I’ll never forget: it was Sunday, October 4ᵗʰ, 2015, and I was at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, NY watching the Buffalo Bills play the New York Giants. I’d been checking my phone regularly to follow the Merseyside Derby, which had ended in a dour 1-1 outcome which left me annoyed but, strangely, non-plussed. Midway through the 3ʳᵈ quarter, my phone started buzzing incessantly. Brendan Rodgers got the sack and though I felt a pang of regret for him, my overwhelming feeling was indifference. My immediate thought though was “Christ- I hope they make a run at Klopp. He may not come, but this is their big chance.” On Thursday, October 8ᵗʰ, 2015, my fondest hopes were realized as Jurgen Norbert Klopp walked into Anfield and our collective hearts. Within moments of being this future legend sitting at the lectern, he held our rapt attention for the next nine years.

READ MORE: Then I Saw His Face by Ciaran Nevin
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The Start Of My Journey

My Liverpool journey began decades ago as a boy in England during Bill Shankly’s final season. I realize that I’ve dated myself. I was far too young to appreciate the great man’s impact on Liverpool. But what I do remember is the team that year and the players who quickly became my heroes. Ray Clemence, Emlyn Hughes, Kevin Keegan, John Toshack, and Steve Heighway were forever immortals. What followed were truly glorious times: league title after league title, domestic cup after domestic cup, and European trophies interspersed for great measure. Bob Paisley was the understated genius who led those great teams and did me the great favor of repairing my broken boyhood heart when Kevin Keegan left for Hamburg only to be replaced by the King himself: Kenny Dalglish.

Back then, I just had a feeling, the moment that Kenny first stepped on the pitch in a Liverpool shirt, with that impish smile of his in tow, that Keegan would eventually become a fond and distant memory. I’d never, however, be able to predict just how much of a legend he’d become. In the ensuing years, I ended up Stateside with my family, relegated to ardently following the Reds from across the pond, via match replays on public television on Sundays, communicating with cousins back in England, and scouring the NY Times sports section for weekly updates of the First Division table.

While the cited mediums helped to ease the longing imposed by distance, it certainly wasn’t nearly the same as being there. Nevertheless, the flames of my allegiance continued to flicker, albeit somewhat less brightly, until the internet provided me the real-time updates that I’d desperately craved for well over a decade. By then, however, nightmares had become a reality as Ferguson and his teams routinely laid waste to the Premier League with Liverpool relegated to the status of an eager child with his/her nose pressed against a toy store window, dreaming of being let in (the occasional cup triumph notwithstanding).

ASTV Shorts: Klopp’s Farewell Proceedings



By the turn of the new century, Gerard Houllier had given the supporter base cause to hope after 2001’s wonderful cup treble and a second-place league finish, but it was, alas, yet another false dawn. Fortunately, it was the venerable Rafa Benitez who next arrived on the scene to restore Liverpool’s European dominance while building teams to be proud of, providing that iconic, forever unforgettable night in Istanbul, followed by the Steven Gerrard FA Cup final in Cardiff the season (while running United quite close over another season of hope). Sadly, instability and distrust came hand in hand with the soul-destroying, almost fatal reign of Tom Hicks and George Gillett and Rafa was soon to depart. The less stated about Roy Hodgson’s time at the club, in conjunction with the wretched Hicks/Gillett stewardship, if one can even classify their abject irresponsibility as “stewardship”, the better.

Kenny’s second coming was a breath of fresh air, with a League Cup and a sense of hope brought hand in hand; sadly second acts rarely measure up to legendary exploits of years past and he was soon to depart as well. Brendan Rodgers, I found well-meaning, albeit more than a bit out of his depth. For all of his purportedly innovative tactics and, according to Gerrard, exceptional man management, he always struck me as an inexperienced placeholder, albeit one who gave the club one exceptionally memorable season.

It was followed, however, by the departure of Luis Suarez and an offseason that brought in Ricky Lambert, Lazar Markovic, Javier Manquillo, and the granddaddy of them all, Mario Balotelli. In fairness, Brendan’s time also brought in Daniel Sturridge, Phil Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, the cherished Bobby Firmino, and our iron horse, James Milner. This brings us back to Jurgen, who, ostensibly, had to rebuild the club from front to back.

Rays Of Hope

For all of the affection and blind reverence that I have for Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish and everything they’ve accomplished and given the club, the reality remains that both took over the club from positions of strength. Contrastingly, when Jurgen took the managerial reins, Liverpool was ensconced in mid-table mediocrity drifting dangerously towards a rudderless future. Though his first season also saw them finish in eighth place, the signs of revival were everywhere: a 4- 1 dismantling of Manchester City at the Etihad, an exuberantly mad 5-4 result against Norwich at Carrow Road, a League Cup final lost only on penalties, a 3-0 whitewash of that same City team 3 days later at Anfield, and a knock-out of the despised red half of Manchester in the Europa League.

