What do we do? The question kept being asked by the Liverpool squad members on Thursday morning as the defining moment approached.
Having done their bit the previous evening, ransacking Crystal Palace 4-0 to put themselves on the brink of the title, Jurgen Klopp’s players were wondering how — or where — they should watch Manchester City’s game at Chelsea.
Was it better to stay at home? Should they gather in small groups? What happens if the right results arrive and they were all alone? These were all queries that had been considered by the senior members of the group, as they made their way to Melwood for a recovery session.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez were part of the Liverpool title celebrations at Formby Hall
The golf resort has been used by Liverpool as a safe haven for the group in recent weeks
Eventually a consensus was reached: Formby Hall. The golf resort, 20 miles outside the city, has been used as a safe haven for the group in recent weeks. They had stayed there after drawing at Everton on Sunday and completed their preparations for the Palace fixture at the venue, too.
There was something symbolic about this choice of venue, though. In the early days of Klopp’s reign, the annual Christmas party was held there. It was staged after a 3-0 defeat by Watford and the mood at the beginning of the evening reflected where the club was — tense and uncertain.
Klopp had sent a group message around. ‘Whatever we do together we do as well as we can — tonight we party,’ and he threw himself so heavily into the festivities that he was instrumental in concluding the night with a dance-off. Fitting, then, that they would be back where it all started.
‘We thought if City win, which would not have been a surprise, the worst case is we have a team bonding barbecue, go home and try to get a point at the Etihad next week — it just felt the right thing to do,’ revealed Andrew Robertson, the Scottish left back, yesterday.
This squad have had parties before but none matching that of winning the Premier League
‘If we were all sitting in the house, it would not have been the same.
‘We wanted to be together. We have had a long season and been through so much together. Not celebrating with the lads would have been the wrong thing to do.
‘We absolutely made the right call and luckily it went for us.’
It certainly did. Once they were at the retreat, they assembled on a terrace overlooking the golf course. The food was prepared by a club chef — who, like the players, is tested for coronavirus twice a week — and there they stayed in a little bubble, watching the clock at Stamford Bridge tick down.
Robertson (right), by a stroke of luck, ended up with the best seat in the house. He had been on the end of a wind-up, with others seemingly picking better positions to get to the food, but when the TV was rolled out, he found himself on the front row.
As the seconds wound down, the tension and excitement in the group grew. Joe Gomez, the young defender, could barely look at the screen in injury time. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Virgil van Dijk had their phones out, wanting to capture the defining moment.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had his phone out, wanting to capture the defining moment
Klopp, meanwhile, called his family on FaceTime in the final minute. He told them he loved them and wished he could be with them but urged them to stay on the line for when the final whistle in London blew. Then it did — and it was bedlam.
Now was the time to celebrate.
What made this party different, however, was the intimacy. This squad have had parties before — such as in Basle, in 2016, after losing the Europa League final and in Madrid 12 months ago after they had lifted the Champions League — but none of this nature.
It was just for the players, for Klopp, for the backroom staff who have given so much. They danced — Klopp again in the middle of it all, twisting and shuffling — and they sang and those who wanted a drink did so until the early hours.
They watched footage of the celebrations outside Anfield and the measure of their achievement began to sink in.
‘It was a personal night,’ said Robertson, whose grin at the beginning of the interview confirmed he had not slept a great deal. ‘In Madrid, we had all our families there but there were corporate people there and it was a big party. It was more of a socialising party.
The celebrations were for the players, for Klopp, for the backroom staff who have given a lot
‘This was probably more emotional. You got to have more one-to-one chats, group chats and reflect on the season and stuff. It was really personal.
‘Only the people who have been in Melwood every day for the last 12 months were there. That is what made it so special.
‘We all came together and we were all hoping Chelsea would get the win. Luckily they produced it and the party could really start.
‘It went long into the night and rightly so. We have put so much work into it. We deserved that moment.’
They knew they had accomplished something magnificent, which is why Klopp had no reason to take the microphone and address them.
His only wish was for everyone to immerse themselves in it all, to mark the brilliance of the club’s 19th league championship. They duly obliged.
Andy Robertson was joined by James Milner in an interview and said it was a personal night
‘The gaffer does speeches every day but last night there was no need,’ said Robertson. ‘It was lads just trying to drink it in and enjoy the moment because we have done something that people at this club haven’t done before. We’ve got a Premier League trophy in the trophy cabinet for Liverpool now.
‘That’s all we wanted at the start of the season and to achieve that is so special. It’s something I will never forget, we will never forget.
‘Hopefully there is a couple more before this squad has to retire. That’s the aim. Hopefully we can start on that next season. We want to win more trophies.’
The look on Robertson’s face, as he said that last sentence, made one thing clear. This was not someone wishing. This was someone making a statement. The good times are most certainly back.
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