Sunday 25 September 2016

Ronnie Whelan: Klopp needs to break Liverpool's 'circle of fear' at Anfield

Read Ronnie Whelan every week in The Herald.

Published 14/04/2016 | 17:56

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

JURGEN Klopp has never been slow to pull at the Kop’s heartstrings and he hit the perfect note before Liverpool’s big European night with Borussia Dortmund.

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For me, his willingness to dive straight into the whole Liverpool experience marked him as someone who understood the club and anything he didn’t quite get, he learned fast.

What he wants is a big Euro night at Anfield. Anyone lucky enough to have experienced it will tell you how special it is and how big a part the Kop plays.

I remember the Liverpool v Chelsea Champions League game ten years ago when it was so loud in the ground that the stand underneath me started to vibrate.

There are very few teams equipped to cope with that wall of noise and of course, Dortmund is one of them.

They get it every week in the Westfaldenstadion and Klopp was the man who created that atmosphere over several years with the club.

Genuine

Now, he’s trying to do exactly the same but the Kop will need no encouragement, even if his kind words about the fans from the moment he arrived have been appreciated, largely because they are genuine.

Klopp’s great skill is the way he communicates in an honest but non-confrontational way. His work has not raised any great expectations among the fans because he has kept them in the loop all the way along.

At no point has he tried to sell them a fairy tale. Instead, he has given realistic but positive assessments of his team and his squad and I think the fans understand what he is trying to do.

They can see the signs and as I said earlier in the week, they will head into this summer's transfer market feeling that Liverpool are not far away at all from mounting a title challenge.

For tonight, they must rise above what they achieved in Dortmund to get through the tie.

I still believe Dortmund have better players and a small edge in this game, despite the away goal.

There was a time when you could put your house on Liverpool facing into a home European tie with an away goal in the bank but times have changed and home advantage is not what it used to be.

Anfield is not the fortress it used to be and that is one of Klopp’s primary jobs.

He must re-establish Anfield as a stadium no team in Europe wants to visit and success against Dortmund would be a big step towards that goal.

Expectation would soar if that happens and Klopp would then have another problem on his hands but that’s the kind of issue all managers like to deal with.

I was impressed with the way Klopp’s players coped with the size of the occasion in Dortmund and impressed with the resolve they showed in a difficult game.

But tonight will be a true test of the progress Klopp has made (or not) in breaking the circle of fear which surrounded his team every time they ran out onto home turf.

It’s the main worry I have going into this game. Klopp wants a night of nights at Anfield but he has players who were visibly frightened by that prospect a very short time ago.

The first leg proved they can stand tall when the pressure is fierce and this game will prove that it wasn’t a one-off.

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