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Jurgen Klopp made Liverpool fans believe – he got us and we got him

To the final curtain we turn on Sunday as we reluctantly bid farewell to Jurgen Klopp after nine incredible years of footballing belligerence, defiance, endeavour, success, failure, joy and pain.

There has been every possible emotion known to humanity. There won’t be a dry eye in the house.

As much as it is a city of birthright and internal heritage, Liverpool is a sponge of an environment, a place that looks out to sea for its influences, a place that absorbs experiences and swallows up incomers.

Some we regurgitate out of disgust, but so many more whom we clutch close to our hearts, never to fully let go of.

I completely buy into the concept that as a city you can be of Liverpool without being from Liverpool, and you can even be from Liverpool without being of Liverpool (I’m looking at you Esther McVey and your war on rainbow lanyards, and you too, Dorries, with your general crankery).

You either get us or you don’t, and while we don’t care much for those souls who don’t get us, we adore those who do.

 

Like a kid at Christmas

From word go, Jurgen got us. Liverpool has been a home from home for him and his family, an environment that has offered the aura of community, within a big city, and he has contributed much to enhancing that situation even further for almost a decade.

But we have exhausted him, and it is time he took a break. Let’s be honest, we’re a bit full-on like.

Just when we needed it the most, Klopp arrived at Anfield to pick us up off the floor. For all his faults, Brendan Rodgers had shown us a brief glimpse of the promised land of Premier League glory, only for us to see the door slam shut in our faces once again.

Rinse and repeat, Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez, and now Rodgers had all flirted with potentially ending a league title famine that stretched all the way back to 1990, but each one had fallen short of the dream.

The trauma of 2013/14 had cut to the bone, and the debacle of Steven Gerrard ending his Liverpool career within the maelstrom of a 6-1 defeat away to Stoke City was a depressing marker, a year on from Luis Suarez having engineered his departure to Barcelona.

Christ, we were in a bad way.

We’d given Mario Balotelli a spin and paid ludicrous money for Christian Benteke, and while we did have pockets of talent here and there, we were generally rudderless and seemingly further away from Premier League glory than we had ever been before.

I know I’d reached a point as a middle-aged man where I doubted I’d live to see us win the league again.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, October 9, 2015: Liverpool's co-owner and NESV Chairman Tom Werner [L], Managing Director Ian Ayre [R] and new manager Jürgen Klopp during a photo-call at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Then we had the night before Klopp. A Merseyside derby day draw at Goodison, a flash of breaking news, the touch of Thierry Henry’s right hand to Jamie Carragher’s left knee, and an expression of contemplation from our former player that Inspector Poirot would be proud to call his own.

Before long, grown adults were avidly watching flight tracker websites for projected arrivals from Germany, in the style of plotting the route of Santa with your kids on Christmas Eve.

We were all too excited to sleep, and most Reds were left to hope to find a gift-wrapped Klopp waiting for them on the rug in the living room when they got up. A half drank glass of milk and an empty mine pie case left by the fireplace.

 

Jurgen got us

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 13, 2015: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp and players thanking supporters after the Premier League match against West Bromwich Albion at Anfield. (Pic by James Maloney/Propaganda)

It seemed utterly incredulous that he was here, this purveyor of fine hipster-approved football, a man who had departed Borussia Dortmund less than five months earlier in the name of a much-needed sabbatical.

But yes, here he really was, coaxed back into the circus sooner than anticipated simply because it was Liverpool who had asked the question of him.

A delight, yet totally bizarre, Liverpool were a pale shadow of their former self, both on the pitch and in the stands.

A pick ‘n’ mix squad of offcuts, assorted misfits, and a scattering of shiny prospects, a fanbase that was still nursing a broken heart, but here Klopp was, and he looked genuinely pleased about it.

We still doubted though, a reset position for us beyond every unrequited courting of Premier League title aspirations.

Evans had tried in 1996/97 and was gone before Christmas 1998, Houllier had a pop in 2001/02 and was out of the door in May 2004, Benitez should have succeeded in 2008/09 and was ejected in the summer of 2010, and then we had Rodgers, sacked less than 18 months after we had come so close in 2013/14.

We didn’t deal well with the trauma of losing out on the Premier League title, and we had created ourselves a bespoke cycle of self-destruction, that went from promise, to hope, to anticipation, to disappointment, to despondency, and ultimately the rejection of the men who had dared to make us dream.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Friday, January 22, 2016: Liverpool's Adam Lallana celebrates scoring the fifth, and winning, goal against Norwich City to seal a late 5-4 victory with manager Jürgen Klopp during the Premiership match at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp might have landed, but we just weren’t ready to believe yet. We’d been hurt too often, yet bit, by bit, he healed the wounds, and even the early cup final losses under Klopp were chalked up to being part of something infinitely bigger.

Two steps forward, one to the side and one back, we were a footballing version of The Shadows, and as impressive as wins at Chelsea and Man City were, it was Norwich away and that mad 5-4 which lit the touchpaper.

A pair of broken glasses for the manager, limbs uncontrollable in the away section, this was way forward, this was the example we needed that it was OK to believe because even if we came up short, Jurgen clearly got us and we got him. It was chaos theory, yet it was therapeutic.

 

We have been blessed

MADRID, SPAIN - SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp is thrown into the air by his team after the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. Liverpool won 2-0 to win their sixth European Cup. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Over the seasons that followed, the bond grew stronger, even through the bitter blow of losing the 2018 Champions League final in such farcical circumstances and being denied the 2018/19 Premier League title in an even more obscene manner.

Barcelona at Anfield happened, a night that nobody will ever forget, and for those of us who were lucky enough to be there in person, the vibrations will never leave us.

A night that pulsated, a night when the noise of Anfield set car alarms off in the Stanley Park car park.

Divock and Gini, Mo’s t-shirt, Milner and Henderson’s reactions at the final whistle, I have lived many unreal days following this team of ours with the Liverbird on their chest, but never had I seen a night quite like that one.

Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool singing the Liverpool anthem at the end of the Carabao Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on February 25, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Soon we were European, domestic, and world champions in a landscape when our biggest rivals were doped up to the eyeballs on questionable funding.

Yes, we really should have done it all over again, but it wasn’t quite to be. Others might have won more pots during Klopp’s time with us, but nobody has enjoyed life like we have since October 2015.

We have been blessed in an utterly unique manner.

Cheers, Jurgen. Don’t be a stranger.