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Keep Calm & Stay Positive

George H Xanthis

George H Xanthis

Actor. Writer. Die hard LFC Supporter

George Harrison Xanthis is an actor and producer, known for Deep Water (2016), The Making of the Mob (2015) and Open Slather (2015).
George H Xanthis

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Jurgen Klopp’s mantra. This is surely the same scripture that all Liverpool supporters abide by, right?

‘Keep calm and stay positive, we’re like this, ain’t we?’ I ask myself ponderously as Liverpool brush aside Atheltic Bilbao three goals to ‘who cares’ amount of goals.

‘Um, dude’, my mind responds sluggishly, ‘r u srs?’

Yeah, my brain likes to keep things short and sweet. Under one hundred and thirty characters to be exact.

Speaking of which, let me introduce ‘Twitter’; a place where creatures come to moan and bicker their worries away. Twitter, or social media in general, is the world’s most effective therapist I’ve come to realise, listening to our every complaint, no matter how contradictory, explicit or puerile they may be.

Contradiction might just be the major culprit of those three lovely descriptions, mainly because, if we look deep down far enough inside us, we actually ‘historically’ subscribe to Jurgen’s philosophy after all. Deep deep down. Maybe really deep.

I mean, we are the same supporters who believed in Liverpool when we were down to AC Milan that faithful night in 2005 when we won the greatest final of all time, where we demolished Ancelloti’s rejects 3-3 after added time. We were the same supporters who believed that even in the 93rd minute, 3-2 down to the mighty West ‘Hampshire’ United, that our Captain Fantastic could rocket a shot in from a hundred and eighty-four yards and declare us FA Cup winners.

We don’t even need to win to be optimistic, we just need the promise of possible success. Look at Dortmund, look at 13/14, look at Norwich last season, all of these legendary tales of heroism and unity pale into insignificance because of the utter ‘shit all’ it effectively won us.

But would you have anyone take away Dortmund? Would you want to forget 13/14? Mind if I take away your memory of Jurgen Klopp’s poor spectacles as Christian Benteke swatted them away in jubilation at Carrow Road? I think not.

My point being is that we are an optimistic bunch…when we want to be, and the reason we support our club rarely needs “blatant” success.

You will ask a Liverpool supporter “why do you support Liverpool” and there’ll be a rich pastiche of possible responses that you’ll ingest, like culture, local icons, history, football philosophy, support, songs and community to say a few.

We want to see nice football. We want to create a legacy, a dynasty, we want to have continued success, not just be a flash in the pan. We want to build ourselves to be a global force, feared across the continent as a European powerhouse again.

We want to see the next Stevie G, ‘creating the next local lad’ or ‘academy starlet’ to wear the shirt with pride and call him ‘one of our own’. We want to worship a hero in our manager, we want to build statues of him one day and say, ‘just like Shankly and Paisely, this is the person who guided us to the top’.

I’m sure your reasons are a combination of all of the above, alongside the obvious staples of being born into the club, residence, past glories and family history… but a combination nonetheless…

So, when we employ a manager who stands up for these ideals and sign him on for twelve million years (that’s football years, in actual fact I think he’s signed on for six ‘human years’), why do we all start to shake and perspire at the thought of progress and development?

When Klopp signed and he talked of wanting to build something special, something that lasts, and people were simultaneously excited at the opportunity whilst at the same time treading with reserved reticence at the prospect of needing to ‘wait’ even longer for a league title.

Herein lies the inevitable conundrum with Liverpool supporters. Development versus instant success. We just want it both ways, don’t we?

Given the amount of time we’ve watched Liverpool been “nearly rans” perhaps we can be afforded some grace.

That is totally understandable.

However, last season we were quick to gloat at the blooding of young talent like Trent and Woodburn, we were happy to accept a fourth-place finish in the guise of ‘progress’ and we were also happy to admit where we needed to improve. In the joyous celebrations of the ‘Fourth Place Cup’ that would put Arsenal fans to shame, we were happy with ‘progress’ and happy with doing things our way. People quickly composed themselves and declared where our shortcomings lay.

Yes, we needed another striker to give Firmino a rest, a proper number nine who could offer the same if not more than the perennially injured Daniel Sturridge and the perennially abject Divock Origi. People also pointed toward the lack of depth we had a full back after seeing James Milner turn redder than his home kit in pure exhaustion, although it’s safe to say we’ve been looking for a suitable left-back replacement for the colossal Djimi Traore for over ten years now (ha). As well as pointing toward our need for one more top quality central defender, the position fans most wanted to see taken care of was the massive ‘Mane’ shaped hole that existed pretty much anywhere across our front line.

