It has taken Jurgen Klopp, talking to the club’s official We Are Liverpool podcast, to snap supporters like Jeff Goulding out of a funk.
After a couple of seasons in which we soared to new heights before plunging the depths of a quadruple near miss and the misery of Paris, followed by a campaign riddled with what ifs, buts and abject displays, crowned only by an all too late flourish that only partially lifted the gloom, I’ve found it hard to summon my usual preseason optimism that occasionally borders on the delusional.
That is, until this weekend, I’ve been almost sleepwalking into the new campaign.
With a mastery of understatement that borders on genius, the boss described last season as a “real knock.”
He’s not wrong, but maybe paraphrasing author Douglas Adams’ description of Sundays as the “long dark teatime of the soul” would have been a better fit. Liverpool’s last campaign, coming hot on the heels of an exhausting and ultimately forlorn quest to become the greatest team that ever kicked a ball, was indeed enough to blot out my soul.
Thankfully Jurgen is made from different stuff than me. “I’m on fire,” said the boss, with that trademark grin you can’t help but love, as he summed up his resolve to right wrongs and make next season one to remember “in the best way possible.”
Rising from the ashes
Football is now a sport in which you can only truly guarantee success with the wealth of a nation state and really expensive lawyers. So, as delusional as I can occasionally be, I certainly won’t be holding Jurgen to his promise.
And yet I do feel inexplicably lifted by it. Hopelessly romantic, maybe. But I don’t think I’m entirely guilty of blind faith – the boss does have form when it comes to rising from the ashes of a disappointing campaign.
The boss, a massive fan of the Rocky movies, has an uncanny ability to experience lows and consistently rise above them.
Few managers could recover from the ignominy of the Kyiv final in 2018, to boldly proclaim, the very next day, we’ll win it next year, before going on to do just that. He would perform the same feat after missing out on the Premier League to City by a single agonising point in 2019.
“Trust us,” he has now said, explaining how he understood that some supporters might have once again become doubters, as they watched their team fall from a metaphorical cliff last season.
And, while there are those much wiser than me who will point out the errors of his ways. His alleged stubborn streak, and apparent loyalty to players who are supposedly past their best aside, I’d still argue that his ability to learn from mistakes and setbacks makes him more than worthy of our trust.
The failure to evolve the midfield over successive seasons may have led to a need for something of a hasty revolution, but the signings of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai for less than the cost of a Man City substitute look smart.
Also, the rehabilitation of Curtis Jones at the end of the last campaign was one of that season’s few bright spots. Even with the loss of Fabinho, and Jordan Henderson‘s apparent conversion on the road to Saudi Arabia, there is renewed hope that the club and Klopp are on the case and working to solve those issues ahead of the big kick off.
Jurgen’s statement that “transfers will happen” before the new season means he at least has confidence in the direction the club is taking on recruitment. That will do for me.
I’m steeled for a fall, of course I am. You have to be. But once more I can feel that old energy returning. The lethargy of last year is fading, replaced with that familiar nervous energy as the first game approaches. I didn’t realise how much I’d missed that feeling.
If Jurgen’s words can have this affect at a distance, we can only guess at the impact he’s having on the players as they get ready to go again.
Among the many reasons to be cheerful is the completion of the new Anfield Road Stand. The impressive development means that as Liverpool welcome Bournemouth on August 19, they’ll do so in front of more than 60,000 supporters.
This is something no Liverpool side has experienced since 1952, when 61,905 saw the Reds beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Imagine the noise back then.
“It would be good if they could fill them [the new seats] with the right ones,” said the boss, clearly hoping the decibel count inside the ground can benefit from the stadium expansion.
Anfield is about more than bums on seats, it always has been. You’re not there to be an observer, you’re there to support as loudly as you possibly can. So, if you’re in the new stand for the Bournemouth game, Jurgen has given you your orders.
Nobody knows the impact of a raucous Anfield on our opponents more than Klopp, and we will need the atmosphere to scale new heights week in, week out as we once again climb that hill.
The manager’s words this week were as timely as they were effective and, for me at least, they banished the gloom of that long dark season of the soul.
We go again, filled with renewed energy and focus, exciting youngsters making their way, others finding new maturity, thrilling signings and the promise of more. That interview reminded me why I’m still glad that Jurgen is a Red.
The first game is just a matter of weeks away, yet another reason to be cheerful. I don’t know about you, but I can’t bloody wait.