STILL in a daze, Liverpool fans? Still picking up the pieces, trying to comprehend the magnitude of the shock announcement by your iconic and beloved club manager?
You're not alone, for sure. Jurgen Klopp's bombshell announcement on Friday (26 January) that he will be stepping down as Reds manager at the end of the season was as devastating as it was unexpected. Reds fans have always believed he would stay on forever; they would have gladly kept him on this job for life.
But this is the real world, and the truth is no manager can last for decades like Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger once did. The English Premier League manager role has become far more pressurising and energy-sapping that those two greats had ever experienced.
So the reality for Liverpool supporters is that they have barely five more months left before Klopp leaves at the end of the season. How should they deal with it? As a lifelong Reds fan who has lived through the painful departures of managers like Kenny Dalglish (twice), Roy Evans and even Rafael Benitez, I humbly offer three ways to cope with Klopp's goodbye:
1. Relive the extraordinary moments
It might make you even sadder at him impending departure, but come on, watching back all the memorable moments under Klopp's tenure will at the very least put a smile on your faces amid all the pain.
In the German's eight-and-a-half-year tenure, Liverpool have amassed so many highly-emotional moments that it doesn't seem fair to fans of other football clubs. The last-gasp comeback against Borussia Dortmund. Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick corner kick against Barcelona. Divock Origi's winner against Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final. Ending the 30-year domestic league drought in 2020. The 4-0, 5-0 and 7-0 wins over Manchester United. The numerous skirmishes with Manchester City. And many more.
All these magical moments would not have happened without Klopp becoming Liverpool manager. It is a staggering legacy he will leave behind as he departs as one of the greatest in this illustrious club.
2. Refrain from speculating on Klopp's successor
There is really no point in fans trying to pick the manager most likely to succeed Klopp. Because there will never ever be another manager like Klopp. And once fans accept this, they might allow the next Liverpool manager a chance to succeed.
It is probably the hardest job in football to immediately take over a big club after a legendary manager's reign. David Moyes couldn't last even a season at Man United as the manager succeeding Ferguson. Unai Emery lasted barely longer in the Arsenal job following Wenger's retirement. And a big reason is that everyone will compare the new boss with the old one, however unfair it may be.
And Klopp makes it that much harder for the next Liverpool boss because of the intense bond he has with the Reds faithful. Right from the start, he understood the connections among the club, the players, the fans and the city completely. His passionate triple fist-pumps drove the club to immense heights as much as his astute man management and thorough tactical preparations.
And among the candidates to be his successor, none possess all of Klopp's brilliant traits. Steven Gerrard may understand Liverpool more deeply than Klopp, but he has little of Klopp's man-management nous. Xabi Alonso may be the latest managerial darling in European football, but he has yet to show Klopp's immense passion and compassion. Zinedine Zidane may be a big name after his Real Madrid triumphs, but does he understand Liverpool's uniqueness?
All these makes feverish speculation of the next Reds boss unnecessary, even detrimental. Expectations will soar to unhealthy levels, and that will probably lead to the inevitable crushing disappointment. Maybe it's better to stop this guesswork, and leave it to the Liverpool board to do the proper vetting process to find the next manager.
3. Keep calm and continue supporting the club, duh
This may seem ridiculously obvious to die-hard Liverpool fans - why shouldn't they continue to support the Merseyside club even after the imminent heartbreak of Klopp's departure?
But I'm directing this at Reds fans who came onboard after the club became successful under the German. Along with the trophies won amid his tenure, Liverpool also welcomed millions of new fans around the world, most of whom have deep admiration for Klopp for all that he had done for the club.
With Klopp having such a magnetic personality, as well as that deep connection with the fans, it's not too far-out to suggest that many of these new fans would lose interest in supporting Liverpool once he leaves - more so if results start to dip.
Some die-hards may deride these "fairweather" fans, perhaps even wishing good riddance to them. But I beg to differ. In fact, it's better to be kind and encourage them to continue cheering for Liverpool, so that the club can continue thriving even after Klopp leaves.
In fact, that is precisely what Klopp is leaving behind. In the time of his tenure, he has revamped the club academy and, in 2020, moved the senior team to train at the same grounds as the youngsters at the state-of-the-art facilities in the Kirkby district. His playing philosophy runs from the age-group teams all the way to the senior squad, and young talents like Conor Bradley and Jarell Quansah are consistently coming through in recent seasons.
Sure, results may dip and titles may come instantly when the new manager takes over Klopp and tweaks the team in his own image and philosophy. But with Liverpool in tip-top football shape, as well as being financially stable, there is little chance of the club crumbling back to their pre-Klopp era.
So fans - new and old - should enjoy the remaining 20-odd matches of Klopp's tenure, wish him a fond farewell, and resume cheering for the players. Klopp said in his first Liverpool press conference in 2015 that he wanted to turn "doubters into believers". The very least fans can do to continue his legacy is to keep believing.
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