Liverpool FC: Premier League Champions. Now What?
It happened. We all knew it was going to happen, especially this magical and unreal season, it was just a matter of when. When would we win those last few points, after the season had been suspended? Would Manchester City ever drop more points and win it for us earlier?
The answer to those questions turned out to be yes — Liverpool became the Premier League Champions, simultaneously the latest team to do so (with 7 games left to play in the season) and the latest team to do so (by securing the title in late June).
As long as I’ve been a fan, this chase for the Premier League has been our ultimate goal. Ending that long stretch between league titles. I’ve spoken about it before, but I became a fan in 2010, following that summer’s World Cup. Probably the darkest times for the club, as there was a manager who couldn’t make it work (Roy Hodgson), owners that were sinking the club into the ground, and, disappointed fans and players. Some of my friends on Twitter call it the #Hodgpocalypse, and those of us that became fans that year are #ChildrenOfTheHodgpocalypse.
The closest we’d gotten when I was an early fan was in 2013-2014, watching that incredible team with Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson just coming into his own. Steven Gerrard, doing the most on his tired legs.
That was the first time I experienced real sports heartbreak, too.
Those years, that stretch of watching that team rise and fall. Players come in and players leave. That made me the fan that I am today. And no, it’s not the same as those who grew up watching the team, or found them in the 90s with Michael Owen. Watched that incredible 2005 Champions League final. There are fans out there with many, many more painful memories than me. They’ve seen worse moments, worse stretches, and stuck with us.
But this stretch, the peaks and valleys of it, made every moment that much better. Made this moment, sitting in the glow of that trophy and knowing that it is finally ours, makes it that much better.
Started from the bottom, almost literally, and now we’re here.
So then, what happens now?
Of course we keep going. There are no other options. Most of our team is going to stay relatively unchanged, with the exception of some departures at the end of their contracts or Dejan Lovren who just needs to be sold into obscurity. Liverpool have already made their intentions not to buy expensive players this transfer window known after being unable to secure Timo Werner — a player who was essentially begging Liverpool to sign him for the last year.
That’s okay. Jurgen Klopp has made it very clear that he intends to invest in the Academy players, hence why the senior Men’s team and the Academy are moving to that brand new training facility that doesn’t include the Women’s team. (That’s not bitterness, I’m not bitter, do I sound bitter?)
We have young defenders like Sepp Van Den Berg, Yasser Larouci, Ki-Jana Hoever, Neco Williams, all waiting on the wings for their time to shine in the league. There’s Harvey Elliott, and Curtis Jones waiting to help out in the midfield. Rhian Brewster, whom Klopp is particularly fond of, is still on loan and likely to come back to make an impact for the Men’s squad. There is reason to believe Klopp when he says that he believes in this young talent. Fostering kids through their Academy days to the Men’s squad is one of his greatest gifts — just look at how Trent Alexander-Arnold has turned into arguably one of the best right backs in the world under his tutelage.
This squad in particular, though, was built to last. Most of our most important players are in the prime of their careers, with even captain Jordan Henderson only just now reaching 30. Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane are all 28. While they are on the older end of the football age spectrum, it is still the best years for their bodies to perform. This is not to say that we do not need backups, and proficient ones at that. Klopp believes that the sooner we can get the youngsters bedded into the rigors of his playing style and the league and tournaments the club face, the better all around for the squad.
Those days will come. There are still seven matches to play in the season and plenty of time. Plenty of chances to give the kids their day.
What about the fans, you and I? Where do we go from here, what happens now? In the words of Lin Manuel Miranda, “We won the war, what was it all for?”
Of course we keep going. I hope you are nursing your hangovers well. I hope you’re re-hydrating after spilling so many tears. I hope your throats have soothed after screaming and singing and belting. I hope your bank accounts have stopped crying after being gutted by Premier League Champions merchandise.
I hope we remember this journey. The most extraordinary season that brought us this trophy that we’ve worked so hard towards. It’s for you and me, that shiny piece of metal that we’ve coveted for so long. Seen slip out of our grasp too many times, after our fandom ancestors enjoyed its presence — took it for granted.
We’re going to keep going. Barring any more pandemic developments, the 2020-2021 season is set to start in September, following the completion of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. Our boys will get a break, a chance to take a bit of a rest (again), and we will keep going.
Because 19 League titles isn’t enough, we need to go for 20.
Because this team, this club, and this manager are something special. They have built something special and just because we have finally managed to break whatever curse was put on us in 1990 and win the Premier League, doesn’t mean we’re going to stop building and going and achieving.
So they need us, you and I. They need us to celebrate, from home because we can’t be there in person. They need us to cheer and sing and scream, while we can, where we can, to send that energy into the world and make some magic. We are, after all, part of Bill Shankly’s Holy Trinity.
“At a football club, there's a holy trinity - the players, the manager and the supporters.”
Jurgen Klopp got us here. He famously said when he joined Liverpool FC it was time to turn from doubters into believers, and that didn’t take long. He also said that in four years he would give us a trophy. He’s given us four, so far, and a recent extension to his contract to make sure he stays with us even longer than he’d originally planned.
The players got us here. Jordan Henderson, who joined in 2011 and was given the chance to move to Fulham and decided to stay, who was so important in 13-14 that his absence due to a red card may have lost us the league, who was named captain following the departure of Steven Gerrard in 2015 and to this day has detractors and those who would criticize his talent. James Milner, who joined Liverpool on a free transfer and quit his international career to extend his chances of making an impact for the Reds. Andy Robertson, who joined in 2017 after getting relegated with Hull City and has helped change the way fullbacks play entirely. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who joined us from Arsenal after struggling to find his place in their squad and marred by injuries, who faced a full year off just as he started to cement his place in the squad following a knee injury, and cried when he returned to the pitch because of the supporters’ reception. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, all three of whom picked up the pieces following the departure of Philippe Coutinho (good riddance, by the way) and made themselves the most lethal attacking force in Europe and the world.
The supporters, us, got us here. Through early mornings, late nights. Sleepless nights, travel days. Money for tickets, songs to sing, flags to wave. Seats to be sat in or stood on. So many drinks had. We have always been here, through teams and managers that have failed to make it happen. And we’ll always be here. We’ve invested too much time, too much energy, too much of our hearts to leave.
So we go forward, the trinity, together. There’s a new season and new challenges ahead and new medals to win.