He changed us from doubters to believers

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp looks on before his team’s English Premier League match against...
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp looks on before his team’s English Premier League match against Newcastle United at Anfield in Liverpool on January 1. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES
Auf wiedersehen . . .

My father died in 2014.

Trev did not share my deep love for Liverpool football but he knew what it meant to me. He knew the performance of a football team on the other side of the world could make me feel invincible or incandescent. He understood that being a father was the most important thing in my life, and my job came second, but that Liverpool were not far behind.

It is perhaps symbolic that, barely a year after Dad died, Juergen Norbert Klopp came into my life.

I remember watching that first press conference when the intense, rather dishevelled German manager bared those famous, later-to-be-straightened teeth and referred to himself as "the normal one" upon his appointment as manager of the greatest club in the world.

But he is not normal.

What he has done for Liverpool is far from normal.

He resurrected a falling giant, revolutionised nearly everything at a football club, energised a supporter base, united a city (well, the red half of it), delivered success against formidable odds, turned players into superstars, and made our hearts sing.

He made Liverpool football great again.

A sign advertising a hot dog vendor outside Anfield.
A sign advertising a hot dog vendor outside Anfield.

. . . to the great . . .

Klopp’s most-quoted line was from that early introduction.

"We have to change from doubters to believers."

See, we Liverpool fans had been through a (relatively) disappointing couple of decades that had indeed turned us into doubters.

Our imperious teams of the 1970s and 1980s had been replaced by a bunch of lightweights in white suits, a series of incompetent owners and chief executives, a string of decent but not great managers, shocking transfer decisions, and a deep sadness and jealousy as we watched Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea dominate the English Premier League.

Did we really believe this German bloke was going to lead us back to the promised land? Especially as, to steal a line from the Guardian, he faced the "essentially impossible task" of competing with the bottomless funds of Manchester City?

Not sure we did, to be honest.

But it didn’t take long.

Klopp’s "heavy-metal football", his boundless energy, his obvious managerial skills, his connection with his players and his fans, his humanity, his humour and, of course, his phenomenal results made us believe anything was possible.

The only thing we didn’t want to believe was that he would ever leave Liverpool.

A mural of Klopp on the side of a house near Anfield.
A mural of Klopp on the side of a house near Anfield.

. . . and glorious . . .

The Juergen years have offered plenty of highlights.

There was winning the European Cup for a sixth time in 2019, and reaching two other finals, and adding the FA Cup, League Cup and World Club Cup to the trophy cabinet.

His grin as he looked at the camera and said "BOOM" (after thumping City in 2016) and "let’s talk about six, baby" (after winning the Champions League final in 2019).

The 7-0 and 5-0 wins over Manchester United. Ba ha ha ha — sorry, still makes me giggle.

Goalkeeper Alisson’s amazing header against West Brom. The Salah-Firmino-Mane front line. Trent Alexander-Arnold blossoming into the best right back in the world.

A  fan shows off her tattoo of Klopp.
A fan shows off her tattoo of Klopp.
The hugs. The glasses getting broken. The lost wedding ring.

The leadership through Hillsborough inquests and Covid. The interactions with supporters, especially those with disabilities.

Anfield supporters singing "I’m so glad that Juergen is a Red". The man himself belting out Allez Allez Allez with Liverpool musician Jamie Webster.

Most of all, there was the Barcelona miracle (2019) and the long-awaited march to premier league glory (2020).

Liverpool were smacked 3-0 in Barcelona in the first leg of their semifinal, and the return at Anfield seemed destined to be a fizzer. You simply do not overturn such deficits against such opposition.

But they did, and the quickly taken Alexander-Arnold corner that led to a Divock Origi goal became arguably the signature moment of the Klopp era.

And then came the title.

After 30 barren years and several second placings — including two by an agonising point to those money-addled blue cads — Liverpool Football Club won the premier league.

There was a brief hiccup when a global pandemic temporarily halted the season, but Klopp’s Reds absolutely destroyed the league.

And I cried my eyes out.

Covid and a marriage breakdown already had me in an emotional state, to be fair, but to finally celebrate a title after 30 years of hurt was indescribably sweet.

At the end of the storm there really was a golden sky.

Liverpool fans display a Klopp banner.
Liverpool fans display a Klopp banner.

. . . Herr Klopp

It should not mean as much as it does, and he should not mean as much as he does.

It’s just football.

Liverpool are just a sports team.

Juergen Klopp is just a human being.

But many of you understand why I am still processing the gutting news that he is leaving Liverpool Football Club.

He built a champion team.

He oozed life and humanity and spirit and strength.

He made us believe.

Danke, Juergen. You’ll never walk alone.