Neil Humphreys: Keep kids in the FA Cup, Juergen Klopp
Reds boss should stay the course and resist recalling seniors for Chelsea clash
Juergen Klopp's view of the FA Cup recalls Donald Trump's strange relationship with the American presidential election.
Neither man particularly expected to win. Neither man particularly wanted to win, but here we are.
Two leaders must endure the face-stripping pain of unexpected victory. As Trump is still in the White House, Klopp is still in the FA Cup, with an unwanted trip to Chelsea his poisoned chalice for not taking the tournament seriously.
And like Trump, Klopp has no choice but to see the unappreciated spectacle through to the bitter end, without further undermining the institution and the many people it represents.
Klopp cannot stop the kids now. He unleashed them.
He inflated their aspirations and fast-tracked their dreams, throwing teenagers at Shrewsbury Town's League One toilers and somehow winning.
The Liverpool manager has already undermined the tournament once, by not showing up for the fourth-round replay.
He cannot do it a second time by pretending that he suddenly cares about the FA Cup.
He does not. And that's fine.
The FA Cup is like Trump's comb-over. It peaked in the 1980s, but has been in something of an interminable decline ever since.
In a trophy hierarchy, the FA Cup would not even get on the podium. It would not get anywhere close for the Liverpool manager.
Klopp's playing career was in Germany and his coaching career is very much tied to the Champions League era.
The FA Cup means almost nothing to him and he should keep it that way.
Stick with those who pulled off a minor miracle. Allow Under-23 manager Neil Critchley to take charge once again for the fifth-round tie at Chelsea next month.
Even give permission for the omnipresent James Milner to play cheerleader once more.
Just do not return and feign an interest in a tournament that has been treated with scarcely concealed contempt.
Be consistent and own that indifference.
On days like this, the Liverpool coverage in much of the British media only fuels those Manchester conspiracy theorists that claim a pro-Reds bias exists.
"Klopp vindicated" was the general tone, with the emphasis on Critchley carrying out the German's distant orders.
Even in absentia, Klopp's judgment was beyond reproach.
He is becoming more than a manager. He is a Machiavellian schemer that engineered a win for the kids and gave his exhausted first-teamers a rest before they return to knock out the Blues.
But it was not like that and should not be like that going forward.
Klopp prevailed in the third round against Everton, despite fielding an under-strength side, and only a bizarre own goal and another strange video assistant referee decision denied Shrewsbury the result that their dominance deserved.
So the idea that the seniors can now rouse themselves from their sun beds and swagger into Stamford Bridge, like tanned dandies who only turn up late for VIP parties, is a tad distasteful.
Liverpool's unlikely triumph was a memorable occasion for the youngsters, Critchley and the magnificent 52,399 supporters that paid to watch the Under-23s at Anfield.
But it is a stretch to call the game a great night for Klopp.
He was not there, which leaves him in a bit of a bind.
If Klopp shows up for the fifth round and fields a stronger side, he is a hypocrite.
If he hands the reins to Critchley, he is disrespecting the FA Cup and the opposition again.
It is a public relations mess of his own making with only one viable option. Stay the course.
Rest the elders and reward the kids.
The youngest competitive side in Liverpool's history had an average age of 19 years, 102 days.
At 19, Curtis Jones is the first Liverpool captain born in the 21st century and treated Anfield like his back garden, demonstrating Cruyff turns, rabona crosses and a level of self-confidence that defied his birth certificate.
Leighton Clarkson may soon be added to Klopp's midfield roster, an energetic presence with a feisty tackle.
Meanwhile, Neco Williams' Man-of-the-Match heroics suggested the Reds have found a decent deputy at right-back.
Both are just 18. Both are destined for bigger things.
For Klopp, the Shrewsbury replay was an ill-timed distraction. For the kids, it was the greatest night of their lives.
They earned their adulation at Anfield. They also earned the chance to see how much mileage is left in their intriguing FA Cup dream.
That is the very least Klopp can do - for his youngsters and the tournament itself.
FA CUP FIFTH ROUND
- Sheffield Wednesday v Man City
- Reading v Sheffield United
- Chelsea v Liverpool
- West Brom v Newcastle
- Leicester v Birmingham
- Derby County v Man United
- Southampton/Tottenham v Norwich
- Portsmouth v Arsenal