What followed was “that” quarterfinal against Dortmund where Anfield, roused from a lengthy European slumber, began to fully appreciate what we had in this brilliant manager of ours. We all know that the journey ended in ultimate disappointment against Sevilla, but there was little doubt that better days were ahead, and what days they were to be. The following season, Jurgen had the boys back at the European head table, qualification secured against Middlesborough on the last day, only this time there would be no meek Champions League capitulation as had previously occurred under Rodgers.

It was the year that Mo Salah arrived on the scene, took the league by storm, and formed the final and definitive piece of what would soon be the most feared front 3 in Europe, leading a barnstorming journey to the Champions League Final, with epic wins against City and Roma as the standouts. Although what transpired in Kyiv was a heart-wrenching defeat, driven by Sergio Ramos’s wrestling acumen and Loris Karius’s unfortunate watershed moment, one of the greatest seasons and Liverpool teams ever constructed was well on the way.

Bridesmaids No More

I’ll never forget: May 7ᵗʰ 2019. It had been the most exuberant and nerve-shredding of league seasons, the footballing equivalent of Ali-Frazier III: The Thrilla in Manila. Just the previous night, I had gone to bed in an almost catatonic state, after Vincent Kompany’s fluke/miracle strike against Leicester City had doomed Liverpool to the most heartbreaking of bridesmaid league finishes, with 97 points and another lost title charge the consolation prizes. This, mind you, after being an 11mm John Stones goal-line clearance from ending as invincibles and centurions in the same breath.

To compound matters, the boys were staring down the barrel of a 3-0 Champions League semi-final deficit against Barcelona with no Mo Salah or Bobby Firmino in the squad for the return leg; it was the very definition of despondency. I’d made plans to take the afternoon off and watch the match at our local LFC supporters’ bar but had nearly talked myself out of doing so, content to wallow in my solitude of misery. An hour prior to kick-off, I decided to go under the notion of “Let’s cheer this on together, come rain or shine”. I also distinctly remember thinking on the drive there that an early goal could destabilize Barcelona and with Anfield at decibel-defying levels, who knew, what might happen.

Of course, my “what ifs?” were summarily tempered by the reality of Barcelona’s firepower, their fully rested squad, and a tall if not impossible task to keep them from scoring. What transpired that afternoon/evening, was as close to an out-of-body experience as I’ve known as a supporter. For me, it was right up there with Istanbul and, in some ways better, knowing that Liverpool had to play the full match with the knowledge that a single Barcelona goal would end all hopes.

I remain convinced that without Jurgen Klopp, that night of nights never transpires. From Divock Origi: “To be honest in terms of speeches before games, he’s the best I’ve seen; I get goosebumps bro.. he speaks from the heart, bro, it’s crazy. I don’t remember exactly what he said before the game, but he came with this energy, he was like ‘yeah, we can do this’ “. That day/evening, every goal, every shiver and roar of delight married to the nearly unbearable tension in those last few minutes was inexplicable to adequately describe. It was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible memories I’ve had as a sports supporter.

The post-match scenes of Jurgen and the boys singing a stadium-shaking version of YNWA, in unison with the Kop, still moves me to tears every time I watch back, while the radio booth commentary scenes from Steve Hunter and John Aldridge inspire almost immediate schoolboy-level giddiness almost a half-decade later and will, I imagine, do so for decades to follow.

Three weeks later, the win against Spurs in the final completed the circle of happiness and relief; another day and memory for the ages. Then, of course, there was the parade the following day: I sat streaming LFCTV mitigating the previous day’s hang-over with a few more pints and a smile that I simply couldn’t remove from my face. Again, Jurgen said it best: “If you could have put all the emotions, all the excitement, all the love in the air that day and bottled it up, the world would be a better place.”

The Long Wait Finally Ends

Over the decades, there have been some incredible Liverpool teams, but the ‘18-19 and ‘19-20 vintages make valid cases to be the best ever, not only in terms of style but also a result of the unrelenting consistency they demonstrated. It was a team at the very peak of its ability and powers; the results, put any debate of that presumption out of reach. Over a rolling 38-game period, the boys took 110 points out of a possible 114 on offer; 36 wins and 2 draws. No other Liverpool team has come close to rivaling this accomplishment and it’s highly unlikely that any team ever will. In fact, the next “closest” teams to the aforementioned total were the 2005 Chelsea team and 2017 Manchester City centurions who shared a 102-point total over that same rolling 38-match timeframe.

