Trending Topics

      Next match: Atletico v LFC [Champions League] Tue 18th Feb @ 8:00 pm - Pre Match Topic
      Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid

      Today is the 18th of February and on this date LFC's match record is P23 W14 D6 L3

      Writing about Liverpool Football Club

      Read 9035 times
      0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
      MIRO
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 12,086 posts | 2610 
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #25: Jan 26, 2016 06:15:43 pm
      I didnt know where to put this ........... it made me well up.   :f_wah:

      Have him back in a heartbeat .


      (Have a read of this Michael Owen ... this is what loyalty and legend is about )




      Barcelona star Luis Suarez has revealed he misses the Liverpool fans and could one day return to England, but he would never consider playing for a Premier League club other than the Reds.

      Speaking to ESPN (h/t Sport), the Uruguay international praised the fans of his former club and left the door open for a possible reunion:

          You never know what will happen in the future in football, but if I returned to England it would only be to play for Liverpool and never for another team.

      I miss the fans.

      The atmosphere is incredible, it's incredible. Everyone who has played for Liverpool knows the most important thing is the fans.

      They know they are in my heart.




      Bloody article is titled potential Reds return FFS !

      http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2611149-liverpool-transfer-news-luis-suarez-comments-on-potential-reds-return?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=liverpool
      what-a-hit-son
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • Started Topic
      • 14,543 posts | 3570 
      • @MrPrice1979
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #26: Nov 10, 2016 07:11:55 pm
      I have been banging on about how good an LFC writer Gareth Roberts is since before he was with the Anfield Wrap and will continue to do so. Also, the lad has really come into his own when presenting a lot of their podcasts now.

      Boss this:

      Liverpool – The Long Read: Jürgen Klopp Is Telling Stories – Just Like Bill Shankly Did

      by Gareth Roberts Twitter: @robbohuyton
       
      Bill Shankly, Liverpool manager

      IT exists to win trophies.

      A bastion of invincibility, the league its bread and butter.

      A holy trinity made up of the players, the manager and the supporters.

      Directors? They don’t come into it.

      We’re part of a family. People who can hold our heads up high and say, ‘We’re Liverpool’.

      Words and phrases engrained into your being. Repeated over and over. Handed down through the generations. Sown through the thousands of words spoken and written about Liverpool Football Club every year.

      They are words, phrases, ideas and ideals about the club we love that came from a man appointed as the ninth manager of Liverpool FC 57 years ago. And yet words that continue to resonate, a story we continue to tell.

      Bill Shankly’s words painted a picture, created an identity and set standards that were carried through the decades by those that worked with him. It is why the Liverpool bootroom is talked about to this day, it is why we talk of ‘The Liverpool Way’ and it is why the ‘This Is Anfield’ sign that Shankly insisted was put up remains a part of the ground.

      Too often in recent times, though, that story, the Liverpool story — the story of greatness and domination, of a relentless, driven, institution with commonsense and commitment at its core, felt like it should begin like those best read by a red-hot fire on a cold winter’s night:

      “Once upon a time, there was a football club…”

      Since Liverpool’s last league title — then the 10th won in 15 seasons — was sealed with an Anfield victory over Queens Park Rangers on April 28, 1990, there have been good times. Great times. Times that hundreds of thousands of supporters of other clubs the world over would jump at the chance to experience.

      For all the wider tales to tell about their respective reigns, Graeme Souness, Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and Kenny Dalglish in his second spell all brought silverware home to the club including, of course, the European Cup in 2005.

      Liverpool remain one of only 22 clubs to win that trophy since its inception in 1955.

      Yet none of those managers could spark sustainable dominance built on the solid foundation of a title. Over an over the question has been asked: is this a club keeping pace with all around it, on and off the field? We’ve wanted it and willed it but it hasn’t happened. Four second-placed finishes, the last in 2014, are the best Liverpool has achieved league-wise in 26 years.

      In that time the managerial baton has passed 10 times — from Dalglish to Souness (via a brief caretaker role for Ronnie Moran), from Souness to Evans, to the joint manager farce with Houllier, to Houllier in sole charge, to Benitez, to Roy Hodgson, to Dalglish to Rodgers to Klopp.

      Tellingly, every time Liverpool have come close to winning the league, they have fell away the following year: from second (1991) to sixth (1992); from second (2002) to fifth (2003); from second (2009) to seventh (2010) and from second (2014) to sixth (2015).

      Throw in owners that pushed the club towards a financial precipice, a talent drain, internal politics, failed takeovers and the stadium development v stadium move epic and it left the traditional story tattered and torn. Words that once meant so much were thrown back at us. “If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing.”

      Consistent underachievement left the club open to accusations of being yesterday’s big boys.

      Without a new chapter to celebrate, old ones have grown tired. Even now, the reality of no silverware in four years — and only two pieces of silverware in a decade — is a stark one.

      Change was needed and change was made. A bold statement was required and in recruiting Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool made one.

      Since his appointment in October 2015, Klopp has set about telling his own stories. It’s central to his approach.

      From the moment he first stepped out in front of the cameras for his first press conference, Klopp’s charisma, confidence and single-mindedness shone through.

      There was also a clear vision from day one — bullet points for the prose to be written, over and over, in future.

      “Doubters to believers” — check.

      “Full-throttle football” — check.

      And the baggage of the title-drought? The mistakes of the past? The pressure, the hunger, the mental scars?

      “It’s very important not to be weighed down by history,” Klopp said then. “Let’s not always compare with other times. This is a great club with good potential with players who are flexible.

      “Let’s try to start a new way. Now everything is diferent. Here is a German guy, for the first time. I want to listen. I go to Melwood and I look at what works and what doesn’t work. And then we start to play very emotional football.”

