I’ve been known to over-use the term ‘miracle’ when it comes to football. David Dunn’s 95th minute offside equaliser on March 9th 2013 for my beloved Blackburn Rovers against our arch-enemies Burnley, was one such instance. In hindsight, it wasn’t miraculous, it was very fortunate, but it did cause a celebration like no other I’ve ever experienced. It resulted in me and my Uncle having our first, and hopefully last, full blown man-cuddle.
However, after Liverpool’s exploits against Barcelona on Tuesday night in overturning a three goal deficit against the world’s greatest and most decorated team to win 4-0 at home, i've come to the conclusion that it was indeed miraculous. Especially considering this is the same Barcelona team that had scored eleven and conceded just one in their previous three Champions League games, alongside being on course to win La Liga and reaching the Copa Del Rey final. Yes, I’m pretty comfortable using the word ‘miracle’ without fear of judgement.
What intrigues me more than anything is the way Jurgen Klopp manages Liverpool. He is big, goofy smiles. He bounces up and down on the side lines like a demented cheerleader and every player, no matter how bad the performance, gets a hug and a big smile at the end of a game. Time after time, Liverpool produce massive results with an air of confidence and calm that pre-Jurgen, would have eluded them completely. So how does he do it?
He’s so lovely, people want to perform for him.
I can’t believe you even have to point this out. Being nice to your people goes along way. Over the hundreds of focus groups we’ve undertaken, one of the common gripes is “My boss has a god complex and it makes everyone think he or she is a complete d*ck and we don’t wanna work for them!” The research is compelling! Jurgen is one of the nicest guys in the land and proves that putting your arm round someone when they’re feeling down, giving them a smile when they need one or a fist bump of approval goes a long way in empowering your people.
I’m not saying that you need to be everyone’s bezzie mate, but people want to work with people, not for them. A little mutual respect, reminders that you’re in it with them and always there to help, alongside supportive encouragement, go a long, long way.
He’s instilled a mind-set in the players that they must give their everything.
I saw the players sing “You Never Walk Alone” with the fans last night and there seemed to be a real connection between the playing staff and the club’s supporters. There is a belief in the Liverpool identity and part of that is to run hard until the very end, to give everything on the pitch and to become a legend like those that have preceded them. He is constantly reminding them of the legacy and importance of the club and almost always seems in awe of his own role. This clearly rubs off onto his players given them managing to out-do their own incredible European history with their result against Barcelona arguably being more impressive than their win in the final against AC Milan in 2005.
Finally, and crucially, he backs his team 100%
The win against Barcelona was quintessential Jurgen Klopp. He backed his team 100%. He said that even if they lose, “they will lose beautifully.” Jesus, I mean look at Divock Origi. Before the Barca game, the geezer had barely scored a carrot in two years. He comes into the team, with their backs to the wall completely, and bangs two goals in to win them the game. You don’t do that by chance. When Liverpool were beaten 3-0 in the opening leg, Jurgen described his team’s performance as their "best away game in two seasons." His unwavering devotion to his players is impressive in the extreme. He never gave up hope and as a result, has reaped incredible rewards. Empowering staff to perform by giving them your unrelenting belief, admiration and respect is the clearest pathway to success and something that Jurgen Klopp symbolises beautifully.