Liverpool: The sun had just set over Anfield when the fireworks started to explode into the twilight. And why wouldn’t they, the 30-year wait to be champions of England again had finally ended. A signal went out across Merseyside. The drought was finally over for Liverpool.
Sea of fans
At first there were just a dozen supporters who watching on phones and listening on radios outside this hallowed stadium. They were soon surrounded by a sea of thousands snaking from the entrance to the Anfield. They had no fear of the pandemic coronavirus. It was a moment to celebrate in a sea of red.
And as darkness eventually engulfed Liverpool’s home on this mid-summer’s evening, a red haze of smoke began to light the skies.
Waving flares and flags, Liverpool’s faithful found a way to share this moment together Thursday, even in a pandemic. It’s hard to stay apart when a three-decade mission has been accomplished. It didn’t matter that the crowning moment came without Liverpool players being on the field.
The squad had to watch on television, just like the fans, as second-place Manchester City lost 1-2 at Chelsea. The verdict left Liverpool 23 points in front. With seven games to go, Liverpool cannot be caught.
“This is bliss,” 61-year-old fan Francis Murphy said as fans clambered onto the Main Stand behind him. “I have supported them all my life and to go 30 years without winning the league really hurts. But we are back, and Liverpool will stay back,” Murphy added.
Klopp turns emotional
Jürgen Klopp, the German manager has restored a winning mentality to Liverpool with his brand of ‘heavy metal’ football. He has already led the club to their sixth European club title last year.
“If I tried to start talking about it again I will start crying again and that doesn’t work really well,” Klopp said. “I am completely overwhelmed. I don’t know, it’s a mix of everything. I am relieved, I am happy, I am proud,” the manager added.
The twice-weekly COVID-19 testing has allowed the Premier League to resume last week after a 100-day suspension. It also enabled Klopp to join his squad and staff for a viewing of the game from Stamford Bridge.
“We thought maybe not compulsory,” Klopp said. “I know who will stay at home and watch it alone will regret it for the rest of his life. So we came here together. It is our bubble,” the manager stated.
Liverpool became England’s earliest and latest champion: clinched with the most games to spare and by the latest calendar date. This title had hardly been in doubt since December. A fluid, attacking style of play earned 28 wins and two draws in 31 games with a loss at Watford.
“The world has watched the fierce determination of this club on the field for every single match,” said John Henry. He is Liverpool’s American owner. “The preparation, resolve and talent of those who put together perhaps the greatest league performance is laudable,” Henry added.
The club was 25 points clear when the league was abruptly halted by the coronavirus in March. ‘Null and void’ became the dreaded term in the red half of Liverpool, amid fears the season could be cancelled completely. When Liverpool returned Sunday, a 0-0 draw at Everton delayed the crowning moment. The team rediscovered its scintillating attacking form Wednesday as it swept aside Crystal Palace 4-0 inside an empty Anfield.
Fans couldn’t go to pubs, which have been shut since March. “We are not going to complain and make a fuss,” said 21-year-old defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, a lifelong fan. “It’s something we’ve always dreamed of,” he added.
But police adopted a relaxed approach to allow the outpouring of emotion outside Anfield. Thousands filled the streets long after midnight singing club anthems old and new. “You want to be amongst it,” said 23-year-old supporter Libby Stevens, who wasn’t alive when Liverpool last won the league.
Henry’s experiment of bringing back 1990-title winning manager Kenny Dalglish was short-lived. An eighth-place finish in 2012 was the club’s lowest in 18 years. Brendan Rodgers’s finished two points shy of champion Manchester City in 2014. This happened after captain Steven Gerrard slipped on the field and gave away a goal in a critical loss to Chelsea.
Klopp arrived in October 2015 and Liverpool finished eighth again that season. A slump in form saw Rodgers fired in 2015, which ushered in the arrival of Klopp. Money from the sale of Philippe Coutinho two years ago helped build an entertaining team. The arrival of Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, bolstered defensively by the additions of goalkeeper Alisson and center-back Virgil van Dijk also helped.
Liverpool finished just one point behind winner Man City last season. There was no stopping Klopp’s team this time.