      Klopp continues to ask for his story to be judged on its own merits.

      Just this week he said: “It’s a really good moment and I know that everybody compares with the past, especially at Liverpool. Three years ago, 10, five, 25 years ago – but this team is new, we are new. Our story started a few months ago so you cannot compare us with anyone else.”

      “You cannot carry the history on our backs, we should feel free for creating something in the near future. If everybody wants to say ‘We wait now for 20-something years for silverware’ or whatever, we can say ‘Okay, we (have) tried, actually, only since a year’.”

      He’s right. And the reasons for his message are clear. He is managing minds and relieving the pressure.

      But everything — up to and including the dressing of Melwood and Anfield with quotes, pictures and memorabilia from past triumphs — means he will be more than aware of Liverpool’s history, as will the players who pull on the shirt. Their focus, however, will be firmly in the present. Klopp’s key messages for the squad are clear: togetherness, discipline and hard work. While much of the media focus will be short term — who is in the first 11 (and who isn’t) — it would come as no surprise if Klopp is emphasising the importance of the squad away from the microphones and lenses.

      Liverpool's Adam Lallana (20) celebrates with his team-mates and manager Jürgen Klopp after scoring his side's fifth goal during the Barclays Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich.

      “The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life.”

      For supporters? The past chapters remain for us more than anyone. We aren’t passing through Liverpool. We can’t pick up another story of another club and become part of that. This is our club and our story. We’re rightly romantic about it. If we see parallels – signposts of behaviour that ape past methods that led to success — then it will become exciting and comparisons will be made. It’s human nature.

      When Bill Shankly arrived at Liverpool he found a club floundering in 10th position in Division Two and famously described Anfield as “the biggest toilet in Liverpool”.

      In 15 years as manager, club and ground were transformed. The Second Division was won. Three First Division titles, two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup followed.

      Some will say it’s too long ago to have a bearing. The claims that is a different game with different pressures will follow. Some simply want their own memories — their own tale to tell.

      Liverpool though should retain its identity. History and traditions are part of that. It marks us out from another club. It’s a fantastic tale that endures. One that elicits pride. And one that demonstrates the importance of stories in football.

      Without them, football becomes just what its detractors say it is: people kicking a ball about. Without stories, grounds are just concrete and steel surrounding a patch of grass.

      In the not so distant past, Liverpool’s boardroom was happy to push ahead with a departure from Anfield to share with Everton in a new ground on Stanley Park. One of the obstacles was they knew fans would oppose the move.

      The supporters’ story isn’t about business, maths or money. It’s the stories of what happened on that pitch, in that ground. To us. Inter Milan, St Etienne, Auxerre, Olympiakos, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund… We all have our own stories. And we retell them over and over.

      “We hate Everton too…they’re sh*t!” Why would Liverpool share with Everton?

      Stories, big and small, are sewn into every aspect of the game. They are everywhere you look, in every thing you read.

      In Simon Hughes’ Ring Of Fire book, Jamie Carragher details some aspects of how Gerard Houllier mentally revved up his Liverpool team for games. He used a story:

      “Gerard Houllier used to tell us that we were going to war. That stayed with me and I loved it. I’d see teams walking out for cup finals at Wembley and the players would be waving at their wives and girlfriends. When we played ours at Cardiff, Houllier used to remind us, ‘No waving at family — you seem them later.’ He wanted us to play as if it was the last thing we’d do.

      “Players now, they’re hugging and kissing before a game. OK, some of them might be from the same country, so it’s understandable to a point. But for me, no: I was going to war with these people. You might think that is a strong analogy but I had to be like that. I was focused because I had to be like that.”

      Similarly, in Joey Barton’s book, No Nonsense, he discusses at length how he, and coaches he has worked with, tell stories to get performances. One example he uses was the 2014 Championship Play-Off Final between QPR and Derby County.

      Derby had dominated and when QPR’s Gary O’Neil was sent off on the hour Barton describes how the remaining 10 Rangers men shouted at each other to be positive and stay together with Danny Simpson yelling: “We can see this out.”

      Barton wrote: “Chris Martin, the Derby striker, runs past and sniggers, ‘No f**king chance.’ There’s our marginal gain, our critical one per cent, right there. I see Simmo morph into the inspirational figure who, two years later, would help Leicester City win the Premier League. I see Richard Dunne, the man with whom I have shared so much, good and bad, fill up. I see Bobby Zamora’s face harden. I look at Martin and think, ‘You have just fu**ed your team-mates over’.”

      Bobby Zamora scored a 90th-minute winner and it was QPR, not Derby, that were promoted to the Premier League.

      In that moment, Barton and his team-mates told themselves a story. Like Jamie Carragher, they made themselves angry, they motivated themselves, they found something that allowed them to reach another level.

      Shankly was a master at it. He famously told an inexperienced Kevin Keegan that he had seen Bobby Moore before the Liverpool striker faced the West Ham defender.

      “Son, I’ve just seen that Bobby Moore getting off the West Ham bus. What a wreck. He’s limping, he’s got bags under his eyes and he’s got dandruff. He must have been in one of those London clubs all night, son!”

      And after the game: “Aye, some player that Bobby Moore isn’t he?”

      Conflict is key to the Klopp story. He demands fight, he wants passion, he wants blood up, in the stands and on the pitch.

      He has talked about fight — “Momentum is not about having the best squad ready to play. Momentum is to be ready to fight.” — and he has talked about anger: “We need to be angry against Hull because they want our points. That makes me angry!”

