It seems only yesterday that Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino were spotted standing in front of the Kop at Anfield. The plain red shirt was replaced by a rather old fashioned football jersey. But, looking at their faces, one could see nothing but joy. Liverpool FC paid homage to their legendary manager Bob Paisley. He was the man who made Liverpool for what they are today, a force to be reckoned with on European fronts.
The team won it all under Paisley. A Sunderland lad, Paisley had 3 brothers who loved football. His father was a miner and his mother was a homemaker. Even though he had humble beginnings, Paisley persisted and won Liverpool's first league title in 24 years in season 1946-47 just after he had returned from war. He started as a self-taught physiotherapist looking after the players once he ended his playing career.
After Bill Shankly retired, the boardroom appointed Paisley as the next head coach. They could not have chosen a better heir. Liverpool won 3 European cups with him at the helm. Bob Paisley had always admired the Liverpudlians for their support and went on to say
"The whole of my life, what they wanted was honesty. They were not concerned with cultured football, but with triers who gave a 100 percent".
Paisley is one of the three men who have won the prestigious competition for more than two times. The other two being Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane. The tables turned after a Scotsman named Alex Ferguson from Aberdeen took charge of Liverpool's fiercest rival Manchester United in 1986. The teams from Manchester and London dominated the domestic stage.
Liverpool last won a league title in 1990. Since then they have been starving for silverware. The club's fortune spiraled downwards as the rivals sitting across the M62 played some fascinating football. Something had to be done to bring Liverpool back to their glory days.
In late 2015, a German stepped foot on Merseyside when the club was in absolute shambles. It was him, 'The Normal One', Mr. Jurgen Klopp. The previous managers were not able to live to the expectations of the Kop faithful. The morale of the players and the supporters was at rock bottom. They were lagging way far behind in the league. Faded glories were all around. Klopp had to start again.
Liverpool is a club enriched with history and tradition. Klopp was a hero at Dortmund. The German club was in debt when he arrived. But, were Bundesliga champions when he left. What he said in his first press conference, won the hearts and minds of every football fan in the world.
"When I left Dortmund, I said it's not important what people think when you come in, but what they think when you leave."
He wanted to change his team from doubters to believers.The transition was hard, but one which would prove to be fruitful. Anfield dared to dream and the players followed. The Kop sounded as it used to sound in the Paisley Era, firmly backing the players and the manager.
There was something about the man from the Black Forest in Germany. As emotional as one can get on the field, Anfield saw his first antics on the touchline when Liverpool defeated Dortmund in a 4-3 thriller in the Europa League Quarter Final of 2016. Lovren scored a header that set Anfield on fire that day. And as Klopp terms it, "Boooooom..What was this!" His men reached the Europa League final in 2016 only to loose 3-1 to Sevilla.
A season later, Klopp's style of play impressed an Egyptian God who had his temple in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Mo Salah had joined Liverpool from AS Roma for his second chance in the Premier League. He was an instant hit with the Liverpudlians who dubbed him 'The Egyptian King'. With Salah in the team, Liverpool managed to reach the finals of the Champions League last year but were defeated by a strong Real Madrid team in the city of Kiev.
It was sad to see the side from Liverpool go trophyless. They had managed to bring smiles back to Anfield but Premier League Glory was what everyone yearned for. A tender aged Trent Alexander-Arnold would have never imagined of featuring in a Champions League final. Sadio Mane would have been playing at Southampton if Klopp had not recognized his talent. He built a team to challenge, to win and to conquer England. The fear factor was back at Anfield. Bill Shankly had once quoted:
" I want to build a team that is invincible, so that they have to send a team from bl**dy Mars to beat us!"
And boy they are amazing this season. The reds from Merseyside have been buzzing. Just a narrow defeat at the Etihad handed them their first defeat. They sit a couple of points ahead Manchester City who do have a game in hand. They are also in the semifinals of the Champions League.
There is nothing more that an ardent Liverpool supporter could ask for if he could imagine his side losing to small like Crystal Place. Like Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly, Jurgen Klopp has managed to win the hearts and minds of the football crazy city of Liverpool. The title race is on and Liverpool are determined to not let it slip this time. And with Klopp at the helm, the Kop will have one thing to say to him and the players:
You'll Never Walk Alone.Published 21 Apr 2019, 23:27 IST