Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be for Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool fans yearn for the success enjoyed by the club in the 1980s, writes Brendan O’Brien.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be for Jurgen Klopp

Wednesday evening.

Over an hour since Manchester City put five past Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup.

A warm duvet is calling on a cold night until one last flick through the cluster of channels offers up an Anfield meeting of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur from deep in the vaults.

Kenny Dalglish in his pomp? Sleep can wait.

For reasons mostly to do with a new TV provider and a growing inability to master technology that screams of advancing middle age, all attempts to ascertain the background to the game failed. Judging by the kits, it was late 70s, maybe early 80s.

Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles played for Spurs minus a backing track of boos from the Kop so it was definitely pre-Falklands War. Steve Perryman and Chris Hughton were among the visiting defenders, Glenn Hoddle roamed around on the right wing, all horrible mullet and beautiful skills, and a pre-BBC Gareth Crooks nipped about up front.

It was a side that would claim successive FA Cups and a Uefa Cup inside a three-year period but one that, like all others in that era, had to bow to a Liverpool team that trawled a net through the waters of English and European football for two decades and picked up so much silver.

It was Liverpool’s ‘lesser’ names that stood out the other night: Sammy Lee with his thunderous boot, Ray Kennedy with a sublime finish, but here’s the thing: the football was mostly putrid.

For so much of it, two of the best teams in Europe couldn’t string the proverbial two passes together. Renowned as a side of sublime skill and replete with individual talent, Liverpool were as culpable as the visitors. With the ball sent long and high and often, here was the curse of ‘GAA Beo’ and ‘Rugbai Beo’ writ large on a UK subscription channel.

Proof again that nostalgia just ain’t what it used to be.

One definition puts nostalgia as “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for, or return to some past period of, irrecoverable condition’. You don’t have to track back 35 years to see how this most personal of afflictions can wash over a collective on a national, and even global, scale. The King Power Stadium on Monday night told us that.

In the blue corner, we had a Leicester City side reduced from heroes to villains on the back of Claudio Ranieri’s dismissal. One that had been relieved of its status as everyone’s favourite underdogs after last season’s title triumph because Planet Football chose to wring its hands with a righteousness that was equally outlandish and laughable.

Some outpouring of emotion was to be expected.

Leicester’s success was, and always will be, a beacon of hope and reassurance to the majority of fans who worship far from the high altar that is the top quarter of the English top tier. But this was nothing less than the sport’s ‘Diana’ moment when, as Jonathan Freedland put it in the ‘Guardian’ 10 years after her tragic death, a nation “engaged in seven days of bogus sentimentality”.

Everyone remembers the extraordinary week that followed Diana’s passing but few seem to recall how quickly the frenzy of affection wilted like all those flowers outside Buckingham Palace. There is more than a hint of that in the Ranieri story. This being football, there is always another game around the corner to divert the attention, another ‘shock, horror,’ headline to demand our consternation and condemnation.

All of which brings us to the red corner that featured earlier this week in Leicestershire.

Liverpool fans know enough about nostalgia. Having mocked their rivals on the red side of Manchester for so long, karma has repaid them in kind and more. Yearning for decades passed is one thing. More alarming is the fact that Koppites now find themselves looking back wistfully at a period of mere promise rather than rich pickings that only came to an end with the last rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Jurgen Klopp’s honeymoon — if it hadn’t already — came to an abrupt end on Monday.

The German has always been able to rely on his record with Borussia Dortmund and that likeable goofiness as a form of armour in weeks and months passed when performances and results have disappointed but if there was ever a time to question a man’s credentials, then it had to be after he played Lucas Leiva as a centre-half on a high defensive line against Jamie Vardy.

Klopp’s cut-through-the-bullshit honesty and Liverpool’s tradition make it hard not to root for both manager and the club but the chalk and cheese nature of Leicester’s last display under Ranieri and their first since his departure just goes to show how little room there really is for sentimentality in the modern game.

The sight of Arsene Wenger in the away dugout at Anfield tomorrow should only reinforce that. Email: brendan.obrien@ examiner.ie Twitter: @Rackob

More in this section