      Aside from the obvious reason that the Reds top the league right now, one of the reasons everything seems right around the club is that Klopp’s story is so tightly aligned to the story Liverpool has written as its own. He might be a German from the Black Forest but his approach chimes with so much of the character of the city.

      The Liverpool loved is a team that battles, fights and never knows it is defeated. Think of the FA Cup final with West Ham, Istanbul, Dortmund in the Europa League. That’s Liverpool. As a city, and as a group of people, Liverpool and Liverpudlians have never been short of fight. The greatest teams in red that have bore the city’s name have displayed the same attribute.

      Klopp talks about emotional football and Liverpool is an emotional city. Football is consumed in a certain way that isn’t necessarily true of many other clubs. At it’s best, when the holy trinity is evident, it is a force to be reckoned with. It’s why Klopp’s focus is on supporters and atmosphere so often. He can do his bit and the players can do theirs. But when we do ours, too… Remember how it was against Manchester United in Europe? Against Dortmund? We can still do it. It’s still possible. It’s not dead. It’s just needs to be woken from its slumber more often.

      Speaking at an event at The Florrie earlier this year, John Barnes was asked how Liverpool could preserve its traditional identity. Couldn’t it involve people like Barnes himself? What about Steven Gerrard?

      Couldn’t the club seek to preserve the Liverpool story and keep retelling it from top to bottom and in a meaningful way? Create a legacy? Guard against the influence, present and future, of those that don’t understand what they should understand.

      Barnes said Klopp had to recreate the identity his way. Tell the story how he wants to tell it. The past Liverpool has gone, said Barnes. Klopp has to make a new one.

      The feel-good, the start to the season and the league table can skew considered thought but it feels like Klopp has done just that. Thirteen months isn’t a long time in the grand scheme. And, despite reaching two finals in that time, a trophy cabinet last added to in 2012 remains untroubled by new additions.

      Yet Liverpool has been dramatically transformed into a different beast. One that feels like it is progressing. That feels professional. That feels like it has a leader and is heading places.

      In Brendan Rodgers’ last game as Liverpool manager, the Reds drew 1-1 at Goodison Park. Liverpool were 10th in the league.

      The Reds lacked spark, on and off the field. Players that now are running through brick walls were going through the motions and were too easily beaten. The vibe was bad. It was a mentally weak squad. Easily beaten. Feared by no-one.

      In the stands, fans were shrugging their shoulders at best and screaming abuse at worst, with boos ringing out at full-time and the end of extra-time as the Reds toiled to tackle Carlisle United in the League Cup.

      Tickets then were easy to come by. There was no buzz. The transfer policy looked muddled, responsibilities muddied and the very fact Rodgers had remained to that point — with the uninspiring Sean O’Driscoll appointed as an assistant — screamed of indecision from the club hierarchy.

      Stoke 6 Liverpool 1 was the natural end of one story and the start of another. Yet — like the box set that never ends — everyone was forced to go through the motions a few more times before the inevitable happened.

      Soon Rodgers himself was publicly pointing fingers, not too subtlety referencing “the tools I have to work with”. The best stories get people on board. Motivate them. Make them feel a part of it. This wasn’t inspirational, it was self-serving. An increasingly paranoid Rodgers was alienating people, even those still sticking by him.

      Liverpool was a story alright, but this wasn’t the story of Liverpool.

      It was easy then to worry about what came next. Another Rodgers-style appointment — a young coach lacking top-level experience without the CV to back up his actions and words — could quickly have gone wrong. The fear was the label of mid-rankers would stick for good.


      Klopp now is secured long-term, having signed a six-year deal in the summer. The message is one of stability and security. Of establishing foundations that keep Liverpool in good stead for the long haul, not just a one-season title challenge flash in the pan.

      This Liverpool side is top of the Premier League, scoring goals for fun and attracting the plaudits for its play. The squad looks strong and with 13 goalscorers in 14 matches, the goal threat has magnificently multiplied. No more is Liverpool a one-man team.

      Opposition managers fear Liverpool. Klopp is revered. Signings have paid off and Michael Edwards’ promotion to Sporting Director has barely caused a ripple.

      Klopp is trusted and that means club decisions involving Klopp are trusted.

      Young players are getting a chance. Talent is evident at all levels and a clear pathway to the first team appears to be clearing. There is evidence of joined-up thinking and of Klopp embracing everything about the club rather than solely considering what is best for self-preservation. A new training ground, uniting Melwood and Kirkby, is being considered, and, meanwhile, things are being done differently.

      Liverpool’s youngsters can play football outside of the academy — for schools, for representative sides; with their mates. It sounds a small thing but for a youngster it could tip the balance when deciding on a club. And Liverpool could end up coaching a more rounded, more wordly-wise young footballer.

      There is a salary cap, but that could mean the youngsters that do ply their trade for Liverpool will do so because they want to play for the club. If they’re good enough they will get a chance. We’ll promote from within before we’ll buy, has been the message from Klopp and when it comes to offering youngsters at the club an opportunity the manager as so far been true to his word.

      Stories. Good stories. Positive messages. Something building.

      Can Klopp write the story we’re desperate for? Do you believe? If you don’t you’re a doubter. And wouldn’t you rather be a believer? Because that’s what Klopp wants you to be.

      The crowd can help the team. The crowd should stay until the end. It should make Anfield special every game. Because the players are. They’re working hard. They’re doing their bit. You can see it. It’s measured. There are stats. Not least the one that shows Liverpool in first place. But also Klopp told you.

      Stories.

      Stories ensure players and fans are in the right place mentally to achieve what needs to be achieved. Liverpool play without fear now. With belief. The back end of the Rodgers’ reign was dogged by fear and disillusionment. The atmosphere was poisonous and unhelpful.