It underscores how irresistible a juggernaut Klopp had built, with the ability to absolutely batter teams while remaining equally adept at grinding out difficult results when not at their best. No better examples exist than the 2-1 last-gasp victory at Villa Park in November of the title-winning season, bookended by the Boxing Day demolition of then-second-placed Leicester (Liverpool having returned from lifting the Club World Cup just 5 days earlier). It was a match wrought with peril in the build-up, with Brendan Rodgers presiding over a very tough and resurgent team of Foxes.

What he and his team found waiting for him, however, was a buzzsaw, in one of the most dominant league performances I’ve ever witnessed (and that includes the 1988 5-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest). This one could easily have been 8-0; my jaw was agape at times, such was the level of relentlessly majestic football that the boys played. It was foot on the throat level stuff while remaining utterly mesmerizing to the eye, a Christmas season memory for the ages.

The onslaught never subsided, not even when a tragic, once-in-a-century global pandemic briefly entertained calls for the season to be canceled with Liverpool sitting 2 matches from the title. Instead, our champions-elect were made to wait for another excruciating 3 months. And strange though it may have been to win the title without the benefit of a roaring Anfield, it was no less joyful when the whistle blew after the Chelsea-Man City match and the boys celebrated together at Formby Hall Golf Club.

Another indelible memory that I was able to experience over Facetime with brethren from our LFC supporters club, one of whom was home in Liverpool and shared with us the joy of seeing fireworks illuminate the night sky as the surreal celebrations transpired throughout Merseyside in the midst of the lockdowns. My celebratory champagne remained no less sweet with Jurgen’s tearful interviews eliciting the same tears of joy from myself and so many million Liverpool supporters everywhere.

A Season In The Bubble

As the 2020 season approached, the future held so much promise even in the knowledge that it’d be played in empty stadiums. And despite the often-eerie atmospheres, it seemed as though there’d be a continuation of dominance, that is until Jordan Pickford and his infuriating smirk wiped out Virgil van Dijk, with impunity, summarily ending his season. It was a travesty followed by Thiago being shelved by the equally odious Richarlison, a dual misery compounded by Henderson’s injury-time winner inexplicably and absurdly chalked off.

Sadly, that match was a harbinger for what lay in wait during the remainder of the season: an unrelenting injury list that turned Anfield into an infirmary, Fabinho and Henderson played center back, in many matches, and Nat Philips and Rhys Williams were thrown into the fire due to absolute necessity. Worse still was the death of Jurgen’s beloved mother, Elizabeth, and the funeral he couldn’t attend due to the pandemic-imposed travel restrictions. It was followed by the heartbreaking news of Alisson’s father, Jose Agostinho, and his untimely, tragic passing via a drowning accident back in Brazil. We so often forget the human side of managers and players and the fact that their personal trials and tragedies are in no way less palpable than our own; in fact, I’d opine that it’s much more difficult to navigate such circumstances in the glare of a media fishbowl.

Even with all the lazy punditry describing the ’20-21 season as the worst of all title defenses, the resilience Jurgen had instilled, shone through yet again, this time through a frantic late-season 10-match unbeaten run and in the form of an otherworldly last-minute miracle from the head of our #1, Alisson Becker. I’ll never forget the feral bellow of joy that came out of me when that ball hit the net. What a delivery from Trent, what a header from Ali, and what a goal that was. I often tell the story of my wife who was gardening outside, with her headphones on, and how she came racing into the house to make sure everything was alright, only to see me on FaceTime with my cousin in London, celebrating and laughing in complete disbelief like a pair of 7-year-olds.

After staring into the abyss of a Murphy’s Law season, that goal and the improbability of how it propelled Liverpool to a third-place Champions League-securing finish provided one of the most cathartic conclusions to a season. What more can one state or write about the ‘21-22 season? Every match on offer played, both domestic cups won in grueling fashion, two matches/minutes from immortality, and a brush with an accomplishment never before achieved by any club: the Holy Grail… the quadruple. Instead, only the woodwork, Thibaut Courtois playing the match of his life, Paul Tierney alongside his VAR “mate”, Chris Kavanaugh, and their wretchedly diabolical decision not to award a penalty against Rodri and Man City, prevented a season to end all seasons. Rival supporters may scoff and marinate in their schadenfreude, but I don’t believe any team will ever again come so close to the impossible.