Now we didn’t struggle last year just because of the above, however as far as personnel goes there weren’t many other drums being beaten on that faithful day on the 22nd of May when we were charged for First Degree Murder of already relegated Middlesbrough.

Low and behold, though, signings and replacements were made.

We’ve backed our front line up with what looks like a very competent, ‘proper’ number nine in Dominic Solanke, we’ve plugged a small gap along our left flank with the signing of Andrew ‘Andy’ Robertson and we’ve broken our transfer record by purchasing Olympic sprinter Mohammed Salah.

In addition to these three ‘new signings’, Klopp would argue he can also point to further reinforcements to the squad. For starters, Trent Alexander-Arnolds been a revelation at full back and can even fill in on the wing, as seen with his cameos toward the end of last season. There’s the further development of Ben Woodburn in midfield, the recovery of Joe Gomez and Alby Moreno (for differing reasons entirely) in defence and the return of the ambidextrous winger Ryan Kent.

In total, it’s safe to say that Jurgen Klopp can point to a grand total of eight new “options” for his squad this season, a squad that was good enough to lead the league for a period of time and also qualify for the Champions League. Bar the addition of a centre back (which we all expect to be someone like or resembling Virgil van Dijk), it looks like Liverpool are in a position where they are stronger than last season.

Again, herein lies that perpetual conundrum with Liverpool supporters.

After weeks of optimism and composure, heads are beginning to fall off everywhere. Despite significant training being carried out by the squad, despite a successful pre-season and despite the enhancement of our current regiment, all of a sudden this team simply isn’t “good enough”.

Now we need more players. Two more players. THREE more players. A central midfielder now, please.

To play where, exactly? In a team, remember, that has five central midfield options in Henderson, Wijnaldum, Emre Can, Phillipe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, not forgetting academy back ups like the emerging Ben Woodburn and Ovi Ejaria alongside the versatile James Milner (I’m sure I’ve forgotten Marko Grujic as well, oh yep I have indeed).

How many central midfielders did Rafa have in 08/09? Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano and a very young Lucas Leiva, with Jay Spearing and Damien Plessis as the academy options. That’s four including two youngsters. Maybe they were world class but we’re talking numbers here. Naby Keita would have been an outstanding circumstance. “Make room for him” Jurgen would have announced, much like how you’d react if Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Nicklas Bendtner became available during the transfer window.

Now I’m sure people will point to the injury to Adam Lallana and his imminent replacement, the seemingly inept former Manchester City midfielder James Milner, and say “see, I told you we needed a central midfielder!” But the truth of the matter is we were making these cries well before Lallana’s injury. I also understand the argument that Jurgen’s high-octane style of football demands more of players and as such we need more reinforcements, but there’s only so many that can sit on the bench before player displeasure begins to creep in (see Emre Can).

I think the squad, according to Jurgen, is in the shape he wants it. Good options in every position and padded out with youngsters from the academy and minimal room for player discontentment. Isn’t this the way we want the club to be run? Promote local and youth talent and make our club a place where we develop players with our ethos instead of always buying quick fixes?

When we signed up for Jurgen Klopp we signed up for development and patience. Yes, we’ve gone through it before but I think we’d all agree that we’ve never had someone who feels as connected to the club’s ethos as the man in charge of us today. By no means does this mean we can’t have healthy discussions about possibilities and probabilities surrounding Liverpool’s needs, that’s normal. However there has to be a balance between healthy discussion and branding our pre-season a total failure all because we haven’t signed players we all have never seen play ninety minutes of football. The poison chalice of the transfer window, eh?

For those interested in the Mourinho approach, sure we can win a trophy quickly and not plan for a future dynasty, and to be honest it’s a tempting proposition. Box off the league now, buy a bunch of superstars, blow out our wage bill and render our academy a useless farm house for three-to-four million-pound players to come and go.

But I think Jurgen wants more than that. He wants to bring strength back to this club in the form of sustainable competitiveness, to make sure we become a force in world football again as opposed to a carbon copy of the Chelsea and City model of buying success.

Let’s stay positive and earn that success because deep down, deep down, it’s what we’re really craving.

And it’ll taste that much sweeter.

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