      Klopp constantly feeds messages about fans playing a part. He made a point about fans leaving early. Every week seemingly he asks for a special atmosphere. He wants the players to engage. He engages. He’s developing his characters, honing the plot.

      Some will scoff at Shankly comparisons — not least because it’s so early in Klopp’s reign, because silverware is yet to arrive and because being romantic about football just isn’t the done thing.

      But there are parallels. A charismatic, respected man; bolshy and instantly able to command respect at all levels of the club. Respected by fans — a man who has united supporters. A man who plays the media like a fiddle and — so far — gets what he wants from the boardroom. And the players love him. Read the quotes, witness the hugs.

      Klopp is clear, focussed and forthright in what he wants to achieve. He talked about titles on his first day in the job. He also talked about making changes quickly. And he did.

      An increased intensity in the play was evident in Klopp’s first game at Tottenham Hotspur in October 2015. Since then, training methods have changed. Players have come and gone. There is a ruthless streak evident. See Jordon Ibe. See now Mamadou Sakho, who has no future at the club after crossing the manager one too many times.

      Think of all of that, then think of Shankly’s story.

      “He got rid of a lot of players early on and then he brought players in who were like-minded in their thinking about the game,” says Ronnie Moran of Shankly on the club website.

      “If he didn’t get what he wanted off them then they too would be away. He’d either leave them out of the team or get rid of them to other clubs.”

      Roger Hunt is quoted as saying: “When Bill Shankly came he changed a lot of the training methods we had and brought a lot of new ideas into the club. Also, he got the club to spend money on transfers, which they were a bit reluctant to do beforehand. We got new training kit and altogether he brought a new way of thinking to the club. He was like a breath of fresh air.”

      Klopp has quickly imposed his methods on Liverpool and 11 games into his first full season in charge, the table couldn’t look better.

      To write a story like that of Shankly’s must be regarded as near impossible and Klopp’s real big stories right now — his bestsellers if you like — exist elsewhere — at Mainz, at Dortmund.

      And yet at Liverpool, we’ve seen in flashes what could be over the page — the undressing of Manchester City at their ground, Dortmund at Anfield and now, this season, teams good, bad and indifferent being beaten with ease.

      Early this year, after extending his deal at Anfield, Klopp said: “I would like to celebrate something each season over the next six years. Not the small thing, really celebrate something — driving on the big bus through Liverpool. That would be nice.

      “I’ve said it before, but it is not important what people think when you come, it is important what they think when you leave. That is when you need to be judged.”

      Fifty-seven years from now will Liverpool fans write about Jürgen Klopp?

      It would have to be a story worth telling to span that time. What better than being the man to mastermind Liverpool’s first title since 1990? The man who finally proved that Liverpool do still exist to win trophies and it is the bread and butter to peform well in the league.

      Is Klopp the man to do it?

      A final word to Bill Shankly: “Well, I think if a manager is honest and he has this natural enthusiasm, I think whilst he can’t go on the field with the players he can convey it to the players, you understand? He’s with them and they’re with him — and they’ll be successful.

      http://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2016/11/liverpool-the-long-read-jurgen-klopp-is-telling-stories-just-like-bill-shankly-did/

      biki
      • Never negative about anything. Apart from LFC, Klopp, etc etc.
      • Forum John Barnes
      • ***

      • 419 posts | 47 
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #27: Nov 11, 2016 12:18:07 pm
      I have been banging on about how good an LFC writer Gareth Roberts is since before he was with the Anfield Wrap and will continue to do so. Also, the lad has really come into his own when presenting a lot of their podcasts now.


      [/news]

      Great read - I look forward to reading more from this guy. Thanks for posting
      what-a-hit-son
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • Started Topic
      • 14,543 posts | 3570 
      • @MrPrice1979
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #28: Dec 07, 2016 01:11:02 pm
      Brilliant, this:

      Liverpool: Why Supporters And Pundits Are Celebrating The Wrong Things

      by Paul Cope

      YOU’RE all celebrating the wrong things.

      They were the words of my nephew’s academy side’s coach to all of the kids’ parents.

      You’re all celebrating the wrong things.

      I go to watch my nephew play as often as I can and, like with all football, there’s a propensity even at under-nine level to celebrate goals as though they are the be-all and end-all of the entire exercise. Which, of course, at the highest level, they are, especially if you’re a supporter.

      Goals pay the mortgage (though thankfully not at under-nine level, for now), goals get the headlines and goals change the way we interpret football matches. To the people who actually know most about football, the qualified coaches, however, goals are almost a bi-product of everything else they’re working on, at both ends of the pitch.

      My nephew’s coach told the parents that while they’re all busy celebrating one of the young lads heading in a goal from a corner, he and his coaching team are celebrating the way in which his team-mate closed space to cut off a passing angle which led to the corner, which they’d been working on in training all month. They’re celebrating an eight-year-old understanding that he needs to drop back into position to cover for his mate who’s gone on a run, which they worked on last month.
      The fixtures they play don’t yet use the offside rule but the coach insists that they press high, even though it leads to the other teams scoring goals for fun by goal hanging. He sacrifices goals now for greater knowledge and understanding further down the line. He focuses on the process and the development of his players, not just on the end result each week.

      It often amazes me how watching under-nine’s football can be just as fascinating as watching elite footballers plying their trade, even more so watching the supporters who are watching the respective games. I’ve said for years that most people who watch football don’t really understand what they’re watching, and the quote above demonstrates to me that this doesn’t just apply at the highest level.

