Sunday 23 October 2016

Mr Normal will repair Liverpool if they let him

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with (l-r) chairman Tom Werner and CEO Ian Ayr
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with (l-r) chairman Tom Werner and CEO Ian Ayr
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

I like Jurgen Klopp. Everything about him, including his supposed eccentricities, tells me that this is a man in love with football and driven a gnawing hunger to be the best he can be.

He can repair Liverpool if they let him do his job.

I'm always wary when someone is labelled an eccentric, particularly in England where that can mean anything at all.

I was struck forcibly by Klopp's decision to benchmark himself against José Mourinho by tagging himself 'the Normal One'.

He clearly doesn't see himself as different in any way and again, I like that. It shows humility and common sense. Why make yourself a bigger target than you already are?

In this case, eccentric means that he is not interested in money, not interested in celebrity and from what he has said so far, subscribes to the same views about football which I do.

These days, anyone in the game who isn't chasing down a new deal or a bigger wage packet is seen as a bit odd. The idea that pure passion for the game might drive a man is scorned.

He is interested in the simple fundamentals which make the game what it is and we saw at Borussia Dortmund the impact this can have on a group of players first and then an entire club.

They adored him in Dortmund and there wasn't one bad word said about him when he quit even though he was putting an end to something the fans and directors hoped would go on forever.

That's always a good sign. Mourinho has left a trail of enemies behind where ever he has been and there is no shortage of people in the game who will condemn him outright. He gives them plenty of ammunition.

Sure, you could argue that Alex Ferguson did the same but never to the point where he managed to alienate half the human race as Mourinho seems to have done by shouting and roaring at Eva Carneiro.

But back to Klopp. His default image is of a smiling face and while I'm not suggesting that part of a manager's function is to look like he is enjoying himself, it tells me that this lad has an appreciation of how lucky he is, amidst all the pressure and hype, to be doing what he loves doing. It's a refreshing change from the diet of bile and hype we're used to

His credentials as a coach and manager of men are impeccable and I would not be a bit surprised to see Liverpool surge on the back of his appointment.

A new approach or a new attitude, coming on top of something that was very negative in the end, can work wonders and players who previously couldn't kick snow off a rope are transformed.

I have no doubt that Klopp will want to sign players but his great strength is improving those he has in front of him and that gives him excellent leverage within the club when he wants to splash big money on a specific man.

Klopp is one of that dying breed who insist on control of the incomings and outgoings and he walked into Anfield with his eyes open. I'm sure the first question he asked his prospective employers revolved around transfer policy.

He could afford to be easy on John Henry though. Liverpool were desperate and needed a hero. They needed Klopp.

He knew that so I'm certain he had a long discussion about the transfer committee and how to wind it up.

From the outside looking in, I would bet that Klopp threw the committee a bone and didn't insist that it be dismantled but I'm sure the conversation he had with Henry meant that while nobody lost face, he took a grip of the decision making.

I find it sad in a way that of all clubs, I find myself talking about Liverpool this way. Every single man, woman and child on the Kop knows that the only way forward is to give control to one man who lives or dies by his decisions.

The man out of step with the substance of Liverpool is Henry and if he needs proof that his way doesn't work, he's just had three years of it on his own doorstep with Brendan Rodgers.

The timing of all of this is good for Klopp. There can be no real expectation among Liverpool fans for the remainder of the season, so he has something of a free pass.

That said, the Premier League has been so flaky so far that any manager who can inspire a run of four or five wins has reason to feel that Champions League football, at least, is a legitimate ambition.

Let's wait and see how he gets on. I'm looking forward to watching this story unfold and I'm delighted that we seem to have found the perfect antidote to Mourinho's brand of poison.

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