As the Reds arrive in Evian for their final preparatory training camp at the end of what can only be described as an underwhelming pre-season so far, I can’t help but think about Klopp’s statement that it’s the “most important week of the season”.
Somehow, having won our sixth European Cup only a matter of weeks ago, the collective mood seems to have taken a nosedive, for a number of reasons. We’ve been fairly poor on the pitch on the whole & many have questioned our lack of significant recruitment up to this point.
I’m not going to make this piece about whether or not we should have strengthened, but a quote that came to mind when thinking about the season ahead was one from Harry Kane from last summer, when Tottenham fans were up in arms about their lack of business.
Speaking in July 2018, Kane said: “A lot has been said about transfers or the lack of them but there is something to be said about keeping the group together,”
“The gaffer said he’s not just going to bring in players for the sake of it. What that does is give the rest of the squad huge belief because it shows he has belief in us. Now we have to repay him and the repay the club for that. That’s what happens.”
Given their run in the Champions League and fairly comfortable third place finish, which at times had looked as though it may be higher, this seems fairly justified.
Pochettino had said in August 2018: “Of course, maybe in the mind of everyone they will say ‘oh Tottenham did not sign anyone’ but to sign for the sake of signing? It is better to keep your best players.”
Bringing the point back to Liverpool, our squad and our manager; keeping our best players is exactly what we’ve done. It’s hard to know whether the sullen atmosphere amongst fans will have translated to the players, but what you can be sure of is that Klopp and his staff will be using this week to nurture the togetherness & confidence that seemed to give us an edge on numerous occasions last season.
For those of you who’ve not heard this anecdote before, I’ll end this with one of my favourite stories from Jurgen’s managerial career. This story seems to be particularly relevant right about now.
Back in May 2013, shortly before the Champions League final at Wembley between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, I remember reading something from Jurgen Klopp about preparation. It really stuck with me.
When manager of Mainz, having led the club to promotion in 2004, he settled on an unlikely pre-season trip. “You can speak about spirit – or you can live it. We took the team to a lake in Sweden where there was no electricity. We went for five days without food. They had to do this [he whistles and, using an imaginary fishing rod, casts off]. The other coaches said: ‘Don’t you think it’s better to train playing football?’ No. I wanted the team to feel that they can survive everything. My assistant coach thinks I’m an idiot. He asks if we can train there. No. Can we run there? No. But we can swim and fish!”
“When I meet one of those players now, from our ‘Special Forces’, they tell me what happened in the first and last minute and every story in between. Each night in a fucking tent, lying on the roots, you don’t forget that. We had to find the next island. The first one there had to make a fire and boil some water. The whole time it was raining. Only five hours it was not and then [Klopp slaps his cheek] … a mosquito! How can they live in Sweden? You see the sun and [he slaps his cheek again] you feel mosquitos! But it was brilliant. We were like Bravehearts. You can stick a knife in me here – no problem. We went to the Bundesliga and people could not believe how strong we were.”
In Evian, for these Reds, there’s a low likelihood of fishing rods & tents, but what 2019/2020 will no doubt see is another group of Bravehearts, united by belief.