LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 21, 2021: Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s “journey hunters” and the fan culture Jurgen Klopp loves

No holding back: everyone has loved seeing fans back in football grounds over the past few weeks, whether it has been your own team or not.

On Saturday, it was Liverpool and Anfield’s turn, over 50,000 packed in for the first time since March 2020 and the very end of the pre-pandemic days in the country.

Jurgen Klopp, for one, absolutely loved it.

The boss has been one of the most consistently vocal presences over the past 15 months or so with regards to speaking about waiting for the right moment to get fans back together and enjoy the moments which have been missed out on, which of course included the title win.

After the win over Burnley, he explained how the return of the noise, vibrancy and atmosphere inside Anfield made him emotional.

“Extraordinary. Great. We haven’t had it for so long, we had 529 days. I never would have thought that I would have to go without it for so long,” he said to Bild.

“That was the start and it should hopefully stay that way so that the situation around the world improves so that you don’t only see such pictures in English stadiums. There were moments when it was difficult to hold back tears.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 21, 2021: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The importance supporters make to the sport, to the game, was summed up by Klopp in a phrase which is presumably a German one akin to the English version of something being ‘the cherry on the cake’ – saying the fans aren’t a lovely addition, they are the entirety.

“[Having fans back] is not just the salt in the soup, it’s the soup too. It’s only a real game if you can enjoy the atmosphere.”

And that atmosphere, the sense of occasion and possibility, is what makes it all relevant and exciting for many.

It isn’t merely the satisfied applause a full-time after a win which makes supporting clubs worthwhile, but the early season optimism, the lifelong search for perfection among the madness – and the boss knows the club provides it, as he explained in the matchday programme.

“What makes this place special is the appreciation of the journey.

“A friend of mine who is closer to fan culture than I could ever profess to be said to me that people support Liverpool not because they are glory hunters but because they are journey hunters.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 14, 2016: Liverpool's Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring the dramatic fourth goal against Borussia Dortmund in injury time to seal a 4-3 (5-4 aggregate) victory during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s entirely right. We all loved Istanbul, Madrid, wherever we were when we won the title. Those moments stay with us, always.

But so too does – as a few examples among thousands – the memory of Lovren’s header hitting the back of the net against Dortmund, Coutinho’s curled finish against Man City and Carroll’s late header against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final.

We didn’t go on to win any of those trophies, but they were unforgettable moments in the journey, scenes of bedlam and possibility and utter euphoria, when we were reminded of what supporting a football club is all about.

Liverpool’s journey is just that little bit more special for some.