This edition of Football Fansite Profile originally appeared in the January 29th, 2016 edition of our newsletter, The Raven. Subscribe HERE.
This week’s Football Fansite Profile features a staff with journalistic agility in spades. To cover Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool is to never know if your lede will hold until the final whistle officially blows. This is Anfield has provided content and interviews for the Red Half of Merseyside since 2001. We spoke to the site’s co-founder, Matt Ladson, about its evolution, the emotional rollercoaster of last weekend’s game against Norwich, and everyone’s favorite Teutonic Care Bear.
MiB: Give us some background on This is Anfield. The who, what, when, where and why it began. And how it's grown since its inception.
This is Anfield: Two of us started the site back in 2001 - before a lot of Premier League clubs even had official websites. It's amazing how much the internet has changed since then, with social media changing the whole spectrum! This Is Anfield is still run by the same two people who started it 15 years ago, myself and Max, but we have a lot of help nowadays! I attend games now as media, while Max has a season ticket in the Lower Centenary stand.
We have over 1.7 million followers on social media and there's a dozen of us who regularly update the site, working literally around the clock - it's a pretty big task with Liverpool always having something in the news!
MiB: Talk us through how you experienced this past weekend's 5 - 4 win at Norwich.
TIA: I actually didn't go the Norwich match (mostly because it's a bloody long way from Liverpool and the roads to that part of the country take forever, so thanks to TV making it an early kick off, great idea...). So I watched from home and like most fans found myself laughing at the abysmally brilliant scenes that played out!
Football's meant to be fun so I'd rather concentrate on the positives - but, my god, our defending is abysmal!
MiB: This season's most surprising storyline at Liverpool is ...
TIA: That's a tricky one. I think most of this season for Liverpool has been pretty predictable; we all knew Benteke wouldn't fit in; we all knew Rodgers was on borrowed time and should have been sacked in May; we all know our defence is absolutely woeful; and we all know that without Sturridge we struggle for goals.
Perhaps the most surprising storyline this season is that the owners actually acquired a manager of the calibre of Jurgen Klopp. Most fans, and even media who I spoke to, expected (feared) that when Rodgers was sacked the club would struggle to attract a top calibre manager and go for another 'work in progress' rather than a manager with European pedigree. The mood around the whole club on the day Klopp was unveiled was like nothing we'd experienced in years, there was a huge sense of optimism and feel good factor.
MiB: The one thing I would change at Liverpool is ...
TIA: The transfer/contract strategy. I'm not somebody who is critical of the mythical 'transfer committee' (because what Liverpool do is not that different to what other clubs do, contrary to the myth the media perpetuate) and actually the best signings in recent years have been 'committee signings'.
What I'd change though is the approach. I'd stop the emphasis on signing young potential and sign more proven quality - players who can impact the first XI now, not in 3 or 4 years - by which time the best players have got itchy feet and moved on because we've won nothing. It's a recurring cycle.
Giving long-term contracts to the likes of Simon Mignolet and Martin Skrtel is hardly what the club need to be doing, like they haven't learn from previous high earning underachievers that then prove difficult to shift.
MiB: Look into your crystal ball. How does the rest of the season play out for Liverpool?
TIA: Hopefully by the time you're reading this we've secured a place in the League Cup Final. We'll win that, as Klopp's side have a tendency to perform better in one-off games, and the new manager winning a trophy within his first six months will provide further momentum and feel good.
I'm not so confident about the FA Cup game against West Ham - which could mean yet another game via a replay. So far we've played the most games possible this season, with the replay from the 3rd round. So players returning from injury cannot come soon enough (hint, hint, Sturridge).
If Sturridge does somehow return from injury, I can see us pushing higher in the league and there is a *slim* chance of a top four finish. But it's far more likely that a good Europa League run would materialise, winning that would be huge, adding that winning know-how and, of course, a route back into the Champions League.
With the new Main Stand this summer, hopefully a big signing or two under Klopp's influence, being back in the Champions League would really set up next season nicely.