Now, before I explain what I’m getting at, it’s important you recognise my opinion on one thing: Jurgen Klopp is sound.
As an adult, you stop having heroes in the same way you did when you were younger, but Klopp is about as close as it gets, for me. I love him. He’s the best thing that’s happened to Liverpool FC in my lifetime and I would prefer this piece comes across as a suggestion, rather than a criticism, not that he’s especially likely to read it!
Someone gave me his phone number once, but I’ve never had the audacity to reach out, although I can confirm his WhatsApp profile picture is quality.
Of all the Premier League managers, he’s the one I’d most like to go for a hypothetical pint with, in a dystopian future where people are allowed to do that kind of thing. And not just to pick his bones about gegenpressing, or what he really thinks happened with Loris Karius in the Champions League Final, or what Mamadou Sakho did to piss him off during that training camp years ago…
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But because he’s a brilliant man. He’s funny, he’s smart as hell, he’s passionate and he sees the world the way the majority of people from Merseyside do. His speech about the coronavirus in March 2020 led many neutrals to suggest he’d be a more appropriate Prime Minister, but that’s one for another day.
Sean Dyche would be quite good fun, too, based on his tales about Manchester’s Hacienda scene in the early 1990s (yep, look it up), while you couldn’t pay me to sit opposite Big Sam’s garbage – however badly I miss going to the pub.
Having prefaced this with sufficient Klopp boot-licking, I’ll get on to my point…
This season, we’ve seen a spikier, more sensitive and wholly sarcastic Klopp during his interviews. From the view of an on-looker and someone who reports on Klopp almost every time he opens his mouth, his patience with journalists and the broadcasters or newspapers they work for has run thin.
He repeatedly drops the line that he doesn’t feel comfortable answering a question because ‘you’ll just make a headline,’ and on more than one occasion, you can tell a reporter who’s asked a sometimes boring, but not entirely ridiculous question, is shaking in his or her’s boots at the Klopp snap-back that follows.
It would be easy to suggest this has come from Liverpool’s struggles. After all, our injury situation has been farcical and there’s been more than a few refereeing/VAR incidents that would send the Dalai Lama into a post-match frenzy – but much of the beef has been of Klopp’s own making.
Early on, he sent for Roy Keane after we’d battered Arsenal 3-1. He took objection to Keane’s lazy punditry that we’d been sloppy, and it made for an awkward altercation between the studio and the miccd up, on-pitch Klopp.
🗣️ "Did Mr Keane say it was a sloppy performance? Maybe he is speaking about another game…" 👀
Jurgen Klopp v Roy Keane 🍿 pic.twitter.com/MIw47L6N0o
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) September 28, 2020
At the time, I loved this and thought it was hilarious. Klopp called out Keane’s nonsense and it went viral. Hurrah. But it actually set the tone for snarky tête-à-têtes all season.
From this point on, for some time, he used most interviews as an excuse to call out the Premier League and the clubs who had voted against allowing five subs per game, when every other big league in Europe was doing it. I agree with his point entirely, but he himself admitted nothing would change and by continually speaking out on it, it created gloominess when we were winning matches and cynicism in the media.
Oddly, the biggest rant regarding the subject came just before the Manchester City draw, in which he only used one of the allotted three subs.
One week in November included a couple of interviews in which he even had a pop at Chirs Wilder; making a sarcastic comment about their position at the bottom of the table – which was very unlike him.
More from Klopp on the need for 5 subs:
"It's not the solution, it's a little help.
"Whatever Chris Wilder says, I don't speak only about Liverpool, he speaks only about Sheffield United – he admitted that in the managers meeting. But I speak only about football players." pic.twitter.com/oSDkMojhK6
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) November 28, 2020
The most well-shared example of course came after the Brighton game, in which Liverpool had two goals ruled out by the VAR, who also gave a stupid penalty to Danny Welbeck in the 95th minute. Klopp entered his chat with Des Kelly like a man trying really, really hard to maintain composure… But his fuse was exceptionally short and it didn’t take long for Kelly to light it. What followed was blockbuster TV that had everyone glued and the BT pundits genuinely lost for words by the time the argument was over and footage returned to the studio.
Klopp was sarcastic and actually quite rude to Kelly, who stood his ground fairly well.
Here it is. Des Kelly vs Jurgen Klopp in full pic.twitter.com/Razfk39hfy
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) November 28, 2020
There’s plenty of other examples since which I won’t share in which Klopp rolls his eyebrows at innocuous questions, is irritated by almost every journalist sat on the Zoom call and basically can’t get out of the presser fast enough. In short, he’s often grumpy and isn’t being – in opposition to my assessment earlier – sound.
(Having sat though many a poorly organised quiz on the same medium, perhaps I can understand the grouchiness, in fairness.)
Of course, there’s no viable way of measuring whether this has had an effect on the team. But in all forms of life, negative and anxious vibes are contagious – definitely from Klopp to the fans but perhaps also to his players.
Liverpool’s issues this season are myriad and in no way solely down to Klopp finding the media tiresome, but who knows whether subconsciously the players have bought into the excuses a little. Maybe Klopp underestimates the power of his toothy grin and how badly his legions of followers of followers want to see it – in good times and bad.
No manager in the country speaks as well as Klopp on every issue – footballing and non-footballing – and I want to see him be his best self a little more often before and after games. Obviously media duties are a pain, but it won’t change and it should be used as a tool to boost fans and players alike – perhaps more so than one to air grievances.
I really appreciated his interview after the latest Manchester United defeat. He praised his team for doing the right things, and viewing it as a fan was a cathartic process; much needed following an Old Trafford loss.
Liverpool’s recent run of Premier League form hasn’t made it easy for the boss to smile and laugh post-match. In fact, he’d be slammed for doing so given the nature of the performances, so this is more of a general point going forward.
Jose Mourinho will jab and snark all week in the buildup to the clash between Liverpool and Spurs on Thursday. That’s what he does. I’d really like it if Klopp laughed it off and gave the impression he was relaxed and confident – something we need his players to be if we’re to turn our form around.
Then who knows – maybe we’ll get one of these again:
— H A M D Y (@hamdy_naguib) March 2, 2016