By Ernie Fox
Where do we start? Daniel Sturridge has finally returned to the first team after such a long time out with injury and his two goals were crucial in returning Liverpool to winning ways against Aston Villa but when I talk about the most important player, there is someone who is far more vital to the survival of this great club … or rather, some people.
It may sound corny, but I’m referring to the Kop, often described as Liverpool’s twelfth man, it has become so easy over the years to forget just how much of an impact these special fans have over the course of the match. It has often been joked that it was the Kop who sucked goals in whilst blowing out shots from the opposition and as you start to look back in history there is certainly an element of truth in that. And yet recently we have become so obsessed with marquee signings and changing formations and tactics that we have forgotten a massive part of who we are.
Players and managers come and go, and the club has remained at the top of the game for so many years and yet we often forget what makes this special club and stand out above the rest. It is the energy and drive created by the Anfield faithful that has helped to produce so many memorable nights and this is orchestrated by the mighty Kop stand.
That is not to say that the rest of the ground doesn’t matter, or that away fans don’t have such an impact, but for me the Kop is the physical embodiment of what the club represents. Anfield was once a fortress a place where teams feared to visit for fear of being taken apart by a marauding Reds’ side and that was in no little way down to the atmosphere created by the fans unlike those of any other club.
But this comes at a price…
The Kop needs a type of football that will bring the fans to their feet, that will excite them. If the Kop lose heart in the style of football being played then Anfield can become a difficult place to play for the home side, we lose that edge we have over our opponents. I’m afraid to say that in recent times that is exactly what has happened with Brendan Rodgers’ side.
You have to have been at Anfield on one of those nights to truly appreciate what I mean, it’s not a case of the fans just shouting a bit louder than others, it is something so much more, something that electrifies the ground and can’t be simply manufactured by a few placards. Recently that fire created by the stand has gone out and it will take more than a few blogs on the Internet to bring it back; it needs the team to once again give the fans something on the pitch to believe in.
Despite the success yesterday, I am not convinced Rodgers will last the season as he has resorted to a far more conservative style of football which sadly does little to raise the Kop. Therefore, it is only a matter of time until we appoint a new manager, and the one thing we really must take into account when choosing the correct successor is the impact he will have on the Kop.
That is why I am hopeful Jurgen Klopp will get the nod; he may not quite have the credentials of Ancelotti, but his style of passionate and attacking football will get the Kop singing for sure. It is no surprise that Roy Hodgson, despite some fairly successful performances elsewhere struggled so badly at Liverpool. His style of football makes his sides difficult to beat, but at Liverpool that type of play just creates an uncomfortable and nervous atmosphere around the stadium and becomes detrimental to the players.
Maybe I am wrong and there is still time for Rodgers, if so then the first thing he has to address is not necessarily individual positions but how to win back the Kop. If he can get them back on side then it would be as effective as the return of Luis Suarez, because they will produce an energy and power that will drive the team forward – but like any paradox they can only deliver such a reception for the side if they are inspired by what they are watching. That is what we need to first consider when deciding how to move forwards, forget the millions of pounds of individual players, let’s go back to basics and give the Kop something to get excited about because that is the true Liverpool identity.
Written by Ernie Fox