Twenty seven minutes. That was the approximate amount of time granted to Danny Ings and Jordan Henderson during Liverpool's final Premier League match of the 2015-16 season. The players were summoned to the pitch at the same time, in the final third of Liverpool's contest against West Bromwich Albion and during a match that was already on the edge of irrelevancy when it started and was threatening to collapse into a black hole of boredom as the minutes ticked down on the season.
Here at last, from the Liverpool supporters' perspective, was something both heartening and relevant. Henderson had been sidelined since Liverpool's visit to Dortmund, and may have been at less than 100% for prolonged spells even before that. Ings had been unavailable for even longer, the victim of a freak training ground injury that almost coincided perfectly with Klopp's appointment in October 2015. It had been almost a fait accompli that both players would not feature in the balance of this season, so to see them take the field at the same time in the final match of the domestic campaign must have brought no small amount of good vibes to supporters everywhere.
What was the manager's objective in introducing the pair, other than attempting to inject some much needed buzz into an increasingly leaden match? In his post-match press conference, Klopp clarified that his goals were reasonably modest.
It's nice that I could give [Ings] the opportunity today. It was not that we thought after this long break that he should change the game for us today, coming in and scoring three goals or something like this. It was more about giving this really nice lad something for the break, knowing [he's] back and able to play football again. It was good to see.
As Ings is not on the Europa League squad, there was little question about whether or not Klopp was trying to get an assessment of whether Ings might play a role in Basel. Henderson, however, could potentially be called upon against Sevilla, and Klopp was understandably more coy about his intentions for the captain.
It was the only chance today to [give him minutes] for Wednesday. I said from the beginning I don't want to force the situation and say, 'Come on Hendo, try', because it's his knee, obviously. But he didn't feel anything in the last few sessions so we could try today [for] half an hour and everybody could see no issues with the injury. I didn't make a decision yet on line-ups for Wednesday but it's good to have him for sure.
It should hardly be surprising that Klopp is somewhat more circumspect regarding the possible role Henderson might play in the final, if any. Klopp has managed to tease a couple of memorable Europa League performances out of Liverpool's central midfield since Henderson's injury, with Emre Can and James Milner taking the lead and Joe Allen called upon as a late-stage cleanup artist. Where exactly Henderson fits into this framework is not entirely clear, but additional options are always welcome, especially in a season where fatigue and injury have been persistent concerns.
This was an invaluable opportunity for both players to remind the wider public (and in Henderson's case, Roy Hodgson) of their existence and continued relevance. Whatever happens in Basel, both are almost sure to be key ingredients in whatever Klopp is cooking up for the Premier League in 2016-17.