anticipating for weeks, months… decades.

Then it happened – lockdown. No more going out and no more football. Like a wave crashing onto the rocks, we saw it coming but had no idea just how much it would sweep away. On the most serious and significant level, lives have been lost. Others go on but in difficult circumstances, and while it’s been only a few months it feels like forever. Time drifting away yet also seeming to be on constant pause.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 1, 2020: Empty red seats pictured before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s shit, and even if you’re doing ok – healthy, housed and still in work – we all have things to mourn. For Liverpool fans, it is a stolen ending to the most fantastic of stories, not just a first title win in 30 years but one that we absolutely smashed – 25 points clear in the middle of March and set to have the whole thing wrapped up before the first Easter egg hunt. The season of seasons… and then it happened.

How have you been coping?

Seriously, I’d love to know, because from what I can tell on social media and via the conversations I’ve had with fellow Reds on WhatsApp and elsewhere, everyone’s experience has been different. Some have been stoic, others have crumbled; some have refused to talk about it; others have been able to laugh about it, seeing the funny side of how absolutely fucking jinxed we appear to be when it comes to winning this league.

Personally, I’ve found it tough. There have been actual mood swings, like on the morning of Saturday, March 21. I was in the park watching my daughter ride her bike, a lovely thing that has become a regular, rare joy during lockdown, when a sudden sadness hit me. It took a few seconds to process and then I remembered – Liverpool were meant to be playing Crystal Palace today and it could well have been the moment we did it. Won it.

The same thing happened in the same place while I was doing the same thing on the morning of Saturday, May 9. That was the day I was meant to be getting a train to Liverpool, ahead of the Chelsea game. It had been booked, as had the hotel. Both were ultimately cancelled and remembering that made me want to scream at the birds above me.

Jurgen Klopp first pump celebrates (Mike Egerton/PA)

But as time has gone on, my mood has improved. In part that is because the actual football is actually coming back. It is a big step toward a return to normality and means, barring an even crueller kick in the nuts, Liverpool will properly win the title. No asterisk on the back of a 28/29-game season and no reason for the pricks to claim we fucked it up again.

Partly, though, my upturn has come because, quite frankly, I can’t be arsed moping anymore. What’s done is done, and amid the wreckage, there is still enough to salvage.

Like, for instance, focusing on what it actually means to be champions. Broadly and most obviously it is the recognition of a team’s status as the best in their country during the season in question. Covid-19 or no Covid-19 is anyone disputing that, on that basis, Liverpool are the champions of England? Of course we are and have been since the opening-day win over Norwich.

The conspiracy theorists can shout ‘tainted title!’ until they’re royal blue in the face, but there is simply no denying that the Reds rule, and it’s telling that during the various discussions that have taken place since March regarding how to conclude the season, nobody has seriously argued against Liverpool being given the title. The null and voiders made their voices heard but fell silent when their ludicrous idea was taken off the table early and decisively.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 11, 2020: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Of course nobody will forget what happened during the 2019/20 season but I simply don’t accept that long-term, it will take away from Liverpool’s achievement. If anything it will add to it, for this will go down as one of the most memorable campaigns in English football history.

Memorable for the wrong reasons but memorable nevertheless and, as such, everything that occurred during it will resonate – most notably, who came out on top. Yes, there’ll continue to be bluster about Liverpool’s title not being a ‘real’ title because it happened in artificial circumstances (I’m looking at you Troy Deeney and Rod Liddle), but those same conversations will have to include the fact that when the world stopped and everything changed, Jurgen Klopp’s side were six points from being champions with nine games to play.

It was done – simple as that, and if you want to bang on about this being the “pandemic season” you have to accept that, too. Talk the full talk or shut the fuck up.

And what about us, the supporters; how will we look back on this season? Again, everyone’s experience will be different and it continues to piss me off that I won’t be at the ground when Liverpool win the title. The updated fixture list came out recently and I nearly cried when I saw our home game against Palace was on Wednesday, July 24. Yet again that could be the day, but I won’t be there – none of us will – and it sucks.

But here’s the thing – it’s one moment we’re missing out; a big one, but one nonetheless, and it ultimately doesn’t diminish or erase the others from this season.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 24, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the second goal, from a penalty kick, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mo Salah’s goal against Arsenal, Bobby Firmino’s performance against Burnley, the late win away to Aston Villa and the crucial one at home to Man City eight days later. Hammering Everton and Manchester United and doing the same to Leicester on Boxing Day. All the goals, all the wins, all the points, all the memories – they are as much part of this season as the team parading the trophy around a packed Anfield would have been. Part of the tapestry that is any triumphant campaign.

So hold on to that, remember how consistently and blissfully happy this Liverpool side has made us feel, rejoice in the fact that the delayed end of the season means we’ve been top for absolutely ages (as well as extending our run as European champions) and in the coming weeks, as the Reds return to action, make the best of this most weird and unsettling of situations.

I already know what I’m going to do – delete those tweets and, on the day Liverpool can officially become champions, watch the game with my daughter. She’s not massively into football and, aged nine, may ultimately have no recollection of the moment, but I’ll always be able to tell her that we were together when one of English football’s greatest teams finally got what they deserved.