Leeds United t-shirts and fans shouting at Liverpool squad weren't biggest problem for angry Jurgen Klopp at Elland Road

Jurgen Klopp had good reasons to be an angry man on Monday night, before and after Liverpool’s clash with Leeds United.

By Graham Smyth
Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 5:00 pm
ROUGH NIGHT - Jurgen Klopp endured a difficult evening at Elland Road as Liverpool drew 1-1 with Leeds United amid fury over the European Super League plans involving his club. Pic: Getty
ROUGH NIGHT - Jurgen Klopp endured a difficult evening at Elland Road as Liverpool drew 1-1 with Leeds United amid fury over the European Super League plans involving his club. Pic: Getty

He knew, as the coaches pulled up to the team hotel in the city centre, that it would be a difficult evening.

The Whites are, in his words, an intense team. Leeds are waspish, they keep coming back for more no matter how many times you swat them.

But Klopp’s difficulties were not restricted to a 90-minute contest. Elland Road hosted a media pack hungry for the German’s reaction to Liverpool’s European Super League involvement.

An idea he has previously opposed, it was all anyone was going to talk about before the game and regardless of what transpired on the pitch it would dominate his full-time duties.

It was after the 1-1 draw that he revealed that his difficulties began much earlier in the day and carried on when he and his squad arrived in LS11.

“Leeds supporters came here today, shouting at us, in the city today we had a walk, people were shouting at us,” he said.

Klopp understood the anger of fans who gathered, along with Reds supporters, to protest the formation of a Super League.

What he did not understand was why their anger was aimed at him and his players.

“Nobody knows what will happen, I don’t know anything about that but the team has nothing to do with it,” he said.

“I have not really anything to do with it but people treat us like that.

“I feel responsible for a lot of things and when I’m involved I take the criticism easily. The boys have to take it as well but we’re not involved in this.

“When you hear all the pundits talking about the club, this club is bigger than all of us. This club is built in difficult times, went through difficult times. We should not forget that. Our owners made a decision, but the whole club is bigger than all of us.

“Obviously the Leeds supporters didn’t know we had nothing to do with it.”

He also failed to grasp why Leeds offered a box of the t-shirts they themselves wore for the warm-up, bearing the message: “Earn it on the pitch, football is for the fans.”

The message was not aimed at those representing Liverpool on the pitch, but Klopp’s anger at the gesture came out in his pre-game interview.

His biggest problem, although he wouldn’t admit it, was that he was pushed out in front of the cameras to speak on behalf of people taking a decision without his input.

Managers, in circumstances such as these, find themselves exposed, contractually obliged to speak to the press on matters they cannot or should not have to address.

Leeds fans might have fanned the flames with their chants and the Whites might have stoked the fire with their anti-ESL t-shirts, but Klopp’s anger was unquestionably burning long before he spoke to a single reporter at Elland Road.

Whether or not you feel he bottled an opportunity to come out more strongly against an idea everyone in football, bar the rich men presenting it, appears to hate, there has to be an element of sympathy. There was nothing wrong with the anger Leeds fans felt and displayed, there’s simply no way to communicate it to the men they’re angry at. The nearest and closest thing was the team coach and the men wearing the liver bird badge sat on it.

So Klopp and his players took the bullets for their owners, just like they always have and always will unless football can bring about some accountability for the so-called custodians of these clubs.

This entire saga should serve as a catalyst for change. Even if this ESL idea goes away, the anger felt by fans and Klopp should not. It should fuel a fire that burns away the chaff and lets our game cultivate a better future.