      I mentioned in last week’s article how it’s intriguing that grown men will pay extortionate prices to watch something then sit there and moan about it every week, something they wouldn’t do in any other area of their lives, but that isn’t football’s only peculiarity. Football, sport in general and running the country are treated by us lay-people as the few areas in life in which most of us consider ourselves to be qualified to give forthright opinions on what we observe, without actually having any qualifications at all to do so. I’ve met some doctors in the past who’ve mentioned that Google has led to people doing a similar thing when rocking up to their local surgery having self-diagnosed from one medical website or another, but I think most of us are still mainly relying on the people who have been through medical school and rigorous training to tell us why our backs hurt or why we can’t feel our fingers.
      Not so with football, though. Stop someone randomly in the street, especially in a city like Liverpool, and ask them how they think they could improve their club’s first team of highly paid, highly trained, elite athletes and they’ll all give you an opinion. Most won’t even stop there. You’ll note that what you’re given isn’t so much an opinion qualified by caveats such as “I’m not really qualified to answer that question, mate” or “why are you asking me, I’m a plasterer”, more likely it will be a statement made with absolute certainty by Joe the butcher, baker or candlestick maker about how “buying that Virgil Van Dijk lad” from Southampton will definitely sort out our defensive problems, or getting rid of “that soft sh*te Moreno” will sort out the haircut issues we’ve currently got in the squad.

      When he saw Divock Origi pull up with cramp last season, my 70-year-old dad told me with absolute certainty that if he was the manager and any of his players pulled up with cramp he’d make them do a training session straight after the match and double training sessions all week afterwards to sort them out. If I recall correctly, he finished his mini-rant by muttering the word “pansy” under his breath, which I hope was aimed at Divock and not me.

      My dad is a retired insurance claims assessor and has been going to the match for about 50 years. He has no sports science or other similar training but, clearly, considers himself to know more about the fitness regimes of these elite athletes than the highly qualified fitness coaches at Liverpool (I should make it clear at this stage that, as far as I am aware, my dad is not Ray the Fitness EggTM).

      A few years earlier, after watching Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team in its prime, one of my uncles used them as an example of how easy football is and how all of the other managers are over-complicating it. I protested, to little avail, that the way Barcelona played football at the time might have been simple but it only looked easy because the coaches and players were of the highest calibre and had worked tirelessly to master a way of playing that made it look effortless.

      In fairness to my dad and uncle, they’re just representative of most general football supporters and, I’d go as far to say, many ex-football players who now appear on our TVs. The extent to which most people don’t have a clue what they’re watching is highlighted on a daily basis by the many “expert” pundits we have the pleasure of paying to watch analyse the games for us. On Saturday, the great Thierry Henry (one of the best players I have ever had the pleasure of watching in the flesh) gave great insight into Gary Cahill’s own goal by saying words to the effect of “I’m not sure why he did it, but he should have kicked it somewhere other than in his own goal”. Thanks Thierry.

      I’ve been told in the past that ex-professionals know more about the game than the common man because they used to play, but I’ve never really bought that argument. It’s a bit like saying that you could run the Virgin empire like Richard Branson because you used to run one of his call centres and have read all of his books. Being one of the cogs in a machine controlled by a master of his trade does not necessarily lead to you understanding how the other cogs all fitted together or how you could put them together as successfully yourself. Of course, every now and then, one of the cogs is a highly intellectual cog and seeks to understand the mechanics of the machine while it’s cogging along (I wish I hadn’t started this cog analogy now, but we are where we are), ultimately becoming a cog-master himself or herself, but that appears to be fairly rare.

      The irony is that we’ll all happily criticise Thierry and the other pundits for spouting their nonsense every week, whilst gleefully spouting our own nonsense about what the problem actually was, with any given performance, and how it could be fixed.
      Before you head straight to the comments section below or to Twitter to vent your fury at the hypocrisy flowing from these pages into your eyes, I appreciate that it’s a bit rich of me to criticise anyone for spouting unqualified nonsense about football in an article written for a supporter-run football website, following my weekly appearances on podcasts doing the very same thing.
      In my defence, something I’ve always loved about The Anfield Wrap, even before I was a contributor, is that the opinions given are usually balanced and caveated with a large helping of “we don’t actually know” and “the manager knows more than we do”. Sean Rogers gives a weekly insight on TAW Player’s ‘The Tuesday Review’ from the perspective of someone who has actually done his coaching badges and managed teams which, in itself, puts him on a completely different level of understanding to the rest of the contributors and the vast majority of readers and listeners, and even he is happy to bow down to the superior knowledge of the manager and coaches we’re discussing each week.

      What led me to all of this was, amongst other things, the reaction to Ben Woodburn’s goal against Leeds last week followed by the Manchester City v Chelsea game on Saturday.

      Both of the above demonstrate the same thing, which is that for a large part most football fans, pundits and the media focus on, celebrate and mourn the wrong things.

      I was as delighted as everyone else to see Woodburn score that goal at The Kop end last Tuesday night. It’s the stuff dreams are made of and he showed a huge amount of composure and great technique with his finish. But what if he’d scuffed that shot like he did the one in the 72nd minute that went out for a throw-in? Would the newspapers the next day have raved about this youngster, who lads from these shores have been watching and talking about for years? Of course not. It was funny that in the very same game, another young local lad played the full game and was given man of the match, yet barely a word was spoken about him after his mate took all the headlines.

      The irony is that the coaches’ view of Woodburn, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ovie Ejaria won’t have changed because of one game, one goal or one man of the match award, because they’ve been watching them every day for years and know what they’re capable of. Many supporters, pundits and the media, though, only focus on goals and, at a push, assists to form their judgments. Youngest goal scorer in Liverpool’s history? We must have a player on our hands. Jürgen Klopp’s post-match interviews hinted that he would have been happy for Woodburn to have waited another 100 or so days before notching his first goal, just to keep some of the focus and headlines away from him for a little longer, avoiding him being “the new Michael Owen”.

