“I have to address this immediately,” writes Jurgen Klopp in the opening paragraph of his Liverpool vs. Shrewsbury Town matchday programme notes…
“This is one of the strangest programme columns I’ve ever written because I have no idea if I will be in the stadium with you, leading my team in person – or watching from home.”
In all the years I’ve been writing the Liverpool matchday programme – and I started working on it in 2002 – we’ve never had a situation like this.
The Liverpool manager has written his programme notes for a game he has no idea if he can attend. And even if he can, there’s a possibility he might not see any of his players until the morning of the game.
It all depends on the results of his lateral flow tests. A bit like when you arrive at the Anfield turnstiles since the NFC technology was brought in, he doesn’t want to see two lines on Sunday morning.
If he does, then the most senior member of staff without COVID-19 (currently Peter Krawietz) will be in charge of the team, although the way things have gone it could end up going to a ballot of season-ticket holders and members who’ve attended the last 14 FA Cup ties at Anfield.
As someone who wants you to buy or download the Liverpool vs. Shrewsbury Town matchday programme (as it’d be nice to still be in a job when my energy bill goes up to the GDP of Lithuania in April) I would say this, but Klopp’s notes are most certainly worth a read.
All I’ll say is that Covid has made him ill but he’s on the mend, the outbreak at the club has been much wider than has been reported and he got a different perspective of the travelling Kop watching the Chelsea game on TV.
The big thing for us as matchday programme producers is that the Shrewsbury game is actually on. The rules in the FA Cup mean teams must field a side even if they have to play three 14-year-olds, the kitman’s greyhound and put the club mascot in goal.
Truth be told, that is a relief for us…and Mighty Red couldn’t be any worse than Charles Itandje was against Barnsley in 2008.
Losing the Liverpool vs. Leeds United game on Boxing Day to a Covid postponement after the matchday programme was already printed created all kinds of logistical problems that I won’t bore you with, but it has become a collectors’ item.
Less than 500 copies – those sent through the post to subscribers and independent programme buyers – are in circulation and we’ve already seen one sell for £60 on eBay. Others are listed for a tonne.
Quite a markup for a £3.50 programme, but it will only increase in value.
Arsenal may have had similar programme problems when the first leg of the League Cup semi-final at the Emirates was postponed, but if they did no one will have noticed due to the urine-boiling fume amongst their supporters on social media.
I’ve not heard conspiracy theories like it since Bill Gates infected 5G phone masts with an airborne disease to have us all microchipped for the government.
‘They’re trying to delay it until Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are back from AFCON’, was one claim. You know, because they always play in the League Cup and Klopp is always accused of prioritising the competition above all others.
Then there was: ‘They’ve only got three confirmed cases of Covid’. I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence, but did they genuinely think Liverpool’s AXA Training Centre was closed down by the local public health authority due to three cases? Can people not read between the lines anymore?
In any case, it was only an issue because Liverpool needed a game to be postponed.
Arsenal vs. Wolves on Boxing Day was postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the Wolves camp and I don’t recall Arsenal fans calling for Bruno Lage to play the kids, forfeit the game or claim he was simply trying to get it called off until Hwang Hee-chan and Rayan Ait-Nouri are back from injury.
Yet when Liverpool requested a postponement all hell broke loose, which at least guarantees that the two semi-finals will be spicy. Hopefully, Mikel Arteta is over his recent bout of Covid and is OK for the first leg at Anfield though, in case we need someone to get the home crowd going again.
In the meantime, Shrewsbury must be beaten first in the FA Cup third round and if you’re thinking of playing starting XI bingo then good luck, as here is what Jordan Henderson has had to say in his programme notes.
“I have no idea who will be playing due to everything that is going on…”
Chris McLoughlin is senior writer at Reach Sport, publishers of the official matchday programme and Liverpool FC Magazine. You can order both here.