So this is it then, Reds. We’re in the Champions League final.
2005 & 2007 seem like they were yesterday; we’ve done this ride before.
But that narrative underplays the in-between years. The near administration, the Hicks & Gilette years and the Hodgson years. The Dalglish quasi-revival and fall, the flirting with greatness under Rodgers and the perpetual selling of our best players. The relentless clamour for the current ownership to hand us over.
Even in this season, there has been anguish throughout. Anguish which we cannot dwell on, but cannot forget. We’re in the Champions League final.
You didn’t imagine hearing those words when we concede a penalty at Hoffenheim after 11 minutes in August, did you?
You didn’t imagine hearing those words when Pizarro scores a 93rd-minute equaliser in Seville in November to piss away a 0–3 lead at half-time, did you?
You didn’t imagine hearing those words when bottom-of-the-league Swansea beat us 1–0 in January, did you?
Think of that doubt you held then. Think of the pessimism. Think of the nerves.
Think back to Klopp’s first interview when appointed by the club, back in October 2015:
“At this moment all the LFC family is a little bit too nervous, a little bit too pessimistic, a little bit too much in doubt.”
“They all celebrate the game and there is a fantastic atmosphere in the stadium, but they don’t believe at the moment. They only see 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. History is great, but only to remember. Now we have the possibility to write a new story if we want.”
“We have to change from doubters to believers. Now”
To contextualise the above quote, we are 3 years on (almost to the day) from losing 6–1 to Stoke at the end of the 14/15 season.
By October 4th 2015 we were 10th in the Premier League, with Rodgers sacked after a 1–1 draw in the Merseyside derby.
Now we’re here. Now we’ve scored more goals in a single Champions League season than any other side in history. We’ve blown away the best team on the continent, home and away. We put 5 past Roma within 68 minutes of the first leg of the semi-final, effectively ending the tie there. We face Real Madrid, knowing that we can hurt anyone, our devastating three pronged attack the envy of every team on the planet.
In July 2012 John Henry passed comment on the size of the task facing the new Liverpool ownership in their quest to return us to the European elite:
“You can’t turn an ocean liner around like you can turn a speedboat around”.
One thing’s for sure: whatever vessel you’ve turned around in, it’s been a choppy ride, but it has been one hell of a ride. With Jurgen at the helm, we’re on the brink of greatness. We’re on the brink of flags on the Kop; portraits of Jurgen Klopp alongside Benitez, Fagan, Paisely and Shankly. We’re on the brink of number 6.
Now we have the possibility to write a new story.