By Simon Meakin
In his final match preview of the season, Simon Meakin reflects on an incredible journey. And, as he looks ahead to next season, he has a special request for Klopp.
We’re finally reaching the season’s end. A little bit later than planned and an end that for a while looked like it would never be reached at all, forever lying tantalisingly ghost-like just out of view, whispering on the wind about could have beens and might have beens, lost in a haze of annulments and PPG.
But we’ve got there. The most extraordinary season I’ll ever likely to know is finally drawing to a close. To be honest, winning the title with seven games to spare has meant the last few games have been a little bit of a damp squib compared to the magnificence that has gone before (yes winning the title with seven games to go was beyond my wildest dreams but still not keen on this losing matches lark). And before I launch into my full blown eulogy Jurgen, the one comment I’m going to write in the “Could do Better” box of your end of year report is “Would you mind awfully if you took the FA Cup a bit more seriously next year now the 30 year title drought has been sorted?” If I’m looking at the Semi-Final line-up of the usual suspects and realise I’m going to have to hope Arsenal win it again for the 400th time that’s not good.
I think my all-time favourite Liverpool match was the Michael Owen smash and grab against them in Cardiff in 2001. Even better than Istanbul (don’t ask me why. It just was). Although I say was because even that cannot hold a candle to Barca and Trent’s corner. I cannot conceivably imagine a scenario where that could possibly be beaten. But I still love the FA Cup. A bit more of that would be nice. If the other big boys can all reach the semis so can we.
But some might say that might be being a bit curmudgeonly to the magnificent man from Stuttgart (something I’ve only just found out now). Other famous sons and daughters of Stuttgart include Timo Werner (will he be the one that got away?), nineteenth Century philosopher Hegel (famous as you won’t need reminding for the Hegelian Dialectic) and Tik-Tok stars LisaandLena (me neither?) as well as Porsche and Mercedes Benz, but none can compare to the Mighty Klopp.
There is nothing this man can’t do. Sir Bob Paisley may have been the greatest manager who ever lived (three European Cups in nine years – only one less than Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs combined in their entire histories) but I can’t imagine he broke out the moves on the dancefloor to celebrate our 1976 title triumph in quite the same way Jurgen did (unless he did and Ronnie Moran’s phone just ran out of battery at the crucial time?). Klopp is Disco!
It’s a little known fact that when JK Rowling started out, her publisher advised her not to use her full name as “boys didn’t read books written by women” (I say little known, but given I found this out from the back of one of my sons Harry Potter books and about 10 billion copies of those have been sold – to put that into context that’s even more than “We Conquered All of Europe” by the legendary Jeff Goulding – so possibly not quite all that “little known”). What is definitely less well known is that it actually stands for Jurgen Klopp Rowling in homage to the great man. (this has absolutely definitely been Fact Checked). And what do you think JFK stood for (I’ll leave you to decide what the F might spell)?
And I’m assuming that planning permission has already been submitted for a 300ft tall bronze statue of Klopp to be erected across the entrance to the Mersey, proudly straddling both banks like a modern day Colossus of Rhodes. Yes Tranmere Rovers fans you might have one or two quibbles, but just think of the boost to the Birkenhead tourist industry from having the eighth wonder of the world on your doorstep. Although thinking about it the Mersey is quite wide. Is 300ft high enough? Or would we end up with a statue of Jurgen doing the splits (Klopp is disco!). Might be an issue if cruise ships are constantly clonking against the Klopp crown jewels while trying to dock at the Pier Head. Better make that 3,000ft high!
We do still have one last game of football to play at Anfield of course. One last exorcism to carry out to finally banish that dark day six years ago when Brendan Rodgers unlikely, glorious but ultimately doomed title challenge came hurtling off the rails. And it was an unlikely challenge. This was a team that not only decided to do away with the concept of defending entirely but had managed to finish below Everton and only one place above West Brom the previous season. Being Liverpool even our failures are wide-screen. Panoramic. Our title hopes that year didn’t just waft away with little more than a small sigh and a “pfft”. This was title bid as Shakesperian tragedy. Everyone remembers this game. And the catastrophic collapse at Selhurst Park. In the same way they remember Michael Thomas 1989 and they’ll remember last year’s epic charge (is this the same with other clubs? Man U in the Aguero season waiting to celebrate on the pitch at Sunderland maybe? Beyond that I’m struggling).
But we need to win this one. Even with the title won it was disappointing to lose our 100% home record against Burnley. Particularly as no top-flight side had gone through the season without dropping a point at home since Queen Victoria was on the throne. And even worse it meant that my 100% record at predicting the correct result came to an end. And following that with an even more disappointing result at Arsenal (Did Harry Maguire and David De Gea manage to sneak on the pitch wearing Van Dijk and Allison masks? A bit like that cheeky Manc chappy who once gatrecrashed the Man U team photo at Bayern Munich to earn a Gary Neville death stare?).
But with the title presentation to follow I think we’ll be fired up for this one. It’s a huge shame it will be behind closed doors as I can only imagine what the atmosphere would have been like with Anfield packed to the rafters. I’m going for a 3-0 win for my final prediction. Started off by Mo repeating his absolute exocet of a goal in this fixture last season (just an excuse to mention my favourite goal of the season), Mane to get the second, and a late penalty for Firmino to take to make it a full house for our front three and for him to finally get a goal at Anfield this season (there is a small part of me that thinks that it would even more impressive to have absolutely obliterated the league without our nominal No 9 actually needing to score one single home league goal the entire season. That feels like taking the proverbial. But that would be nothing to the delight of seeing him finally break the duck).
And on to Jordan finally, finally lifting that Trophy. Champions of the World, Champions of Europe, Champions of England. The heavens will rejoice and choirs of Angels will break out into song. Judi Dench get up on your bench, take up your trumpet and blow it! It’s finally come home!