      The City v Chelsea game suggests similar things. The narrative after that game was that Chelsea were too good for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola could barely hide his contempt for Geoff Shreeves during his post-match interview in which he had to point out to the Sky reporter that they had at least two clear chances to wrap the game up and missed. How can he account for Kevin de Bruyne missing an open goal? Does that miss, and Chelsea scoring on the break, mean that City didn’t play well, or is that just the narrative put on the game after the event by the media’s love of celebrating the wrong things? After all, if 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that there’s little room these days for balanced opinions and non-extreme views.

      The modern football fan, supported by Fanzone and Opta, has far more insight into the game than the older generation, simply because of the amount of data and footage available these days, but I think in some ways that just heightens the problem I’m talking about because, armed with those stats, the modern football supporter thinks he or she knows more than the back room team at the club as well as the manager.

      When Michael Edwards is referred to as a data analyst, I think most supporters think that means he follows OptaJoe on Twitter and jots down everyone’s key pass stats into an excel spreadsheet on his laptop. In reality, Edwards has a degree in business management and informatics (admittedly I have no idea if that is even a real degree) and has been working in data analysis for football clubs since 2003.

      The type of analytics work going on behind the scenes and how much more detailed it is than anything we consider as fans was highlighted in a story I read from Brendan Rodgers about Steven Gerrard a few weeks ago. Rodgers was talking about the number of times Gerrard was turning his head during a game, and how a dip in that number had led to a dip in other aspects of Gerrard’s game, something Steven knew in his gut but couldn’t put his finger on without the help of the analytics team.

      We discussed on a podcast last week about Roberto Firmino and how he must be an absolute pain in the arse to play against, but Opta doesn’t have a pain in the arse stat so it goes unnoticed by most people watching football. You can bet that Michael Edwards has a pain in the arse stat that he and his team can rely on, though.

      When thinking about how we all analyse games and pass judgment on footballers over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how little we actually watch them in order to form our views. At most, we watch each player for 180 minutes each week (if there are two games). But the coaching staff watch the same players every day in training. Let’s say that they train for five hours every day, five days a week, that means that, at most, we are watching about 10.7 per cent of each player’s weekly work in order to make our judgment of them. If they play only once a week that drops to around 5.7 per cent and it’s obviously even less for the players we don’t see for 90 minutes at the weekend or midweek (the likes of Ragnar Klavan and Lucas Leiva, for example).
      Think about that for a second, then think about how we form conclusions on other players based on snippets that we see on TV. What percentage of the minutes he’s played this season do you think the supporter you stopped in the street earlier who told you to sign van Dijk from Southampton has watched him play? More often than not it will be 10 minutes on Match of the Day each weekend, during which 30 seconds was shown of van Dijk’s best bits.

      It’s difficult to think of anything else in life that we’d consider ourselves to be experts in by observing five per cent of the weekly goings on from the outside. “Brain surgery, you say? Not a problem, I’ve spent a couple of hours each week for the past 20 years watching through the window of the operating theatre and, to be honest, I think the surgeon you’ve got now is useless, anyway. Grab me a gown while I wash my hands.”

      Even Jürgen said in his pre-Bournemouth press conference that the academy coaches know the young players better than he does, and he’s one of the world’s most qualified and experienced elite level managers. Even he is saying that he can’t give an opinion on those players which is more qualified than the coaches who watch them every day. I often think top level managers must think it’s quite funny when they’re being criticised by journalists, pundits and supporters who have little or no qualifications or experience in football management.

      It always makes me think of the time Rafa Benitez turned down the opportunity to be a pundit at a summer tournament a few years ago because the TV company couldn’t guarantee him access to the players before each game. Rafa’s position was simple: how could he possibly analyse how any player had done in a game if he didn’t know what the player’s specific role given to him by his manager was? Most supporters, pundits and the media don’t let a little thing like that get in their way, though.
      Football, like life, is mainly a matter of perception and small margins.

      I started writing this article before Liverpool had an awful second 45 minutes against Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon, not expecting the result of that game to fall into what I was already writing about but, football being the way it is, it was almost inevitable that there would be some relevance to a piece of this nature. Klopp said in his post-match press conference that the press can write whatever they want about his team, whether it’s that they’re “blind, silly, not good enough, whatever”, but it won’t change what he thinks about the players. After all, he watches them every day and knows their strengths, weaknesses and character inside out. He watches them 100 per cent of the time, not just the five per cent or 10 per cent of the time that we’re all watching.

      As much as I obviously love and respect him, Jamie Carragher even found himself being caught up in the emotional response to the result on Sunday, saying that this Liverpool team crumbles too easily under pressure. He referenced that problem going right back to the Brendan Rodgers team. I mentioned on Twitter immediately after the game that I think Jamie’s response was really harsh, given that we’d gone 15 games unbeaten and had shown on a number of occasions during that run that we are a far more solid and resolute side than we’ve seen playing in red for a number of years. We’re not perfect, but nobody claimed that we are. To fall into the trap of giving a blanket criticism of this team’s defensive ability or character after the Bournemouth game only shows the other propensity of the football fan and pundit, to jump to easy conclusions about what’s wrong with a side at any given time.

      We’d conceded one goal in four games before Sunday, with a settled back five starting to look really solid, especially compared to our main rivals. What do we think Chelsea would look like if all of a sudden they lost David Luiz or Cahill from their newly established back three? Whilst we might need to find a better solution for the times when Joel Matip isn’t playing, this isn’t a time to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to judging our defensive abilities or the team’s character.

