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Jurgen: thank you from RAWK

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9 years of some massive highs, horrible lows and the memories created by someone who just got the club, fans and the City.

Thanks Jurgen, you’ll never be forgotten.

I now understand intensity is our identity isn't just about what happens on the field but everything that encompasses our club, it's been an intense 9 years, no quarter given, every game with meaning.. I understand why he needs a break, to rebuild the club from where it was, on and off the field, took a very special person, someone who you see once in your lifetime, some on here you lucky bastards, saw it twice with Shanks.

Players love you, we love you, your humilty, confidence and energy fit our club like a glove. It's been said a thousand times this week, turning doubters into believers but I'd argue it went further than that, under this great man we now demand the greatness he built on his big german shoulders. Every game we walk into it expecting we should win, not through unplaced arrogance but from a place that we go again, and again and push ourselves to do the impossible.

I personally don't care about trophy counts or what anyone outside of our club thinks, for me it's about the feeling deep inside my heart that will never go from what you helped us all achieve and for that I'd like to say is thank you, you've given me some of my greatest life experiences, from Barca to West Brom and more, what a ride.

I look forward to regaling tales of the teams you built and their brilliance to my kids and also, knowing the deep foundations you've built, they can experience their own as we enter a new dawn.

Again, danke schon Jurgen.

I could list all the wonderful memories you'll leave behind, but I don't have to, because you were there, too. We were there together, and that's what matters, isn't it? John Oliver said it beautifully when he said trophies are ephemeral; it's the memories that you get to keep and treasure forever. They'll never be able to take those away from us. You deserve all the best things in life, Jurgen. You gave me some of mine.

Terry de Niro:
What a man, what a legend.
Up there with the best.
Danke and Auf Wiedersehen Jurgen.

Bit of a long post this, but couldn't think of anywhere else to put it.

At around 4.00am in the morning on Sunday 24th February 2019 I stood outside the entrance to Whiston Hospital, Merseyside. It was still dark, mist drifted under the lamp posts and there was not a soul about. Fifteen minutes previously my mum had passed away as I held her hand after suffering a stroke at home on the Wednesday evening. She was only 69 and she was my best friend.
As I stood in a daze, my head spinning I could not even contemplate how life would go on for me. My mum raised me single-handedly and I still lived at home with her.

I went to my uncle’s house for a few hours sleep and then took the decision to return home, conscious that we were top of the league and playing Man United. The house was exactly as we had left it when the young pretty female paramedic said to me, “we need to go NOW”, and we raced to Whiston Hospital on blue lights and sirens. I remember absolutely nothing from that game, other than it was a dour nil-nil stalemate.

As you would expect, my life was a whirlwind in those initial days, shock, grief, disbelief, emptiness, exhaustion. For the first week I stayed in my uncle’s as I could not take being in the house alone of a night. I vividly remember us beating Watford 5-0 and Mane scoring that audacious backheel. I remember giving a half-hearted weak smile for whilst I was still lost in grief, it briefly took my mind from this ongoing nightmare.

In the coming weeks I built up the courage to return home permanently. I would be off work for a while so I could throw myself into arranging mum’s funeral, going to the council to beg them to let me stay in the house, then buy the house, arrange a mortgage, find a solicitor, the whole circus.
Football wise, some games I literally don’t remember, others I clearly do. My mates bless them formed a protective bubble around me and my home became a venue for all Champions League games. We would sit, drink beers, eat pizza and watch us demolish Bayern Munich in Germany. I would cheer when we scored, but it was half-hearted because I was still a broken man.

Slowly but surely, I was starting to take more interest in our fixtures because of our run in the Champions League. Before mum had died, I had paid for a holiday with my mates to Philadelphia for seven nights. I knew the Barca second leg would be whilst we were away, and I was confident I would find somewhere to watch it out there. Getting beat 3-0 was tough to take so I flew out to the green fields of Pennsylvania and didn’t really think much about footy. When we were about to kick off in the second leg, I looked at the team news and wrote us off. I feel guilty for it even now, but I said to my mates, ‘nah, I’ll check my phone’. At the time we were in the middle of a place called Delaware, one of the smallest states in the USA and driving between small towns.
It was middle of the afternoon over there and a beautiful sunny day so the idea of watching us get beat was not high on my priority.

And then Wijnaldum made it 2-0!

We quickly found a sports bar in a small town called Symra and I managed to watch the last 20 minutes with a few locals who were quietly bemused at my shouting and screeching. It quickly dawned on me that I’d ballsed up though. I had been invited with some close friends for a weekend in Austria at the end of May and after the first leg defeat against Barca, I agreed and now flights, car hire and digs has been booked.
I gave it considerable thought, I was still a bit raw, the adrenalin of going to America had faded and maybe some quiet time in the Austrian Alps would do me good? I told the guys I would go, only if I could find a bar showing the final.