Looking back, the accomplishment was beyond extraordinary, regardless of the final result. I remember it taking me nearly two weeks to reset my mind to a place of normalcy after that Champions League defeat and the subsequent announcement of Sadio Mane’s departure to Bayern Munich. It really felt as though it was the end of something; sadly, my fears were not misplaced. But, even during the subsequent campaign where the boys were completely and emotionally drained while understandably being unable to rouse themselves to previous levels, there was still the joy of the 7-0 demolition of Manchester United, a result no one can nor will be able to expunge from history.. once again driven and inspired by our colossus of a manager.

The Legacy Of A Legend

And so, here we are: the time all of us dreaded yet hoped and expected would come two years later: Jurgen Klopp is no longer the manager of Liverpool and will never again grace Anfield’s touchline in a competitive capacity. Would I have preferred his last match to have been a title decider? Undoubtedly so. And yet, the manner in which circumstances have transpired allowed his last bow to be a richly deserved love letter of adulation and heartfelt gratitude without those emotions being a passenger to the anxiety and a potential result that may or may not have resulted in delirium.

With Jurgen, it’s always been the journey that’s been the true joy of it all. That he’s a once-in-a-lifetime manager is indisputable. But it’s his humanity, his honesty, his ability to say the right thing at the right time, in happiness or despair, that I’ll miss most. Adam Lallana summed up his aura appropriately: “In my career, I think I have always followed a manager’s message, but it was easy to follow Jurgen. Everything was so powerful; he was a genius. Straight away, I thought ‘I will do anything this man says’. He weeded out the weak. Either you got on the boat or you fell off and there was no way I was falling off.. no chance.”

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Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool Football Club were love at first sight, soulmates from day one. The oddity (some may say absurdity) of adoring a football manager from the Black Forest region of Germany, a man whom I’ve never known and will likely never know isn’t lost on me. But, he truly has impacted my life and my outlook on it. What he did for the club I’ve loved since I was a boy of single digited age has been incalculable. There’s a German word that has recently surfaced to describe him, and it couldn’t be more appropriate: ‘Menschenfanger’, which apparently and roughly translates to “people catcher”. And, it’s the aforementioned which will be Jurgen’s long and far-reaching impact, on-field accomplishments aside.

With respect to accomplishments, four matches was the difference between him and 3 league titles, 3 Champions League trophies, and footballing immortality, which only underscores the difficulty and misfortune of life and its timing. The grind of competing with an immensely talented but infinitely better-funded oil-state-owned club must have worn on him, as did year after year of having to deal with overtly wretched refereeing decisions that, in desultory fashion, undid the toil that he, his staff, and his teams had given their waking moments to.

As Pep Guardiola’s admittedly most difficult rival, and the annual experience of almost Sisyphean-level challenges how could he not have been completely exhausted? He understood the club in a manner that few have or ever will and did so with an exuberance, kindness, and passion that I’ve never before experienced. There’ll always be the delicate discussion of where he stands in the pantheon of great Liverpool managers, but at the very least, he deserves a place on Merseyside’s version of Mount Rushmore alongside Shankly, Paisley, and Dalglish. And, in the best case, at the risk of sounding irreverent or committing the equivalent of football heresy, he’s right next to Bill Shankly for the manner in which he reconstructed a fallen giant, galvanized all who were part of its infrastructure while lifting its supporter base and the city of Liverpool to soaring heights once again.

Losing him is gut-wrenching, knowing that we’ll never again see him like ever again. I can almost guarantee that as many good or great managers who grace Anfield, in the years to come, there will never be another Jurgen Klopp; he is, in a word, irreplaceable. Will Arne Slot be the next Bob Paisley to Jurgen’s modern-day incarnation of Shankly? Sitting here, we have only Jurgen’s mantra imploring us to move from doubters to believers so time will tell the tale. As a club legend and icon, he richly deserves and will, I hope, have a statue constructed in his honor one day.

The inscription of Bill Shankly’s statue outside Anfield reads: “He made the people happy”. Jurgen’s inscription will, I hope, read: “He gave us unbridled joy…again”. For the magical ride of the past nine years, for the ecstasy and even the occasional agony we’ve experienced, I have only this to offer: he’s provided memories that I’ll happily be able to live off for the rest of my life. Auf Wiedersehen and Danke, Jurgen… from the bottom of my grateful and broken heart. YNWA.

The unity, the passion, the unadulterated joy. Trust me when I write that Jurgen Klopp is one of a kind and we’ll never quite see someone like him again.

No host, no trivia, all gas, no brakes American Scouser Podcast

No Timucin this week so no one to watch the kids…. and you get to see the result
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  2. Well… We're Waiting!
  3. Thank you for calling, Please Hold For Arne Slot
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  5. Ugly Crying and Tissues
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