      It’s amazed me in the post-match reaction that all of a sudden people are forgetting that we started a tricky away game without three of our most influential players of the season (Matip, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho), with a 21 year-old leading the line who’s only just working his way back to full match fitness and form, and without Daniel Sturridge to use as an option.
      Roberto Firmino, our other standout performer of the season, also came into the game having suffered from a knock himself, leading to possibly his worst performance of the season. Is it any wonder then, that we struggled to control the game as Bournemouth turned up the pressure and intensity in the second half? To use the Chelsea analogy, that’s like them starting a game without Luiz, Eden Hazard and Pedro, with Diego Costa carrying a knock and Michy Batshuayi not being available. How do you think that team would do?

      This is very easily forgotten when we’re all, including me, staring at our ‘keeper and wondering what he’s doing, or blaming Dejan Lovren and Lucas for being poor defensively. This is a team game, after all, and I have no doubts that Jürgen’s coaching staff will be looking at the intricate details of how the front six lost control of the game, how their positioning lost focus and their passing lost its accuracy. There will no doubt be discussions about the frequency of heads being turned in the middle of the pitch.

      Remember at 1-3 we were literally an inch away from making it 1-4 when James Milner’s corner was nearly carried into his own goal by Artur Boruc, and at 3-3 Divock Origi came within a foot of scoring the winner from a corner. If either of those things had gone the other way (by inches), the emotion and analysis following the game would have changed emphasis.
      Several journalists said of our result that we simply lack the resilience of Chelsea, despite us already having beaten Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and having not collapsed after their goal. Oliver Kay said that Chelsea “rode their luck” against City but that they have an in-built resilience that we and City do not have. I’m not sure how De Bruyne missing from five yards has anything to do with Chelsea’s resilience, and the same journalists would be spouting a different set of nonsense if City had won 2-0 as they could so easily have done. In that scenario, Antonio Conte’s three at the back formation will have “cracked” or some other extreme reaction.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t put myself on a higher plane than most football supporters when discussing these things. I’ll still be getting carried away by goals scored in The Kop end by a new youngest ever goalscorer, ripping my top off when we score an undeserved last minute winner to take us top of the league, watching YouTube videos of the latest new signing we’ve been linked with and being disappointed when we throw away three points from a comfortable winning position. After all, that’s where most of the fun lies in this mad game that we dedicate so much of our lives to, and it would be remiss of us not to get caught up in the romance, the dreams, the excitement and the disappointment. That’s all part of the journey.

      But we’d also do well to remember that most of us don’t really have a clue what we’re talking about when it comes to elite level football and, if we do, we’d probably be best quitting our jobs and taking our coaching badges. I’ve heard that Premier League managers get paid quite a few quid, and there might well be a vacancy coming up across Stanley Park soon for another Liverpool supporting head coach to wind up our blue brethren. At the very least, you might end up with a cushy gig on Sky or BT Sport informing the rest of us where the elite managers have gone wrong.

      All of this reminds me of the best trick that Bill Shankly ever pulled, which was telling everyone that football is a simple game. What Shanks omitted from that famous quip is that the game may be simple but, as with many things in life, it’s far from easy.
      It’s time to hold your nerve, Reds, the process is still working and another 15-game unbeaten run awaits.

      https://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2016/12/liverpool-why-supporters-and-pundits-are-celebrating-the-wrong-things/
      Robby The Z
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 5,210 posts | 1283 
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #29: Dec 07, 2016 04:13:35 pm
      Excellent. Who does he write for?

      I wrote about elite youth soccer here in the States for 10 years and this idea of missing the point from games was a recurring one in player development circles. Even just obsession with winning and losing matches at U10 level is a problem (over here anyway).

      And as he notes, we can respond to first team happenings in all the wrong ways as well (and by "we" I mean, including me).

      Brilliant, this:

      Liverpool: Why Supporters And Pundits Are Celebrating The Wrong Things

      by Paul Cope

      YOU’RE all celebrating the wrong things.

      They were the words of my nephew’s academy side’s coach to all of the kids’ parents.

      You’re all celebrating the wrong things.

      I go to watch my nephew play as often as I can and, like with all football, there’s a propensity even at under-nine level to celebrate goals as though they are the be-all and end-all of the entire exercise. Which, of course, at the highest level, they are, especially if you’re a supporter.

      Goals pay the mortgage (though thankfully not at under-nine level, for now), goals get the headlines and goals change the way we interpret football matches. To the people who actually know most about football, the qualified coaches, however, goals are almost a bi-product of everything else they’re working on, at both ends of the pitch.

      My nephew’s coach told the parents that while they’re all busy celebrating one of the young lads heading in a goal from a corner, he and his coaching team are celebrating the way in which his team-mate closed space to cut off a passing angle which led to the corner, which they’d been working on in training all month. They’re celebrating an eight-year-old understanding that he needs to drop back into position to cover for his mate who’s gone on a run, which they worked on last month.
      The fixtures they play don’t yet use the offside rule but the coach insists that they press high, even though it leads to the other teams scoring goals for fun by goal hanging. He sacrifices goals now for greater knowledge and understanding further down the line. He focuses on the process and the development of his players, not just on the end result each week.

      It often amazes me how watching under-nine’s football can be just as fascinating as watching elite footballers plying their trade, even more so watching the supporters who are watching the respective games. I’ve said for years that most people who watch football don’t really understand what they’re watching, and the quote above demonstrates to me that this doesn’t just apply at the highest level.