At this stage, the funeral had been and gone and I was in the process of getting my very first mortgage for somewhere I had lived all my life. Coupled with the grief, it was a really tough time, and I was trying to do my best.
To give you a glimpse into my grief, I have always had a love for travelling, airplanes, trains, boats, coaches, I do not care, I love the buzz of going somewhere new. My mum loved that I was so passionate about this and as mum’s do, insisted on packing my clothes and getting me ready anytime I went somewhere. When I would return from my adventures, she would be there with a big hug and a beaming face, ready to listen enthralled to what I had been up to. That had now been snatched away from me. I had to pack my own stuff and when I came home from holiday, I came into an empty house which was deafeningly silent. It killed me.

Thursday 30th May 2019 I left my house for Lime Street station. Before I left I spoke to my mum’s ashes which are in a box in my living room, I ‘asked her’ that seeing as I had endured a lot of sadness lately, could she try make sure the reds don’t get beat.
The first weird thing following that was 45 minutes later when I’m stood on an empty platform at Lime Street waiting for my train, from right above my head a single white feather gently floated to the ground and landed directly at my feet. Now the reality was a pigeon probably met its demise by flying into the overhead wires, or got winged by the Euston express, but the chances of a single white feather landing in front of me when nobody else was about?

I flew to Munich with a small group of mates, hired a car and drove down to Austria. It was a beautiful journey, especially when you cross the border near Salzburg. We stopped at a service station for a beer and a sandwich and I remember looking out at the mountains and contemplating life.
We stayed in an air B&B house on a hillside with the nearest village being Dorfgastein. I won’t lie, it was probably the most stunning place I had seen in my life, just mountains and hills as far as the eye could see. The house was like one of those Hansel and Gretel type of houses made of wood, no neighbours for ages, and even that was a farm.

The owners had left us food and drinks for us – including beer – so I was literally chuffed. My first thought though was the game on Saturday. The telly in the house only had the basic channels and looked unlikely to show any footy, besides, I wanted somewhere with atmosphere and copious amounts of alcohol.
An internet search prior to flying out had revealed one or two potential venues in the town of Bad Hofgastein, about 20 minute’s drive away, so we drove down Friday to check them out, both were unsuitable. One was a café bar for bikers which was tiny, the guy behind the bar said they might show it, but it wouldn’t have sound and the TV screen was the size of a beer mat!
The second wasn’t much better, they had a band on instead so wouldn’t be showing any sports.

We headed to the smaller village of Dorfgastein which was nearer our house and had a stroll around the centre of the village. It was picturesque, no denying it, little restaurants and ice cream parlours, a church, a few shops and then, as we walked down a street, there was an electronic sign displaying a bouncing football and the Champions League logo, could it be? It was part of a hotel and I went in and spoke to the barman. Yes, it was being shown but no, I couldn’t book a seat. His parting words being, “get here early, we are likely to be very busy”.

The next day the butterflies returned and I was genuinely nervous for the game. The three lads I was with were all older than me and had no interest in football. It was agreed that they would drop me off early for the game and then they would go and find a restaurant for a meal and come back at some point in the second half to meet me.
Kick off was 9.00pm local time and I got to the hotel for 7.00pm hoping to get a table at least. To my utter shock it was absolutely empty other than a couple of bored looking bar staff!
I picked the best table in the place, right in front of a large flat screen telly on the wall and made myself comfortable with a few bottles of Stiegl Goldbrau.

It was being shown on Sky Sports Germany so with my mates off to have their own meal, nobody else in the bar other than staff, I had to listen to Michael Ballack and Didi Hamann debate our chances in their native tongue.
The view out the window was different, the mountain tops still had snow on them and there wasn’t many people walking around. I thought about my mates back home, some were going into town, others having their own party in their garden. Others I knew had travelled to Madrid and were having their own adventures.

Kick off arrived and it was surreal, nobody else had turned up, I had literally had the bar to myself. The barman looked up briefly when I shouted, “COME ON REDMEN!” when the players walked out, other than that, nothing, silence.
I can vividly remember jumping up out of my chair when we got awarded the pen and cheering, only to turn around and see an empty bar, it really was the most unusual scene.

After about 20 minutes three locals came in and were showing slight interest in the game, followed by another two people later on. At one point I shouted out and clapped, probably because we'd won a corner, and one of them shushed me, sssshhhh! I was incensed and turned around to glare my disapproval.

Thankfully, as promised, my mates came in for the second half and the rest is history. Origi done the business and I was out of my seat, fist pumping and beaming. When the final whistle went, I had the biggest smile on my face that couldn't be wiped off and then I realised, I hadn't thought about my grief for a few hours, for the first time I had relaxed and taken my mind off the nightmare of the last few months.
Initially I felt a bit guilty, but then I knew mum would want this.

That night, through a combination of Austrian beer and adrenalin, I slept soundly for the first time in ages. The next morning I sat on the balcony overlooking the mountains and green hills as the sun blazed down on my face I felt the first feelings of acceptance and ease. It was then that I remembered the white feather at Lime Street, the request to my mum to 'don't let us lose', and I wondered, did she make it happen?

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that Jurgen Norbert Klopp was the manager of the club I love during the most difficult and most traumatic part of my life.
He gave me the release I so badly needed and most of all, he put me on the road to recovery after the death of my mum.

Danke Jurgen!


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