There has always been a tradition around Anfield and environs of club leaders saying the right thing at the right time. You can trace it back to that most articulate and circumspect of gents, Bill Shankly. The Scot was famously loquacious but there was never a word out of place. Every phrase was measured before being delivered in that wistful but authoritative Glenbuck burr.
In a time before media saturation, the man who started the most glorious era in the club’s history understood the power of words. Whether he was fashioning fanciful scenarios about aliens being the only ones capable of giving Liverpool a game or reminding the masses that his players had been schooled by him about their responsibilities and privilege as representatives of the city, Shankly was a master orator.
The specific blend of humility and quiet confidence that the great man established was a trait of the famous boot room and was continued by his lieutenant, Bob Paisley, a quieter man whose trophy haul, after succeeding Shankly, may never be equalled. Paisley’s avuncular persona belied the fierce drive of a winner. He famously let slip that a trick of his was to speak in glowing terms of forthcoming opponents, to “give them toffee,” as he put it, softening them up for the kill.
Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish continued the tradition of dignified humility in success but recent years have seen a little bit of fraying at the edges, primarily because the dignity required has been the more difficult sort, presented in the absence of success.
With Jürgen Klopp now captaining the Good Ship Liverpool and Jordan Henderson as his, well, captain (I didn’t think that through), there is a whiff of the old days coming back to the way in which the message is delivered to the fans, the opposition and the media. Klopp is widely loved but he is nobody’s fool and he has been delightfully dismissive of some of the petulant wittering from the likes of Jose Mourinho. The German’s record of success and inherent charisma allows him to speak with an authority that resonates with our muscle memory of what a Liverpool leader sounds like.
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