NORMAN GILLER klip-klops with glee over the new Liverpool manager, and frets over his choices for the Sportsman of the Year
I can imagine our tabloid headline-writing SJA members lying in bed dreaming up puns centred on the start of the Liverpool reign of Jürgen Klopp. Good Klopp, Bad Klopp has already seen the light of day. The Kop is sure to quickly become The Klopp, and there will be Clippety-clop Klopp references, plus headlines about the Clappety-clap Kloppometer ratings of his players.
Not since the arrival of Bill Shankly at Anfield back in 1959 has there been a Liverpool manager with such a huge personality, and some would say Klopp’s English is better than that of Shanks, who often sounded like ruptured bagpipes.
But underneath Klopp’s joking exterior there is a deadly serious football warrior, who is interested only in winning. He was in charge of Borussia Dortmund for seven seasons, and he got the best out of his players with a mix of fatherly friendliness and an occasional loss of temper that witnesses described as “earth-quaking”.
In their peak years under Klopp, Borussia won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, including the only League and Cup double in the club’s history.
How Liverpool would love a whiff of that smell of success after going 25 years without capturing a championship that they almost considered their private property back in the Bob Paisley days.
With my undisguised Tottenham leanings, I hope Klopp has not had time to galvanise his troops before his first match as manager at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Like Spurs head honcho Mauricio Pochettino, Klopp likes to play a high-pressing game, and so it should be a refreshingly open battle with no parked buses. I am hoping for “Spurs Clip Klopp’s Wings” headlines. And if Liverpool steal the points, watch out for “Klopp Kleptomaniacs”.
The ancient football writer in me envies the north-west reporters, who have the contrasting but colourful Klopp and Van Gaal to keep their notebooks full. Suddenly, the not-so-Special Mourinho is in the shadows (I have only added that to irritate our blue-blooded webmaster).
But I can’t complain. My generation of reporters had the likes of Shanks, Cloughie, Big Mal, Tommy Doc and Bill Nick to keep us in headlines.
They were unstoppable. Or should I say unKloppable?
I CAN RARELY remember when it has been harder to select the SJA Sportsman of the Year. Jessica Ennis-Hill will get my vote for the Sportswoman award, but I am already torturing myself between at least six contenders for the men’s trophy.
I could make out a case for either Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad for their heroics in the Ashes triumph, Mo Farah got yet another golden double in the world championships, Chris Froome became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France twice, Wayne Rooney overtook Sir Bobby Charlton as the most prolific England goal-scorer of all time, and Greg Rutherford could have the jump on them all.
But then – foot on the brake – Lewis Hamilton has now won more F1 races than the legendary Ayrton Senna and is on his way to back-to-back world titles, and the Murray brothers have a little date with the Davis Cup final in November..
And just suppose … just suppose … one of the remaining home nations wins the Rugby World Cup.
We have until a deadline of December 1 to make up our minds.
Just make sure you vote to help maintain our Awards as the most prestigious of them all. The ceremony date for your diary: December 17.
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UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Tue Dec 1: Young sports journalists’ networking drinks – Details to be announced