Liverpool and my tears of joy

Liverpool Football Club brought Coast Report writer Cody Sargenti to tears with its momentous win in the Champions League.

May 7, 2019, was the first time I had cried since 2010.

There was one more time I have cried since then, but in that span between 2010 when my dog died and that day last spring, I had been through deaths in the family, breakups with my first long-term girlfriend, depressive episodes and financial hardships without shedding so much as a single tear.

When a certain corner kick was taken quickly by Trent Alexander-Arnold found the foot of Divock Origi and consequently the back of the net, I sobbed more tears than I ever have in my entire life.

That goal is what sealed the fate of what is now known as “the miracle of Anfield.” Down 3-0 in the second leg of a Champions League tie against Barcelona, a Liverpool side with a heavily rotated starting 11 managed to get four goals past the Spanish side and send themselves through to their second consecutive Champions League final.

There have been plenty of amazing comebacks in Champions League history — Barcelona’s 6-1 win over Paris Saint Germain, Roma’s 3-0 win over Barcelona, Manchester United’s very late 2-1 comeback against Bayern Munich in the final — but none so uniquely represented their club and their fans than Liverpool’s 4-0 last May.

It was hard not to fall in love with Liverpool Football Club. To be honest, I don’t even remember what the first game I watched was. I remember watching a game in 2013 when I got home from school my senior year, however, no fixtures would’ve been played that late in the afternoon, nor would it be played on a weekday. 

I remember the names: Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Phillipe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Martin Skrtel. I swear it was against Manchester City, but maybe it was Chelsea. Regardless, it was decided then and there — I am a Red.

I knew that I wanted to follow the sport after the 2012 Euros, but had no clue about which team I would support. That’s the funny part about following English Premier League soccer as an American — in England you’re just born into a club, in the states you get to carefully decide.

Liverpool caught my eye because it’s where The Beatles were from, and it’s where I thought the English side of my family was from (they’re actually from Lancashire and would maybe have been Blackburn supporters, or so I am told).

I knew the good teams at the time (Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal) but I didn’t want to be a bandwagoner. Little did I know that I was jumping into a club that has one of the most decorated trophy rooms, and storied pasts, in English history.

Although I had a brief introduction to the team, it was difficult to keep my interest up week in and week out without a community to talk about the team with. I would turn a game on here or there when I saw it was on, but I really had no context for what weight the game carried. Regardless, it was nice having a team to support.

It wasn’t until 2017 that I finally found a community in the subreddit r/LiverpoolFC. The Reddit page now has 245,000 active members, many of them American with similar stories like mine in how they came to love the Reds.

However, not following the team as keenly as I do now meant that I lost out on moments that truly define what it means to support Liverpool in their current era. Moments like the infamous slip that lost the 2013/14 title, Jürgen Klopp’s managerial appointment, The 5-4 game against Norwich, the home leg against Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League and Sadio Mané’s debut goal against Arsenal.

The 2016/17 season ended with a much-needed win against Middlesborough that secured Liverpool a spot in the Champions League. Klopp’s initial statement to fans he said when he came in, to “change doubters into believers,” was coming true. Liverpool were in Europe again.

The 2017/18 season was an exciting season to get my feet wet in becoming a diehard Liverpool supporter. Over the summer of 2017, Liverpool bolstered its front line with the signing of Mohamed Salah, strengthened its midfield with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and secured a much-needed left-back in Andrew Robertson.

Klopp’s “heavy metal football” was being implemented to complete perfection. His geggenpress system needed the right players to work and he shaped the squad into a perfect image of his tactics and, more so, it was exciting to watch.

The 4-3 win over a Man City side that had yet to lose and was running away with the title stands out as the epitome of what Liverpool was in that season. They were swashbuckling, overpowered, goal-crazed maniacs on offense, but were flawed with defensive mistakes and desperately needed a defensive spine.

In stepped defensive behemoth Virgil Van Dijk. The new No. 4, signed in the January transfer window for a record-breaking $100 million from Southampton, gave Klopp and his men the defensive stability and calmness they so sorely lacked.

