I am 45 years old. It is easy for me to remember all the way back to the European Cup Final in 1984. The double in 1986, the heartbreak against Wimbledon in ’88, the devastation of Hillsborough. That “last” title in ’90 and the subsequent loss of Dalglish. The decline under Souness and being fourth in a two-horse race with Roy Evans. That terrific treble with Houllier and Rafa in the Champions League. The Return of the King followed by the infamous slip. And most recently, the trophies and those just beyond our grasp. Being a Reds supporter is filled with both triumphant and hard times.
The league has always been our bread and butter. Yet for so long we struggled in that arena. There were close calls, but we always fell away at the most crucial moment. Then Jurgen Klopp arrived. He turned us from doubters to believers. We all climbed aboard the German Express and BELIEVED. While we are still seated on the train, the question has to be posed. “Do we need new engine parts or a new conductor?”
A History Of Almosts
In the mid-90s, Liverpool went toe-to-toe with Manchester United as they looked for that first title in the newly formed Premier League. Roy Evans looked as if he had the measure of United. Every time is crumbled in the waning months. Hard times. We played at home to the Red Devils and saw keeper David James lose all confidence under crosses. The title opportunity vanished into thin air. Second place became fourth in 45 minutes. Everybody under the sun opined how we needed experience and a hard man in the middle of the park. Paul Ince, Oyvind Leonhardsen, and Karl Heinz Reidle entered the equation. These players would take us to the promised land and fill us supporters with hope. By season’s end, Evans was on his way out and Gerard Houllier was filling his seat.
Liverpool finished second to Arsenal in 2001-2002. The Gunners put together an incredible run and just about squeaked past our boys. The disappointment compounded as we threw away a golden chance in Europe away to Bayer Leverkusen. Even after the hard end of that campaign, ’02-’03 was one of high hopes. Yet the transfer market was a signal of the woes to come as rumors of Duff and Bowyer disintegrated to Diouf, Diao, and Cheyrou. A hot start to the year cooled on a cold day to Middlesbrough. Our UCL journey ended at the group stage to FC Basel of all teams! After one more lackluster season in 2003-04 and another skin-of-our-teeth fourth-place finish, Houllier was relieved of his stead. Hard times.
The Rafa Revival
Rafael Benitez gave us Istanbul and with the likes of Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, and Fernando Torres joining Steven Gerrard in the fold we came close to getting back to league success. A 4-4 draw at home to Arsenal sealed our demise in our closest contention and the wheels fell off. Rafa’s rants about facts, Sir Alex Ferguson’s constant reloading at United, and a lack of support internally collapsed everything at Anfield. Our manager was maligned rather than backed and the sale of Alonso was the beginning of the end. Benitez’s deteriorated relationship with the first American owners of the club led to some of the hardest times we’ve endured in the new millennium.
Brendan Rodgers got us in striking distance again with the strike force of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. SAS allowed us to defy expectations. A delay to Suarez’s introduction came after a suspension, arguably a sign of things to come for the Uruguayan. Poetry in motion was more than a slogan. Every game unfolded like a Cup Final. Just when we all started to believe again, it all slipped away. Hard times. Suarez departed to Barcelona and the inability to get Alexis Sanchez from that same club as a replacement saw Rodgers’ influence diminished and the club ready to welcome our latest gaffer, Jurgen Klopp.
The Good, The Bad, & The Gangenpress
This brings us to the present day. Last year the quadruple was within touch. The Gangenpress style left us on fumes and half of the dream dissipated in the cruelest of ways. Last summer Klopp warned of fatigue and how that would affect our preseason preparation. That was met with ambivalence about which midfielders to target and ultimately Klopp gambled that running it back would be enough for at least this year. Why spend for a second or third-choice midfielder when this roster was so close to the quadruple must’ve been the thought. Unfortunately, that gamble went bust. The manager got it wrong and we as supporters did as well. The rapid decline came thick and fast. The question to be asked now is “Can Jurgen Klopp turn this around with investment or should the bag be handed to his replacement?”
Don’t Rehash Hard Periods
Evans got his money for his midfielders. Houllier got three reinforcements as well even if they weren’t those we clamored for. Rafa and Rodgers had their squabbles with their respective boards but got backing to emerge from dark periods for the club. Yet once the rot set in for all four, it was irreversible. Can Klopp buck that trend and reverse the current malaise?
What is different in our current situation is that Jurgen has built up such goodwill and support that we as fans still have faith in him. We still believe. Klopp is one of us. Unfortunately, after just a couple of poor results the layers of media can turn on a manager and create mass hysteria which sometimes can lead to a premature ouster. This season has been a disaster. The omens of past managers do not bode well for now. But if anyone deserves faith, hope, support, and resources it is the man that re-instilled that belief. Jurgen Klopp built a great team that claimed every available trophy. He did it before and I say he can do it again. The train isn’t breaking down it is just shifting from gas to electric. The hard times will pass and we will be back.