I can still remember watching the horrific 6-1 game between Stoke and Liverpool at the end of the Barclays Premier League 2014/2015 season. Admittedly, I had only watched the second half (which featured a Peter Crouch thumping header and Stevie G’s last-goal-for-Liverpool), but Liverpool’s play was already unbearable to see. Sideways passing, long balls, passes back to goal – the team was just digging a grave for itself. I was appalled by the absolute dross dished out, especially since I did also see Liverpool’s unlikely – but glorious – title challenge in 13/14.
One phrase immediately came to my mind: BRENDAN RODGERS OUT.
How could we have given our dear one-club man Steven Gerrard such a dreadful send-off? Just a little while ago we had denied him a chance of getting (at least) the FA Cup on his birthday by crumbling to Aston Villa (Aston Villa!!!) of all teams possible. To me it seemed that Rodgers had lost the dressing room, was living on borrowed time and would be sacked immediately.
But alas, the board decided to stick with the gaffer, and even gave him a huge transfer budget. That spilt the fans – either you supported the gaffer or wanted him out.
Then Rodgers did something that was completely mind-blowing. Which turned many fans against him, in fact. He bought a lumbering 32.5 million pound striker – named Benteke – and a complete polar opposite of the one who had been pivotal to the title challenge in 13/14, Luis Suarez. It showed Rodger’s cluelessness in the most evident way – after all, he was the one who had proclaimed the need for ‘intensity’ all the while.
After the word ‘character’ was played on repeat mode and a subsequent poor run of results, which culminated in a 0-0 draw with Merseyside rivals Everton, Rodgers was sacked. I heaved a sigh of relief.
But why only after a poor start to the season? I wondered. Wouldn’t it have been better for the club to part with him after the 6-1 drubbing by Stoke so the club could get a new fresh start?
Well, the answer to that question will probably never be uncovered, tucked into the hearts of the owners, but what I can safely believe is that the owners had desperately pressed the ‘PANIC’ button only when they saw Chelsea experiencing a similar (and probably worse) start to the season. Jose Mourinho’s position was called into scrutiny, and this was most likely enough to scare Liverpool’s owners out of their wits in case Chelsea poached Jurgen Klopp istead.
So while Chelsea continued to keep The Special One™, Liverpool got The Normal One™.
And boy, has Klopp’s signing made wonders.
You could even call him Liverpool’s best signing post-Suarez. Carroll who?
I watched Liverpool’s games against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City and I would say I could see once again evidence of the kind of intensity, play and ‘character’ (ahem) which brought us to an unlikely title challenge.
Yes, Liverpool might not have Luis Suarez, but they are once again scoring goals for fun.
The Three-One (Jose Mourinho).
The Four-One (Manuel Pellegrini).
The Six-One (Ronald Koeman).
Of course, Klopp is not superhuman or some mystical extraterritorial being. There have still been losses against the likes of Crystal Palace and Newcastle. But Liverpool’s current play has vastly improved from THAT Stoke game, and this can only bring the players and fans confidence into each match.
The team is now playing with freedom and joy, and this has also have had an positive impact on the players. Jordon Ibe and Emre Can have rediscovered their best form, while youth players such as Connor Randall and Brad Smith have been given chances and impressing in the meantime.
Apart from results and on-pitch performances, there has also been another significant change.
Fans are once again united behind the new manager.
The iconic You’ll Never Walk Alone anthem is no longer sung a key lower, instead now being belted out loud and proud.
Forget Rodgers already. It’s the dawn of a new era. Klopp is the right one for the Kop.
Sean Lee, 5C22