The Reds boss describes the connection between Liverpool fans and players in the final portion of his exclusive interview with Goal.
The header of Scott Dann was firm, headed downward, skipping off the turf and into the net’s back.
Liverpool fans shrunk as the players of Crystal Palace celebrated. They dropped their shoulders, their hearts fell. Trust drained in red from the males.
Around them, their supporters, slowly, made towards the exit. There were still eight minutes remaining, but they’d seen enough to make their minds up; this game was over.
They were right. Liverpool lost 2-1, their first defeat under Jurgen Klopp. Afterwards, Klopp used his post-match press conference to send a message to the early-leavers.
“I saw many people leaving the stadium,” he said. “I felt pretty alone in this moment.
“We decide when it is over. We are responsible that nobody can leave the stadium before the final whistle because anything can happen.”
Privately, Klopp was equally forthright. “Nobody likes this team,” he told his players, “not even the team itself.” The aim, he added, was to change that.
His words were hitting a chord. Divock Origi scored a stop-time equalizer against West Brom a couple of weeks later. Klopp and his players lined up in front of the Kop for a lot of fun outside of Anfield to greet them on the final whistle. “Celebrate a draw,” their rivals laughed. “Support the supporters,” Klopp said. They’d stayed until the very end of this time.
Nearly four years on, Klopp can laugh about those early weeks on Merseyside. Liverpool, in just about every way, are a different club to the one he walked into.
And the connection between team and supporters is as strong now as it has ever been.
“The atmosphere that we have [now] is this wonderful mix of performance on the field and performance in the stands,” Klopp tells Goal , in the final part of our exclusive, in-depth interview.
“It was the same when I came in, but the performance on the field wasn’t so good and so the performance in the stands wasn’t as good.”
“Now we can enjoy each other again,” he agrees. “That’s really great.
“I love the picture we draw for the outside world as a club. A sensational unit with a big heart that is pounding like crazy! Everybody pulls in the right direction, it’s amazing and the reason for the success we had.”
That synergy was evident last season, as Liverpool embarked upon an epic campaign at home and abroad. They were left disappointed in the Premier League, despite a record-breaking year, but in Madrid that was forgotten as the Reds clinched the club’s sixth European Cup.
More than 50,000 Liverpool fans made the trip to the Spanish capital, while an estimated 500,000 were there to welcome back Klopp and his triumphant squad the following day. It was some weekend.
“You cannot create these kind of situations without the right players,” Klopp says. “But I knew with these supporters it would be possible because I experienced it already.
“The absolute passion they show? No, I couldn’t have expected that. After the parade, I watched a lot of videos on holiday, to get through it and to understand and get as many different views as possible, and the passion in the eyes of the people, it was unbelievable!
“I thought the picture we made when Hendo raised the cup, his face was the face of our supporters; completely on the edge, close to bursting.
“How can you watch these videos and not be emotional?! It’s crazy, and I love it!”
Still, Klopp is mature enough, experienced enough to know that the world of football moves quickly. He is aware that last season’s success, memorable as it was, will not satisfy supporters forever.
Already, he has encouraged journalists to stop asking about the Champions League final, while urging his players to focus on the next challenge. Liverpool, having been the nearly men for so long, want to become a team that win trophies, year in and year out.
“We are greedy,” Klopp says. “We have to be.”
He adds: “You can now say that being here four years, being in three European finals, it’s a success. But that is because we won one. If it was exactly the same, but we lose all three finals, it’s crazy but it’s a different story.
“What happened in the last few years is big and we can see that, especially in Europe. We came close in the league but unfortunately that doesn’t mean that the next year you will be there again. We have to be on our peak, our top level, 365 days a year.”
That’s the message before their opening Premier League game, a Friday night clash with Norwich. Anfield, under the lights, should be bouncing,
“Having this is wonderful,” says Klopp. “And we need it week in and week out.
“Without it, we are not what we are, so why should we hold anything back?”