Putting my Liverpool shirt and tie on today, I’ll be like a wee kid on Christmas morning.
Honestly, I’ve missed the football and sorely missed seeing Jurgen Klopp and the players in action.
They have been wonderfully entertaining in the past year, and brought so much pleasure to so many people all over the world.
I’m one of the lucky few to get into Goodison Park today, and I’m so looking forward to it.
And if that’s how I’m feeling, then I can only imagine how up for it Jordan Henderson and the rest of the squad will be.
Of course, we’d all rather we were going to see the game being part of a full house and a near-40,000 crowd.
But we all know why that can’t be the case, and we all accept it’s for the right reasons. Health & safety will always come first, and rightly so.
However, playing in front of a handful of people will not diminish the skill, desire and determination on show from both teams.
There are quality players all over the pitch, and they will be able to operate to their maximum, regardless of the circumstances.
Tasty tackles will still take place if merited. That has always been the way.
My goodness, I remember some of the Merseyside derbies I played in.
There were times you would have thought there wasn’t a ball on the pitch!
Everyone just got tore in, and I loved every second of it.
It has changed now, of course. Referees quickly clamp down on certain types of tackles, and players know they run the risk of a straight red card.
The emphasis is very much, on trying to play attractive football as you just can’t get away with the same physicality as you could 20, 30 or 40 years ago.
But that doesn’t mean the Merseyside derby has lost its competitive edge. Absolutely not. That will be evident for all to see today.
The focus for Liverpool will be about trying to win the game, and taking another step closer to winning the title.
The manager and the squad have been brilliant this season. We all hope they can recapture that form, but nothing can ever be taken for granted.
I’m sure Jurgen will keep to the way he has managed the players during his five years at the club, and he will not change because of the current circumstances, such as playing behind closed doors.
The target remains the same today as it does in every game – go out and try your very best to get the three points over the 90 minutes.
Jurgen and his staff will have the players prepared in the proper way. The instructions and plan will be absolutely clear, as always.
He is a top manager and the perfect fit for Liverpool Football Club.
I remember the day he was appointed, back in October 2015. I was driving up to Glasgow and had a media conference that afternoon.
I told the reporters I thought he’d be an excellent appointment – and that everyone should strap themselves in.
Since then, he has won the Champions League and the World Club Championship, and the club now stands on the verge of its first league title in 30 years.
He has been outstanding.
From the moment he walked through the door, Jurgen was all about the football club, the supporters, the players and the staff.
It has never, ever been about him. And he is still exactly the same.
I knew he’d be the ideal fit, as his personality epitomises his standing at Liverpool.
He has taken the club on a wonderful journey, and it has been fantastic for everyone.
And the way he has conducted himself during lockdown – in terms of what he has said and how he has said it – has been first-class.
But anyone who has watched and listened to him since he arrived wouldn’t have expected anything else.
Like the rest of us, though, he will glad that the football is back.
From day one, Liverpool always stated that they wanted to wait and let football return so the season could be finished on the park.
It was the right thing to do.
I’ve been watching the German games on the telly for the past few weeks, and the Premier League since it restarted in midweek.
There has been a mix of some good goals, lovely skill and controversy. It’s the way we like it. It’s what makes the football special.
Also, great credit is due to the footballing authorities and the many people behind the scenes at the football clubs for getting everything in place to get the football back up and running.
There is so much attention to detail and guidelines to be followed. It has been extremely challenging for everyone involved.
But, like everyone else, I’m very grateful to them for bringing back the game we all love.
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