‘You’re having us on’ – that famous response on the streets of Liverpool to the resignation of Bill Shankly surfaced again this week, upon the surprise announcement by Jurgen Klopp of his imminent departure. It may also have been what came to mind for David Wagner, with his Norwich team 3-1 down at Anfield, as Liverpool cruised through to the FA Cup fifth round with a 5-2 victory.
Curtis Jones headed Liverpool in front early, with a wonderful far post cross from James McConnell and, despite a surprise Canaries equaliser, a much-changed starting 11 soon took the lead through Darwin Nunez. Having dominated throughout a half-time lead of just 2-1 was scant reward for a Liverpool side that saw Conor Bradley again start at right back, whilst Quansah partnered Konate in the centre of defence.
Any possibility that Norwich might properly test Liverpool, however, was soon put aside when Diogo Jota scored Liverpool’s third. His first time half-volley in front of the Kop being accompanied by rousing renditions of ‘I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red’, on an emotionally charged afternoon at Anfield. A fourth for Liverpool, scored by Virgil van Dijk, at last reflected the pattern of the match, though a glimmer of hope for those who’d travelled from Norfolk was provided by a stunning strike from Borja Sainz.
The final minutes saw the introduction of Luis Diaz, who played his part in Ryan Gravenberch adding his team’s fifth in added time, with the third headed finish of the game. Meanwhile, with Chelsea the next visitors to Anfield on Wednesday, supporters won’t have long to wait to continue to give Klopp a long and much deserved farewell as he chases a second Premier League crown.
Of course the slim possibility of a magical quadruple remains, but at the forefront for every Liverpool fan will be just who can, who will, replace Jurgen Klopp?
Those of us of a certain vintage, myself included, surely did think Klopp was ‘having us on’ when the news came on Friday of his wish for a ‘normal life’. Having taken us back to the top table, made us believe and exemplified better than anyone since Shankly the importance of an emotional connection to not just Liverpool Football Club, but to the city, whoever replaces him in the summer has almost impossibly large shoes to fill.
Does Klopp’s replacement need to ‘know’ the club, as Bob Paisley did when replacing Shanks? If so, Steven Gerrard may be in the frame, though his chequered managerial career surely makes him a bigger risk than Xabi Alonso. How seriously should the club consider the impressive performance of De Zerbi at Brighton?
If conjecture in Sunday’s newspapers is to be believed, Klopp’s interview on Friday was brought forward as the club had begun to speak to agents of those who they are considering as his replacement. They were concerned that Klopp’s decision, made in November, might leak and wanted to control the narrative of a decision that most of us will find it difficult to come to terms with.
We must though remember, however much we venerate those in the club’s history who’ve helped define it, it’s ultimately the club that we support, whilst support for individuals is largely temporary. Perhaps more importantly, we have trophies to win. Winning trophies is also what defines us as a club, whether led by Shankly, Paisley, Dalglish or Klopp. Winning trophies, whether captained by Souness, Gerrard or Van Dijk is what hass put us so often at the pinnacle of English football.
Nobody is more aware of that than Jurgen Klopp, so let’s continue to enjoy the ride. There’ll be plenty of time to show our appreciation, and say goodbye, at the end of the season.