By Sam Patterson (@sam0007ster)
Because with Jurgen Klopp, it’s gonna be alright.
Bob Marley’s a spiritual Liverpudlian…of sorts. His music is for all. It’s head-calming. It’s heart-warming. It soothes souls, it engages minds. It’s naturalistic. It’s pacifistic. It welcomes all; it loves all. It’s very, to put it frankly, Liverpool–ey (not sure that’s in the dictionary, but I’m sure you get the gist).
No, Bob Marley’s not a Liverpudlian – of course not. It was once believed that his father Novel Marely lived on Merseyside during his youth – that, as it turned out, was a fallacy; a lie; a myth. A myth perhaps formed on the basis that his father did in fact travel to Liverpool to enlist in the non-combatant Labour Corps during the Great War. But it’s a persistent myth. A myth more likely born out of the city’s love for his son’s music.
Bob Marley’s an icon. In Liverpool, he’s an adopted son. This is not a story about the musician, however. But rather a short ode to a redacted rendition of one of his all-time hits – Three Little Birds.
It’s the 18th May 2016. It’s Europa League Final day, Sevilla versus Liverpool, the latter’s first European final appearance since 2007. And there’s a new man in charge, the charismatic trophy-winning German Jurgen Klopp. So there’s a tangible excitement among fans that this is Liverpool’s rebirth, or at least the start of ‘something’. Perhaps, as the most avid Red would have undoubtedly remarked, the start of yet another red crusade.
Liverpudlians, as expected, flood the streets of Basel – and pack the famous Marktplatz square. Some (very merry) Liverpool fans, hours before the evening kick-off, start jubilantly bellowing out the chorus of Marely’s tune – but the words are different.
…Shankley don’t worry… about a thing… because with Jurgen Klopp it’s gonna be alright…
Those words are strangely prescient. It’s not a song you’d conventionally hear in the pre-match build-up – whether a redacted version or the original.
You see, it’s a song of reflection, a song of consolation, a song not of defeat but one to be sung in the face of defeat, in order to overcome defeat.
It was prescient because Liverpool were indeed defeated that night; painfully defeated – 1-3. Tears, floods of them, flowed down the faces of fans and players at the final whistle, some of whom were inconsolable. Literally, in the case of midfielder Emre Can.
Liverpool took a deserved 1-0 lead before half-time, but an immensely capable – and clinically efficient Sevilla side – led by Kevin Gameiro completed a pretty enthralling second-half comeback.
The mood, in the immediate weeks which followed, was melancholy.
It’s gonna be alright
Defeat meant, on the one hand, Liverpool went another season – a fourth-consecutive – trophyless. On the other hand – probably even more gutting – it meant Liverpool agonisingly missed out a coveted seat amongst Europe’s elite – Champions League football and all the royalties that come with it (which I needn’t list).
In fact, defeat also meant Liverpool wouldn’t be playing for any of Europe’s top prizes in 2016/17 (given the Reds finished eighth in the league, behind the likes of West Ham United and Southampton). It felt like regression. It felt like a step backwards. Indeed, at the time (with purposeful emphasis), it seemed as if all our hopes and all our dreams rested on this one football match.
But football’s a marathon, not a sprint. Klopp knew that then, and I’m sure we all collectively realise it now.
The German, understandably exacerbated and down-beat but simultaneously forward-looking, said in his post-Sevilla press conference in 2016:
“We are responsible for not being in the Champions League next season but now we have to use the time. We have to use it. It’s not about the size of the squad or how many players we have, it’s about using the time for training to get better, using this experience tonight and I promise everyone, we will use it… We will come back stronger 100 per cent.”
“…then someday everybody will say Basel was a very decisive moment for the wonderful future of Liverpool FC”. Half grimacing, half smirking, he continued, “we will carry on, I’ll carry on and we’ll be in another final…”
He was right; this was just the start.
Like Marely’s Three Little Birds offers hope at times of adversity, Klopp’s message was one of serenity, defiance and surety. He was calm, clearly exhausted, but calm nonetheless. He knew, prophetically, his Liverpool team were on the right path. No ifs, no buts.
From an outsider looking in, Klopp’s approach to the extremely difficult task of putting Liverpool back on their perch was, at first, to preach the importance of a collective togetherness – between fan, player, and manager – or as Shanks once dubbed it, “the holy trinity”. He was at pains – certainly in his first couple of years in charge – to turn negatives into positives, defeats into opportunities.
In the aftermath of Liverpool’s League Cup final defeat to Manchester City just three months before, he said: “…only silly idiots stay on the floor and wait for the next defeat. Of course we will strike back – 100 per cent…
“…don’t worry, we will go on, we will get better and that’s how it is. We have to go the hard way… Nothing is easy in this moment, but we can see if we carry on working really hard then there is new light at the end of the tunnel”.
Liverpool’s football today, trophy-winning football, is a product of that struggle. We hold today’s success close to our hearts because we’ve been through that struggle. We know what its like to wallow in defeat, to be ‘on the other side’ of the result, to be so painfully close and yet so far.
And part of the reason many fans kept the faith throughout the struggle is because we have a good leader, someone who has always done a very good job of reassuring fans that his path was (and still is) the ‘right path’ à la every little thing is gonna be alright.