(Note: this is a re-post. Our server crashed earlier and the original version of this article, and the comments that followed it, was lost due to having to restore the site from an earlier backup.)
Unlike the Community Shield, which is not a “proper” game, the European Super Cup has some pedigree. You can’t send a team and its fanbase all the way to Turkey, enforce extra-time (which itself is a marker of importance), and it be treated as anything other than a big game. Yes, it’s not the end of the world if you lose, but the benefits of winning are clear. And of course, it will go onto the club’s “Champions Wall”, to take it from three to four; whereas the Community/Charity Shield is not included.
In this case justice was served as, with great karma, the diving Tammy Abraham missed the vital penalty. (Not that I necessarily blame him for diving, as the opportunity was there and many players would do the same, but yet again, because he’s English, the pundits say “he went down easily”, rather than labelling him a diver, as they clearly do when it’s a foreign player. And what’s the fucking point of VAR if they don’t look at the angles that showed no contact?!)
At this stage it may seem more counterproductive to jeopardise a win at Southampton with such a gargantuan effort in a game like this, but I don’t think you can go to Turkey with silverware at stake and not take it seriously. Equally, I don’t think we can obsess about having to win every league game and be able to retain our sanity for the season – even if having an away game 250 miles from Liverpool on Saturday is pathetic on the schedulers’ part, when this only finished on Thursday morning.
Compared to the achievement of getting 97 points last season, a trophy such as this is nowhere near as impressive; but it’s the only one of the two situations where a trophy was won.
However, in some ways this can be as important as the team makes it. Klopp is a master at the intangibles. It’s no accident that, in his third job, he has once again taken a team well beyond what was thought possible. At Mainz and Dortmund it didn’t happen overnight either – the takeoff was three or four seasons in; but as he now has at Liverpool, he built great teams full of character and skill, and no little quality, based on the budget in question – which was . I like things I can measure (insert your own crude joke), but sometimes it’s hard to measure what a manager like Klopp actually does, other than to count the successes he racks up. It has its science, but it has its psychology, and its emotions.
Indeed, I opened “Mentality Monsters” with the scene from the 2-2 draw against West Brom in 2015, because that was what – to me – really set the tone for what has followed. Show appreciation to the fans, get a reciprocal relationship going, and form a connection. At the time it was seen as pathetic; that Liverpool were celebrating grabbing a late draw against mediocre opposition (Divock Origi the hero), but the move was clearly to unite the team and the fans, at a point when Anfield was as nervous as … well, as nervous as a Tammy Abraham penalty.
The majority of this article is for subscribers only. See details below for how to sign up.