What A Difference A Decade Makes

In many ways it was fitting that we played Wolverhampton Wanderers in our final game of the decade. On exactly the same date in 2010 we lost 1-0 to the same team, who had started the day on the bottom of the table. It was the first team we’d lost to them in almost three decades and the result combined with the performance ended up putting one of the final nails into Roy Hodgson’s managerial reign at the club. We were just three points above the relegation zone after the full-time whistle and I don’t imagine that I was alone in thinking that we might never get back to the top of the table again. To see the Reds triumph at Anfield to move thirteen points clear of Leicester City with a game in hand was, therefore, joyous. We’re closer to the title than we’ve been in my adult lifetime, putting one hand on the trophy by defeating the Foxes so impressively. We’re not there yet, of course, but I’d rather be fourteen points in front of Manchester City than behind them.

It’s a shame that the Video Assistant Referee will once again dominate conversation about the match, but, just as with controversial decisions before its introduction to the Premier League, if pundits on the likes of Sky Sports and BT Sport didn’t have it to talk about then they’d actually have to analyse the match and not many of them are capable of doing so. My opinion on it is that it needs work. The offside decisions are absolutely correct according to the letter of the law, but it’s a bastardisation of a rule that was created to stop players goal-hanging. If an assistant can’t reasonably be expected to have seen the player was offside then it’s daft for someone with imperfect equipment to be zooming in on situations and making a decision. Who decides whether an assistant could be expected to have seen it then becomes subjective, of course, which means that it remains a flawed system. It’s not working, but it is getting more decisions right than wrong.

A Lot Has Happened In The Last Ten Years

As we get ready to watch the party-poppers go when the clock strikes twelve and 2020 gets underway, it’s worth reflecting on what a mad decade it’s been for Liverpool Football Club. That Roy Hodgson was ever appointed as our manager is a thing that everyone associated with the club should be deeply ashamed of. He never understood the ethos of Anfield and didn’t ‘get’ the supporters on any level. The club will always be too big to go down, but Hodgson will never be too good not to threaten teams he manages with the possibility of relegation. The good feeling that swept around Anfield when he was finally relieved of his post and Kenny Dalglish was brought in to replace him simply cannot be understated. From the ridiculous to the sublime. Which isn’t to say that the Scot was necessarily the right appointment when he was given a contract at the end of the season, mind. Was he ‘past it’ by that stage? Maybe.

He definitely brought a feeling of excitement back to the stands and two cup finals including winning one of them was exactly what we needed after the depression of both the Hicks and Gillette era and Hodgson’s spell in the hotseat. Our league form was appalling, though, so it was the right time for him to go. Brendan Rodgers was always a gamble but he’s shown since leaving the club that he’s a talented manager who perhaps got the job too soon. Even so, for a time I was swept up in the elation of the thrilling football we were playing and the notion that it was all down to Luis Suarez was always a moronic one. The Northern Irishman gave me my best season as a Liverpool supporter since Rafa Benitez’s heyday, so unlike some of the more idiotic sections of our fanbase I’ll always have a soft spot for him. I briefly wondered whether that close miss in 2013-2014 was as good as it was going to get during my lifetime. Then everything changed.

Jürgen Klopp Has Changed Everything

Whether it be under the management of Rafa Benitez or the close miss under Brendan Rodgers, it’s always felt as though Liverpool’s title tilts have been one-offs. It seemed as though we needed to chuck everything at it for one go at winning the holy grail because we didn’t have the infrastructure in place to build things up slowly but surely. Whilst I think Fenway Sports Group have been excellent owners for the club, there’s no question that it took them a while to learn what they needed to do to get us in the right place. There were certain decisions that were made before Jürgen Klopp’s appointment, but it wasn’t until the German was hired that everything seemed to click into place. We’d signed Roberto Firmino before Klopp joined, for example, but didn’t get the best out of him until the former Borussia Dortmund man started to work with him and realised his potential to be a game-changer for the team.

That’s not the only difference that the German’s made, of course. Jordan Henderson is an excellent case in point of what Klopp can do for players. He was misused by Dalglish but was a crucial part of Rodgers’ side, yet it’s his development in the last season or two that has made him a vital cog in the Liverpool machine. He’s grown into his role as captain and he now carries himself like a man that has lifted the European Cup for his side. Klopp’s changed the entire mindset of the fanbase and the club as a while. He’s restored us to Europe’s top table and put us back to the top of the English top-flight, not in a one-off case but in a way that seems to be sustainable and dynastic. He’s revolutionised the entire football club in a way that hasn’t been done since the days of Bill Shankly and it would be entirely fitting if he was the man to lead us back to the title for the first time in thirty years. The future looks very bright indeed.

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