Liverpool fans ready to celebrate despite virus limits
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When Liverpool were last crowned English champions in 1990, podcast host John Gibbons saw it happen as an eight-year-old on his first trip to Anfield. A generation later he is getting ready to celebrate the team's return to the top.
Jurgen Klopp's runaway leaders will clinch the Premier League title on Thursday if defending champions Manchester City drop points against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
If City win, Liverpool will have another chance to clinch the title against Pep Guardiola's men in Manchester on July 2.
It is just a matter of time.
Coronavirus restrictions mean celebrations will be radically different from a year ago, when hundreds of thousands of fans packed the streets of Liverpool to celebrate the team's Champions League triumph.
Gibbons, who is one of the hosts of the Anfield Wrap podcast, witnessed Liverpool's last title win under Kenny Dalglish in April 1990 from the terraces with his father.
"I remember my very first game was the last time Liverpool won the league at home against QPR," he said.
In those days Liverpool were the dominant force in the English game and it was business as usual.
"It was exciting for me because I was so young but I don't remember a huge party in the stands or anything," said Gibbons, now 38.
"People were pleased because they won it back but nothing like it will be now. Then it was a bad year if we came second." But since then, "we have had 30 years of hope and heartbreak and a couple of near misses."
- Emotion -
Gibbons believes the outpouring of emotion on Merseyside will be on a different scale from the more muted celebrations of 1990 because of the long wait, but admits the virus restrictions will have a major impact.
"It's going to be a strange feeling," he said. "We will all be sat at home. Normally we'd be in a bar with friends."
He admits there will inevitably be some sense of anti-climax because there will be no fans in the stands but says that is mitigated by the end of the threat of a null-and-void season, which appeared possible at one stage.
"Klopp has said we will do a parade when it's safe," he said."He's encouraged people to be patient and wait. It's delayed gratification."
Liverpool fan Joe Blott is old enough, at 59, to remember the club's domination of English and European football in the 1970s and 1980s.
Blott, who is chairman of the Spirit of Shankly supporters group, is adamant that Liverpool's title triumph will not disappoint despite the unusual circumstances.
"We have waited 30 years," he said. "We will celebrate in a massive way. We can't do it during the lockdown but it will happen.
"We saw the outpouring of emotion and joy when Liverpool won the Champions League."
Blott does not know exactly when Liverpool will be confirmed champions but said he was convinced "when we celebrate the victory properly it will be real and nobody will say it is a tainted title or has an asterisk by it".
Gibbons and Blott both point to Liverpool's German manager Klopp as the key to the revival.
"I think Klopp has given the players real belief that they can and will achieve where there were doubts before," said Gibbons.
"Klopp is a perfect fit for Liverpool. He understands the people who live here and what the supporters want. We idolise managers here. You look at (Bill) Shankly and Dalglish and he's the next one.
"We couldn't be any more optimistic that the good times are here to stay."
© 2020 AFP