WHITE banners, red paint, and a simple message: “Jurgen Klopp. YNWA.”
It’s Liverpool, that. Representative. What we do. Us.
Large and loud, that message hung from the railings of Anfield, blowing in the wind whipped up along the River Mersey and gusting through the streets of L4.
Others had left flowers and messages as a mark of respect for Jürgen’s late mother, Elizabeth.
One read: “Sorry for your loss, boss. We win, lose or draw together. YNWA.”
Another said: “Strength grows in the moment when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway.”
In the strange, detached, fucked up world we live in right now, that struck the right note. That is support. That is gratitude. And that is recognition that a great man, who has done great things for our club, was having a tough time, personally and professionally.
Walking the desolate Anfield streets this week, looking at the shutters down on shops, pubs and businesses we know and love — Sing Fong, Homebaked, The Albert — and more; feeling the emptiness of a ground part-converted to a Covid-19 vaccination centre; it’s a reminder of what we’re missing.
A floral tribute simply reading ‘Dad’ placed at the feet of Bill Shankly’s Kop statue was also a reminder of all those that have loved and lost in recent times. Too many.
We’re at a stage where some may be blocking it out, others may be blase. But sometimes you have to stop and think.
It’s a period that has tested the strongest among us, and will continue to do so. Including Klopp.
In ordinary times, we’d be inside that ground. That banner outside would have been held above heads. And the manager’s name would have rung around the ground, along with a every-other-week rendition and recognition of the champions.
“The banner is nice, obviously, but not necessary,” said Klopp this week.
“I don’t think I need special support at this minute, but it’s nice. I’m very grateful about it but people can worry about other things. They don’t have to worry about me.”
As the leader of Liverpool FC –– because that’s what he is, not just a coach, not just a manager (and that’s what is required for this crazy job, too) –– he likely felt duty-bound to show the world some strength. Because as he let slip post-Leipzig, he knew plenty were prepped to draw their metaphorical daggers.
This time, they didn’t get their chance. But what happens if Liverpool lose again sometime soon?
“They” will come daggers drawn once again. What’s odd though, is that some people claiming to be among our own will likely be among them.
Digital communication has taken centre stage during lockdown, and for that reason we’re perhaps all more exposed, and more triggered perhaps, by things said online then ever before.
Without the balance of regular real-life interactions, it’s all some of us have left. By the same logic, it’s how many could be taking the temperature of the Liverpool fanbase –– from the media, to opposition fans, to even, maybe, our own players and manager. Certainly staff at the club. That’s how Jurgen found out about the banner after all.
Wonder then, what happened to standards; our culture, our way.
Because make no mistake, during the recent bad run of results for Liverpool, and the realisation that back-to-back titles is no longer likely, there have been some horrendous takes online. One or two attention-hungry gobshites helping TalkSport peddle their pish is one thing. Comment boxes full of bile, Twitter full of nonsense, and well-followed platforms fuelling the fire is another.
If opinions are flicked like a light switch on the basis of a result or two, especially after a 30-year wait for the title was ended so emphatically, on the back of Big Ears number six, World Club Champions and a European Super Cup (yeah, why not), then people on the outside might look in and call us entitled. And people on the inside might wonder exactly what they have to do to maintain some kind of emotional equilibrium during a worldwide pandemic.Embed from Getty Images
Call it an old man raging against the machine, or worse, but once upon a time there was grip on the identity of Liverpool’s support. Or at least more of one. My early days on The Kop were among an ever-changing cast of school-mates, some more interested in the football, the club, and any sense of a ‘Liverpool Way’ than others.
When some of them acted up, crossed the line, sang or shouted something that didn’t chime with the collective ethos, a gnarly Kopite would emerge to admonish the Huyton whippersnappers for breaking the rules. We all quickly learned.
This is not about elitism; about these people here being ‘better’ than those people there. But it does feel like there’s an intangible here worth fighting for. That old cliche of Liverpool having a knowledgeable support that respected good football –– even from, shock, horror, the opposition –– shouldn’t be allowed to disappear. Neither should the concept of us being among the best supporters. Supporters support. So support then.
Klopp, like you need to be told, is among the very best we’ve EVER had. Once upon a time people like me secretly, weirdly, bemoaned our club’s great history: Ok, great, sound, nice one, lads, made up you went all over the world watching us gathering cups in May. When is it our turn?
Don’t get me wrong, there was pride. But you want your own experience. It seemed like, for so long, that our time wasn’t going to come.
We had good times –– way better times than the supporters of so many other clubs, it’s always worth remembering –- but we didn’t have –– those –– times: cup after cup, league after league.
Again, entitlement here. Istanbul. Gerrard in Cardiff. The Houllier Treble. And so on. Yet there it was: not even one league title, for fuck’s sake.
Then Klopp won it. This side won it. The current version of Liverpool Football Club delivered.
And it was home and abroad. Against a ridiculously strong opponent domestically in Manchester City –- a club that financial resource-wise has it wrapped up.
Klopp, let’s remember, stands alongside Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan as a manager who made Liverpool champions of England and Europe.
So what are we saying here, the moment perpetual domination isn’t delivered, we flip? We turn? We demand change?
There is a stoking from the ever-switched-on-the-conversation-never-stops media here. You’ve seen it. The concept of ‘worst-ever champions’. The idea you’ve ‘failed’ if you don’t win the title again immediately after winning it for the first time in 30 years.
But can we call bullshit and just get behind the boys for a bit? I’m sure that would be the shout if we were in the ground.
The context I would always draw on is that they have been mind-blowingly amazing as a football team for two to three years for starters. But further. Who said it was win the title again or fuck off? Where has that concept come from?
And the context of a pandemic, the injuries, and so on –– just a bit boring, is it?
Liverpool, for the record, have won the league 19 times. Only five times did they win it and win it again the year after.
The season –– so far –– has not gone to plan; it’s not how we dreamt it. The same can be said about life in 2021. But The Reds remain in The Champions League. Any position beyond top spot in the Premier League is attainable.
And, arguably more than ever, everyone at Liverpool could probably do with knowing we’re all on the same page as they try to crack it.
We sing it. We say it. We paint it on banners. You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Let’s live it. Now more than ever. Up The Champions. Liverpool FC. Up The Reds. Live it.
You'll Never Walk Alone.
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