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'Klopp's arrival made me think of how we have always been prejudiced against Germany'

Liverpool novelist and critic Anthony Quinn, author of a new book about Jurgen Klopp, is this week’s guest on Behind the Lines.

Jurgen Klopp.
Jurgen Klopp.
Image: PA

CAN YOU BE too old to have heroes? 

Writer Anthony Quinn has found his answer. 

“I’m rather shame-faced about that as I’m a 56-year-old guy. I honestly thought I was well past the idea of having heroes, it feels rather unbecoming for a middle-aged man to say he’s got a hero.” 

His hero is one Jurgen Klopp, the manager of his beloved Liverpool and the subject of his new book, Jurgen Klopp: My Liverpool Romance. It’s his first piece of non-fiction: once the long-time film critic at the UK Independent, Quinn published the first of six novels in 2009. 

He is also the latest guest on Behind the Lines, our sportswriting podcast exclusive to members of The42

(Behind the Lines is a weekly podcast exclusive to members of The42, in which we speak with writers about their careers and their favourite writing. Access to the 55-episode back catalogue is just one of the benefits of becoming a member of The42and to sign up, go to members.the42.ie.)

Quinn’s book is not a straight biography of Klopp, instead he zings through Klopp’s career through the filter of his own expressions and emotions as a love-struck fan. 

“My wife’s line on this is there are three of us in this marriage.”

Quinn lives in London now but is originally from Liverpool, and intersperses his impressions of Klopp with the story of his city. Once the second city of Empire in Victorian England, the loss of the shipping trade saw the city fall into decline. “No city, with the possible exception of Jericho had suffered such a dramatic collapse”, writes Quinn. 

He also illustrates the scale of the city’s damage during World War II: in terms of the ratio of deaths to population, only London was more heavily hit than Liverpool.

“We were surrounded by bombsites when we grew up”, says Quinn. 

“It was rained on during the blitz. I grew up thinking the Germans are the worst race on Earth. When I was a kid, every film, comic, story seemed to be about the Nazis and how we hated them. The idea 50 years later Jurgen Klopp would be our manager and my hero is quite a turnaround. 

“There was a strong anti-German sentiment when I was a kid in the 1970s; the classic line was ‘The Germans bombed our chippy.’

“Every book, film, TV Show I can remember from my childhood was about the war. From the comic to the tragic to the epic, everything seemed to be about the war. And the war will continue to be the most profound experience of our lives, of the people born in the twentieth century.

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“I don’t feel terribly hostile toward Germany anymore, with Angela Merkel seeming a sensible politician and certainly better than any we’ve got. But the arrival of Klopp made me think more about how we always have been prejudiced against them.” 

Anti-German sentiment resurfaced again during the Brexit vote, but Liverpool voted remain and Klopp has frequently spoken out against the result.

“It makes no sense at all”, Klopp told the Guardian in 2018. 

“That’s part of Klopp’s appeal: his common sense, his decency and his ability to think about the community at large”, says Quinn. “It’s probably quite unusual in sport: he’s a thinker and he thinks outside of football. You get the feeling he’s a rounded character, and spoke out about Brexit. For a football manager to say that, feels admirable and unusual.” 

Quinn writes in his book of the moment he knew he was in too deep with Klopp: he started losing 20-minute chunks of his day to YouTube videos of old Klopp press conferences from his Dortmund days. They weren’t subtitled, and Quinn doesn’t have a word of German. 

“Klopp has taken me by surprise, really, as I’ve never thought of public figures being worthy of heroising. They seem such clenched and miserable figures to me, football coaches.

“They aren’t happy in their own skin at all, and you can’t blame them. They are under such enormous pressure, they never look very happy when they are being interviewed, even when they’ve won. Klopp isn’t perfect, obviously, and there are people who have felt the rough edge, people like Des Kelly on BT Sport recently. You wouldn’t want to catch him in a bad mood, but nonetheless, even when he isn’t being very reasonable, there is this forcefield of charisma around him. It’s so unusual to see that in a football context.” 

Quinn’s German publisher assures him Klopp has been sent his book. 

“It would be nice to think he would read it, but I won’t be crying myself to sleep if he doesn’t.”

Jurgen Klopp: My Liverpool Romance is published by Faber and is available now. 

To listen to the full interview, subscribe at members.the42.ie. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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