John Nicholson worries that Jurgen Klopp is already being set up to fall short…
I really like Jurgen Klopp and am really excited that he’s Liverpool manager. I enjoy his feel-good vibe, unaffected humour, charisma and energy. In comparison to his predecessor, there’s nothing forced and over-thought about him and he’s good to listen to, even in his second language.
But, good grief, that first press conference was such an ugly display of English football media.
I enjoy Klopp but I don’t mistake him for a God or a prophet. Yet, when a bonafide superstar comes into English football, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Messiah was walking amongst us. The response is so overwhelmingly fawning that it surely nauseates anyone who isn’t living inside the slightly weird, sick little bubble that passes for the football hive mind.
To witness the childish giggles and over-loud laughter at anything Klopp said that was vaguely amusing, was puke-inducing. The waterfall of camera shutter noise, every time he smiled was a testament to the agenda everyone had been instructed to push. It even annoyed him a little, forcing him, at one point, to make a plea to stop taking photos so he could hear questions. His plea was, of course, largely ignored, even though after 15 minutes of constant photo-taking, surely they had more than enough images of him.
Reporters shout out banal questions that must be hard to answer with any degree of wit and interest. Is he a Special One? No he’s a Normal One!! A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… he’s brilliant, isn’t he? And he speaks German as well (swoon) It all smacked of an over-eager boy trying to like everything a girl he fancies likes, trying to laugh at everything she laughs at. In other words, it’s childish.
The wider effect of this fawning can be to create an almost instant backlash against the man, even though he’s done the precise sum of nothing, apart from exist. All too often, the reaction to a football person is not to the person themselves, but to the media coverage of that person, as though that is one and the same thing.
Consequently, people are already queuing up to see Liverpool get beaten in their next game, in order to prick the newcomer’s balloon, or more accurately, prick the press’s latest love child. That’s how this press attitude pollutes our football culture. That and by the use of heinous puns and abbreviations. God save us from the heinous puns and abbreviations. Does anyone like them? Is anyone buying papers to read them? Instead of shortening names in headlines, why not just use a smaller type face and fit the whole name in?
Even as a fan of Klopp, the subsequent obsequious reportage was hard to stomach. I like the fella, but this was not just over the top, it was under the sheets, frotting fast and hard until it raised a blister.
All of which is so much teenage foam, until you realise that quite soon, Klopp will be judged by these very same press people, not against a realistic measure, but against the hyperbolic vomiting that they themselves gave him. Thus, those who acclaimed him most powerfully, may find that actually, due to having inherited a load of old turnips as players, he can’t instantly be successful, don’t win every game and Klopp turns out to be fallible. Then watch them change. Like a lover spurned, they will quickly judge the man as less than the Godhead which only they had proclaimed him to be. They will then shamelessly declare their initially very warped perception was a widely-held, reasonable, common-sense view and will equally shamelessly proclaim him as over-rated or a fraud or merely another foreigner taking a Proper Football Man’s job, as though they have had no hand in this. Then they will begin a campaign to get him replaced by someone else, whilst simultaneously protesting that is not what they’re doing at all.
The habit of over-vaunting, taking that over-vaunting as reasonable, and then judging future actions against the myth, they and only they have created, is the modus operandi of much of the grunt labour. They have already started brazenly misquoting him as ‘promising’ a title within four years, even though the words he actually said were broadcast live on television. And you know why they’re doing that.
As soon as you hear the first phone-in caller saying “He was supposed to be this great manager but…” their work is complete. The British football press is always setting up their next destructive move. Always looking for the next tall poppy to cut down. The fawning worship at the outset, in order to set their target up for a fall, is simply the first step in that process.
I’m not saying we should always be dispassionate and rational, or not get caught up in excitement and romance. We should celebrate the loveliness of anyone, but not do so just to cynically set him on an unrealistic pedestal, merely in order to give ourselves room to deride him in the future.