You wonder, sometimes, about the endurance of your interests. It’s not about what compelled you to become a fan. It’s about what keeps you coming back for more. Becoming a fan of Liverpool back in the late 70s and 80s was kind of easy. It wasn’t easy because I saw the games all the time. I had to search hard for them in the days of six TV channels. But it was easy because they won and it was exciting to watch Kenny and Graeme and Rushie and Neal and Hansen and others play. Sticking with them, though? There are a lot of new things you learn as you grow up and even more you learn as an adult. New impulses and interests change the way you look at things and change how much time and focus you’re willing to give. There are a lot of things I used to do that I no longer care to. You only have so much mental energy and it does kinda diminish as the years pile on; to say nothing of the demands of family where you’re often responsible for stimulating and enabling the interests of those who depend on you. So, a number of things have come in and out of my life as it’s progressed. But one thing remains a constant and is, thankfully, now hitting another high point which makes it that much easier to engage with.
But why the constant? What resonates with Liverpool FC that has sustained itself where so many other things have passed, including interest in other sports? What kept the fire lit, even through the lean years, when it seemed like we might never get back to the glory that we often felt entitled to, for good or ill? I’m a Marxist and have been since I’ve been politically aware (legend has it that that was around the age of 8, when my stepmother discovered me reading Newsweek.) It was perhaps a great coincidence that I became a fan and later a member of a club that had been revived 20 years earlier by an avowed socialist, who felt it was only natural that 1) everyone should benefit from the wealth of society and 2) the club should reflect that widely held perspective among its fans and membership. This is something that stood out in the dark years for the city, when Liverpool as a community was reviled by Thatcher and her Friedmanesque goons. The football, not just by LFC but also Everton, was one thing to cling to; to say that the idea that people working together- as a team -could benefit everyone and that the philosophy of stepping on one another and working solely for the self was not one that creates strength. Jürgen Klopp, in that respect, was the best and perhaps only manager for Liverpool:
This is the kind of philosophy that resonates with the club, its members, and its fans. This is what it means to be part of this picture, whether the one on the pitch, or the one out in the world. It reminds me of an old aphorism:
Capitalism means anyone can be rich (but usually just a few.) Communism means no one can be rich (but usually still a few.) Socialism means no one can be poor.
It’s that last line that sings to me of LFC and Shankly and everything that he built and rebuilt, that Paisley pulled to greater heights, that others tried to maintain, and which Klopp is now reviving. “No one can be poor”, as long as we all pull together. That’s the message that Klopp delivers to the supporters and it’s one that he delivers to the team, as Xavi highlights:
This is what’s compelling about the Reds and what keeps them attractive. It demonstrates the passion that remains compelling, even when we fail to achieve the goals that we all yearn for. This is what compels the manager to tell ownership that he’s signing on for longer, not just because he loves what he’s doing and the people that he’s doing it with, but because he wants to make sure that the person who follows him can maintain that passion, that drive, that excellence. He’s signing a deal with the fans, as much as he is with the owners. He’s trying to guarantee that when the time comes for him to step away, there will be no reason for the supporters to do so. Liverpool FC would carry on without him, regardless. But it might have trouble carrying on without all of us. The passion that Klopp and the team displays is the one that keeps us gathered, bonded, unified. That’s why everything the team does on and off the pitch is our story. Because we’re doing it together.
The game. Like the match against Monterrey, it wasn’t LFC at their best. There were a number of superlative performances, but it simply seemed like more progress could have been made at different points. But when you combine the factors of a new environment, opponents we’d never seen before or hadn’t played in decades, and somewhat questionable officiating… Yeah, it’s not too hard to see the team as a little off-kilter. In that respect, the final result is all that matters. Flamengo really liked attacking the spaces behind the fullbacks, which left Robbo and Trent doing a lot of cleanup duty and you could see some of the edge had come off of Trent’s passing in the extra time, since he was on the side with their primary goalscorer. Even 20-year-old kids can get worn out from sprinting up and down the touchline for two hours.
A nod has to go to this man:
He also had the most touches on the field for Liverpool. Despite not being as sure on the ball as Matip or Lovren, his precision passing and speed more than make up for it. I really hope that those two return soon, if only so that we can rotate Virg off the pitch for a game or two, but Gomez has quietly slipped right back into his pre-Burnley form from last year. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk up the man who chipped in both game winners this week:
That’s also only one goal allowed in our last five matches and a 95% save rate from Alisson, who was excellent again today. With those performances, and despite Salah’s excellent play, it’s reasonable to question whom the Golden Ball should have gone to. But I want to put in a word for the guy I thought was the man-of-the-match today, which is Oh Captain, Our Captain. Henderson controlled the middle third for us in this game, freeing Ox and Keita to do their thing, and later Lallana when he came on (who is still much, much better as an 8 than a 6.) His pass to Mané to set up Firmino’s winner was pinpoint and he kept the game under control when reactions to the official and Flamengo’s play were threatening to boil over (Credit due to Robbo’s excellent shithousery after being seen telling Mané that he’d “take care of him” at halftime and duly hip-checking Rafinha into oblivion at the start of the second half.) The kind of leadership that Hendo displayed and continues to display is exactly what Klopp was talking about in that tweet. We signed him almost a decade ago and I have to say that he’s been one of our best in that period.
The aftermath. Liverpool becomes the only English club to do the “international treble”, holding the European Cup, European SuperCup, and Club World Cup at the same time. Other clubs can continue to gnash their teeth about the plot armor that finds us scoring a late winner yet again (At least it wasn’t 2-1 this time.) And, of course, Pep continues to find this more disturbing than most:
We have nearly as many points as Real Madrid and Barcelona. That is not a problem. Our problem is that there is a team that has 16 wins and one draw from 17 games. Hats off to them.
Stop it. I’m crying over here. Today’s win was just the peak of a week of excellent news for LFC, given the already mentioned Klopp contract extension, followed immediately by a renewal to the reactor power source for James Milner, robot warrior, and then the signing of Takumi Minamino, who can hop on to the field for us as soon as the January 5th FA Cup tie with the now Carlo-led Blues. (Small pause to register the oddity of that situation.) The only real downside was Ox’s significant injury. When he came down on it, I saw his knee wobble and immediately thought he’d torn a ligament. Again. But he came out for the celebration in a boot and walked off the field, so it’s apparently an ankle issue. No better, given that our schedule is still stupid, but not as dire as hitting the same knee would’ve been.
Next time… Wait. A FIVE day break? What are we going to do with ourselves? It almost seems like a… holiday. Or something. Anyway, next time is a trip to the Midlands and the Fightin’ Lesters, who got handled by City today. Extending that lead from 8 to 11 would be a cool thing.