Fans Back Is Amazing, Whilst Those Watching At Home Got A Treat

In the wake of Liverpool’s 4-0 demolition of Wolverhampton Wanderers, I toyed with what I should write in this week’s article. I wanted to way lyrical about Gini Wijnaldum whilst simultaneously complaining that he only got attention because he scored a goal. I considered writing about how the Video Assistant Referee was actually put to good use in a Liverpool match for the first time this season. I don’t think I’d have struggled to come up with two thousand words about that pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold. Yet there’s no question that fans being back in the ground for the first time in what feels like forever was the key story emerging from Anfield. That the Reds have been able to produce the performances that they’ve produced in virtually empty stadiums is testament to just how good the team is that Jürgen Klopp has built.

It’s also no surprise that they’ve got the ability to turn it on when fans returned. This is a team that feeds off the energy of performing in front of supporters, keen to prove its worth. I wrote an article a couple of months ago saying that football without fans is fine, all things considered. The point of my article was that millions of people watch at home most of the time anyway, so the fact that there were no supporters in the grounds didn’t make much of a difference to them. There’s no doubt, though, that football is a better experience when people are actually in the stadiums, getting behind the players. It was purer watching it last night than it has been since that Atletico Madrid result, even if I haven’t wanted to go back to the ground personally since the outbreak of the pandemic. Whilst Amazon Prime’s coverage wasn’t great, the commentary was, at least, the best I’ve heard in months.

Tyldesley & McCoist Were A Pleasure To Listen To

When I first tuned into the Amazon Prime coverage, the picture and the sound was out of sync. I tried a number of things to get it sorted but couldn’t, deciding instead that I would listen to The Anfield Wrap’s match commentary via the Hot Mic app, but as they were unable to sync themselves I found that it was forty seconds behind the action no matter what I did. By the time I tuned back into the Amazon Prime sound, the technical issues had righted themselves and I settled in prepared to work hard to tune the commentary out as much as possible. That’s because I’ve grown so used to Steve McManaman’s over-pronounced ‘ings’, Jamie Carragher working too hard to ‘prove’ that he’s not biased towards Liverpool and Martin Tyler’s absolute hatred of football, if not life itself. What I got instead was an absolute joy to listen to, courtesy of Clive Tyldesley and Ally McCoist.

They didn’t do a huge amount, but simply seemed to be enjoying their jobs. Clive Tyldesley is an excellent commentator, offering so much more than simply saying the name of whoever’s got the ball. Yet it was the addition of McCoist that set the experience off, bringing the best out of his commentator. The Scot just seems to really love football and I was smiling from ear to ear as he got incredibly excited about Roberto Firmino doing a nutmeg. There’s nothing forced or cliched about McCoist, who added something to the work of Tyldesley at the same time as remaining his own person. The result obviously helped and perhaps I wouldn’t have been so keen to write about them today if Liverpool had lost, but Amazon have done a brilliant job of bringing the pair of them together and I hope they get given the commentary duties again the next time the Reds are on the platform.

The Fans Were Great To See & Hear

Ultimately, though, I keep coming back to how lovely it was to see and hear so many supporters inside Anfield. You can tell how much it meant to the players, not only because of their performance but also in how they greeted and thanked the Kop before and after the match. Jürgen Klopp’s fist bumps were a joy to behold, so long has it been since he’s been able to do them to actual fans. The manager is someone that really understand the importance of people turning up to support his team, so it’s hardly a shock that he wanted to offer them a gesture of thanks at the full-time whistle. It also would have meant the world to Caoimhin Kelleher that he got to make his Premier League debut with the supporters behind him, getting cheered and clapped when he did anything of note. As I wrote last week, it’s great that we seem to have a backup goalkeeper that not only fits our style of play but is also decent between the sticks, with the crowd showing him as much.

The rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone at the start of the match won’t have been the loudest that Anfield has ever heard, nor will it have been the most emotional, but it might well be the purest. All two thousand supporters that made it into the ground will have been so grateful to have been there, fully understanding how fortunate they were to have made the cut. There were still some that left early, but those people will never understand the privilege that they enjoy so are best ignored. Overall, it was a lovely first step back to normality and I just hope that the city of Liverpool continues to get tested, obey social distancing rules and do whatever is necessary to keep this virus at bay. If we can do that then the days of having fifty-plus thousand people in will be with us before we know it. For now, the rest of us can just make do with Tyldesley and McCoist.

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