There is a scene towards the end of the brilliant Ben Stiller film ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ where Stiller’s character Walter finally tracks down the mythical Head Photographer of the magazine he works for, Sean O’Connell who scours the world for the most picturesque of photo opportunities. Walter had recently made the ambitious and risky decision to leave his comfort zone and gone on a wild journey to escape from his previously sterile life. He was on a collision course with destiny but he had no idea how his journey would end.
Walter fittingly found Sean on a mountain side observing beautiful wildlife to potentially document. Suddenly, Sean spots the perfect photograph and points it out to Walter. It was the type of scene that most of us could only dream of seeing with our own eyes. The exchanges that followed was just exquisite:
Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.
While this observation by Sean O’Connell could be appropriately applied to many walks of life, it reminded me quite a bit on what a remarkable season it has been for Liverpool Football club, and it is incredibly easy to lose sight of that fact. While Liverpool didn’t turn down the Premier League the way O’Connell turns down the photo opportunity, the moment very much remains the same… this moment is one to savor!
It is a fairly common time saving technique for journalists to write a report of a match they are attending in a variety of ways in advance so that when the outcome is finally determined they are prepared for all eventualities. The idea being that that the result usually determines the narrative. Now, if someone had written a story about Liverpool’s 2018-2019 season in advance in the most positive of manners possible, it is still doubtful the tale could have done this wonderful season justice.
I say this because there is an awful lot of disappointment going around due to the quest for the league title falling just short. The good vibes have returned to some degree thanks to the unbelievable comeback against Barcelona to reach the European Cup final but regardless of that result, the club can only be proud of what has been accomplished this season.
Last summer, hopes were quietly optimistic. Liverpool had just finished the season by reaching the Champions League final and solidifying their place again in the top four but the gap to Manchester City remained unquestionably intimidating. They had waltzed the league in style hitting an unprecedented 100 points. They appeared to be an immovable force that would take some toppling.
The additions of Alisson, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri were significant but we still sensed that catching City would be a long term project. It probably still is but few expected that we would make such important strides in the first year.
Liverpool have already set a number of records, none more noteworthy than breaking the 90 point barrier in the league and finishing with 97 which is the third highest total in the last 120 years. There were but a few tantalizing millimeters from a draw at the Etihad which would have potentially sealed an invincible season. Coincidentally the squad also accumulated more points than Arsenal’s actual Invincibles from 2004. Finally the ultimate points total was great than anything ever achieved by a Manchester United side under Alex Ferguson who is widely regarded as the most successful manager of recent times. It has truly been a stunning season.
We have become so obsessed with trophies as supporters that when teams make genuine progress that will leave a more significant legacy than any League Cup or FA Cup ever could, we still mistakenly feel a sense of loss. It is okay to be disappointed this year but the Kloppolution is about so much more than wins and defeats.
This is now back to back Champions League finals for the Reds and the third European final already for Jurgen Klopp since he arrived at Anfield. We have humbled teams we used to admire from afar such as Bayern Munich and Barcelona. I used to watch the Champions League on TV only 4 or 5 years ago dreaming that one day Liverpool may get to compete with teams again let alone beat them so emphatically.
Under Rafa Benitez in 2005, we took some significant scalps along the way to glory but every single win was a extraordinary moment where we certainly went in as huge underdogs. It was backs to the wall will to win and Benitez’s tactical acumen which gave us a chance.
Now with Klopp at the helm, the terrific mentality remains but the overall quality of the side is a world apart. We used to have the Herb Brooks in Miracle on Ice approach of: “They may win 9 games out of 10…but not tonight!” That is the type of motivation other teams now use against Liverpool. It is an incredible turnaround of fortunes in such a short space of time.
What is most different about this current squad is the potential for growth is still quite massive. There was a sense in both 2009 and 2014 after title runs that the form wasn’t really sustainable whereas this team seems to be just getting started.
Outside of James Milner, no key squad members could be thought of as being in the twilight of their careers. There also no longer appears to be the impending dread that our best players could be swayed by other clubs. If anything, Liverpool have again become the team that turns heads of the top talents in Europe.
There are just so many things to look forward to, I just don’t understand how there could be any negative feelings at all towards what took place this season. We still haven’t seen the best of Naby Keita, we made it through essentially a whole season with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, we have talents like Rhian Brewster ready to make the breakthrough, and essentially every key member of this squad will be back next season.
Jurgen Klopp has completely transformed the fortunes of our great club. Now is the time to sit down and soak in the moment much like Sean O’Connell did with Walter Mitty on that mountain. I thought Klopp summed up the current situation best of all after the match against Barcelona. What a time to be a supporter of this incredible club!
”We know this club is the mix of atmosphere, emotion, desire and football quality. Cut off one and it doesn’t work.
The mix of potential and unbelievable heart is just a mix I never saw before. It shows what’s possible in football. It’s so nice.”