When Jurgen Norbert Klopp first arrived in Liverpool in October of 2015, he spoke about Liverpool’s history being like a backpack, weighing the club down. That history—one with 41 major honors to Liverpool’s name and a rich European pedigree—comes with expectations.
Although we are decades removed from the glory days (and even the heady days of the early and mid-2000’s are fading to distant memories), Liverpool supporters still carry around that expectation. The expectation that we will compete at the top end of the table, financial realities be damned. The expectation that we’ll win trophies, regardless of the odds. The expectation that we be every bit as good as our history suggests that we should be.
In this sense, the brief resurgence of silvery times on Merseyside from the treble-winning season to the FA Cup triumph over West Ham did our fan base few favors in the long term when it comes to expectations. Need a late Michael Owen brace to overcome a Gunners’ lead in the FA Cup final? No problem. A Steven Gerrard screamer to force extra time five years later? Sure thing. And of course there was Istanbul.
These memories fueled a belief in the fan base that Liverpool were somehow a special club in these types of situations. This belief has made the last decade a hard one to take.
The silverware dried up, even though the Reds have been in a position to capitalize. In 2007 we could not repeat the magic of Istanbul, falling in defeat to AC Milan in the Champions League final. We fell just shy of the long-sought league title twice, once to each of the Manchester clubs. Chelsea denied us a domestic cup double in 2012, and Manchester City and Sevilla denied us a double (and European football) just last year. Even our lone piece of silverware in that time, the 2012 League Cup, is tainted by the fact that we barely survived against Championship side Cardiff. Also, it’s only the League Cup.
The ball—as they say—is round. A fortuitous call here, a friendly bounce there, and the last ten years could have looked very different. None of that is important for tomorrow.
Many of us, myself very much included, enter the last matchday with a sense of dread. Gone are the days when we believe we’re going to get over the line just because of the liver bird on our chests. We have seen us come close too many times without success to feel overly confident.
It’s not a cup final. It’s not for the league. But tomorrow is still extremely significant. For players and fans alike, tomorrow is a chance not to free themselves of the weight of expectations, but to revel in it. Qualifying for Champions League? Yes, it is an expectation at this club. And by triumphing tomorrow, the players can gain the experience necessary to fight for bigger and better things than mere qualification.
Let’s do these. Up the Reds.