Salah would go on to break club records by scoring 43 goals across all competitions that season, his four-goal game against Watford being the pamphlet that showed exactly what this exciting new award-winning Egyptian forward could do to the opposition. 

Liverpool, as a squad, was growing, and they were a side perfectly setup for cup competitions. They had tremendous success in the Champions League casting aside Porto (5-0 agg.), Manchester City (5-1 agg.), and Roma (7-6 agg.) on their way to the final in Kyiv against defending champions Real Madrid.

Real Madrid would go on to beat Liverpool 3-1.

After a crushing tackle from Sergio Ramos, Salah was taken out of the game before halftime.

Goalkeeping errors from Lorus Karius (who was definitely concussed from another dangerous challenge by Ramos) along with a truly amazing bicycle kick goal from Gareth Bale ultimately ended Liverpool’s season trophyless.

After losing their second European final in three years, things seemed bleak, but Liverpool was ready to splash the cash again to further shape the squad to fit Klopp’s tactics.

After selling Coutinho for an outstanding $145 million to Barcelona in January, Liverpool invested that sum into a strong central spine. Some of that went into Van Dijk’s signing, sure, but in the summer of 2018, Liverpool brought in goalkeeper Alisson Becker from Roma and midfielder Fabinho from Monaco.

Both signings would play major roles in the starting 11 throughout an incredible 2018/19 season.

The 2018/19 season was a rollercoaster — a game of cat and mouse that would not rest.

While managing the most points the club has ever recorded which, is the third most of all time (97), having the top two goal scorers and having only lost once in the league, Liverpool still came in second. Manchester City beat Liverpool by one point.

Liverpool were incessant. They were unstoppable. With Alisson in goal, and Van Dijk leading the defensive line, only 22 goals were allowed by the side all season in the Premier League.

The once penetrable Liverpool defense had now become a brick wall, the ever-running ever-pressing midfield had only gotten better and stronger, and the front three that lived rent-free inside the head of every single Premier League player learned to link up with each other better.

All that being said and I still haven’t mentioned the fullbacks. Laid out on paper, the fullback position provides defensive coverage to wide areas. However, our two fullbacks went on to get a combined 28 assists in all competitions last year.

Not a single assist is more important than one taken quickly by a 21-year-old Liverpudlian lad called Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The assist heard ‘round the world. A cheeky corner that landed Liverpool directly into the Champions League Final.

I had mentioned one other time I had cried since that goal.

Those tears were shed when the final whistle beckoned the end of the 2019 Champions League Final in Madrid.

Those tears were shed being held by my best friend in an Irvine  bar surrounded by a sea of red shirts with little liver birds on them.

Those tears were shed when a chorus of crying drunk adults rang out with the tune that’s become iconic with the club we support: “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

Those tears were shed because Liverpool won the Champions League trophy by beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0.

I’d say about 10 percent of those tears were actually for me. Of course, I was ecstatic about Liverpool winning a trophy for the first time since I have followed them. However, the other 90 percent was for those boys on that field.

They had worked relentlessly to bring a trophy back to Liverpool. To come so close as one point to winning the first league trophy in 29 years, but falling short only inspired them to achieve European greatness.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned about being a Liverpool Football Club supporter it’s this: nothing comes easy for Liverpool Football Club.

Our greatness is only achieved through grafting, through hard work. If the only way we can win trophies is by coming back from 3-0 down then so be it.

Here we are again. COVID-19 interrupted a near mathematical certainty that Liverpool will be receiving a Premier League title for the first time in 30 years.

This season, as it stands, Liverpool is two games away from mathematically securing the Premier League title, and eagerly awaiting to see if this season will be seen through or be null and void.

Liverpool currently sits 25 points clear at the top of the table. If that doesn’t win them the league, then watch out. Next year by this time they will probably sit 35 points clear.

Nothing comes easy for Liverpool Football Club, but the team, the management, the ownership and the fans are all up for the fight.

You’ll never walk alone.

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