It was almost as if a rock band had announced a new lead singer. Juergen Klopp’s appointment as Liverpool FC manager has justifiably amped up the atmosphere at Anfield and among the LFC faithful. For a club trudging along in mediocrity for the good part of a season and a half, its fans deserved a shot in the arm because despite Brendan Rodgers’ best intentions, passion was fading into prosaic passing and forlorn football at one of the world’s most storied clubs.
As a Liverpool fan, I am obviously optimistic and excited about one of the most exciting managers in world football taking over. And while I have the ‘make us dream’ sentiment willing to leap right out, I also know that pragmatically it’s one baby step (or if you are Philippe Coutinho, one baby step over) at a time. And that is where Klopp’s broad philosophy and approach to football fills me with the hope that we will get to see what fans always want to see in their club. In the NBC show Men In Blazers, John Oliver, the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight and Liverpool fan, had said that the only thing he expected from his team every single time was to see them play heartwarming and exciting football. Klopp looks like someone who could be positioned to give exactly that. It’s easy to buy into the personality cult of a manager these days (I am looking at you, Jose) but Klopp despite his outwardly rockstar-ness is a manager tethered to the reality of a high pressure job in a high pressure environment. That is why I was delighted to hear him say in the press conference that his aim was to see ‘fighting spirit, many sprints, many shots, and the result is the result of these things’.
That was how it was during that dream run of 2013-14 when I used to switch on the TV set during a Liverpool game to experience pure joy at watching a Suarez rushing forward, a sublime Sturridge finish or a fine Sterling dribble. Circumstances have obviously changed since then but this appointment shows the club is willing to show ambition and dare to dream. Liverpool and its fans are often berated for piping on about their history with not much to show in the last quarter of a century. Klopp’s assertion that ‘history is the base for us’ and caution that ‘it’s not allowed to take history in the backpack’ is exactly the reassurance the fan in me wanted to hear.
Here is a manager who is not willing to make boombastic statements but at the same time not given to platitudes and anodynes. Klopp showed a surprisingly good grasp of economics when he admitted about the information asymmetry that rules the players signing market (‘I’m not a genius. I need other people to get the perfect information. When we have this we will decide to sign or sell a player.’) And that is why I believe he is indeed the Normal One.
And one hopes, with him at the helm, normal service resumes soon at Liverpool Football Club, when I can switch the TV on again every week knowing the metaphorical champagne will flow out of those high definition pixels.