      I mentioned in last week’s article how it’s intriguing that grown men will pay extortionate prices to watch something then sit there and moan about it every week, something they wouldn’t do in any other area of their lives, but that isn’t football’s only peculiarity. Football, sport in general and running the country are treated by us lay-people as the few areas in life in which most of us consider ourselves to be qualified to give forthright opinions on what we observe, without actually having any qualifications at all to do so. I’ve met some doctors in the past who’ve mentioned that Google has led to people doing a similar thing when rocking up to their local surgery having self-diagnosed from one medical website or another, but I think most of us are still mainly relying on the people who have been through medical school and rigorous training to tell us why our backs hurt or why we can’t feel our fingers.
      Not so with football, though. Stop someone randomly in the street, especially in a city like Liverpool, and ask them how they think they could improve their club’s first team of highly paid, highly trained, elite athletes and they’ll all give you an opinion. Most won’t even stop there. You’ll note that what you’re given isn’t so much an opinion qualified by caveats such as “I’m not really qualified to answer that question, mate” or “why are you asking me, I’m a plasterer”, more likely it will be a statement made with absolute certainty by Joe the butcher, baker or candlestick maker about how “buying that Virgil Van Dijk lad” from Southampton will definitely sort out our defensive problems, or getting rid of “that soft sh*te Moreno” will sort out the haircut issues we’ve currently got in the squad.

      When he saw Divock Origi pull up with cramp last season, my 70-year-old dad told me with absolute certainty that if he was the manager and any of his players pulled up with cramp he’d make them do a training session straight after the match and double training sessions all week afterwards to sort them out. If I recall correctly, he finished his mini-rant by muttering the word “pansy” under his breath, which I hope was aimed at Divock and not me.

      My dad is a retired insurance claims assessor and has been going to the match for about 50 years. He has no sports science or other similar training but, clearly, considers himself to know more about the fitness regimes of these elite athletes than the highly qualified fitness coaches at Liverpool (I should make it clear at this stage that, as far as I am aware, my dad is not Ray the Fitness EggTM).

      A few years earlier, after watching Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team in its prime, one of my uncles used them as an example of how easy football is and how all of the other managers are over-complicating it. I protested, to little avail, that the way Barcelona played football at the time might have been simple but it only looked easy because the coaches and players were of the highest calibre and had worked tirelessly to master a way of playing that made it look effortless.

      In fairness to my dad and uncle, they’re just representative of most general football supporters and, I’d go as far to say, many ex-football players who now appear on our TVs. The extent to which most people don’t have a clue what they’re watching is highlighted on a daily basis by the many “expert” pundits we have the pleasure of paying to watch analyse the games for us. On Saturday, the great Thierry Henry (one of the best players I have ever had the pleasure of watching in the flesh) gave great insight into Gary Cahill’s own goal by saying words to the effect of “I’m not sure why he did it, but he should have kicked it somewhere other than in his own goal”. Thanks Thierry.

      I’ve been told in the past that ex-professionals know more about the game than the common man because they used to play, but I’ve never really bought that argument. It’s a bit like saying that you could run the Virgin empire like Richard Branson because you used to run one of his call centres and have read all of his books. Being one of the cogs in a machine controlled by a master of his trade does not necessarily lead to you understanding how the other cogs all fitted together or how you could put them together as successfully yourself. Of course, every now and then, one of the cogs is a highly intellectual cog and seeks to understand the mechanics of the machine while it’s cogging along (I wish I hadn’t started this cog analogy now, but we are where we are), ultimately becoming a cog-master himself or herself, but that appears to be fairly rare.

      The irony is that we’ll all happily criticise Thierry and the other pundits for spouting their nonsense every week, whilst gleefully spouting our own nonsense about what the problem actually was, with any given performance, and how it could be fixed.
      Before you head straight to the comments section below or to Twitter to vent your fury at the hypocrisy flowing from these pages into your eyes, I appreciate that it’s a bit rich of me to criticise anyone for spouting unqualified nonsense about football in an article written for a supporter-run football website, following my weekly appearances on podcasts doing the very same thing.
      In my defence, something I’ve always loved about The Anfield Wrap, even before I was a contributor, is that the opinions given are usually balanced and caveated with a large helping of “we don’t actually know” and “the manager knows more than we do”. Sean Rogers gives a weekly insight on TAW Player’s ‘The Tuesday Review’ from the perspective of someone who has actually done his coaching badges and managed teams which, in itself, puts him on a completely different level of understanding to the rest of the contributors and the vast majority of readers and listeners, and even he is happy to bow down to the superior knowledge of the manager and coaches we’re discussing each week.

      What led me to all of this was, amongst other things, the reaction to Ben Woodburn’s goal against Leeds last week followed by the Manchester City v Chelsea game on Saturday.

      Both of the above demonstrate the same thing, which is that for a large part most football fans, pundits and the media focus on, celebrate and mourn the wrong things.

      I was as delighted as everyone else to see Woodburn score that goal at The Kop end last Tuesday night. It’s the stuff dreams are made of and he showed a huge amount of composure and great technique with his finish. But what if he’d scuffed that shot like he did the one in the 72nd minute that went out for a throw-in? Would the newspapers the next day have raved about this youngster, who lads from these shores have been watching and talking about for years? Of course not. It was funny that in the very same game, another young local lad played the full game and was given man of the match, yet barely a word was spoken about him after his mate took all the headlines.

      The irony is that the coaches’ view of Woodburn, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ovie Ejaria won’t have changed because of one game, one goal or one man of the match award, because they’ve been watching them every day for years and know what they’re capable of. Many supporters, pundits and the media, though, only focus on goals and, at a push, assists to form their judgments. Youngest goal scorer in Liverpool’s history? We must have a player on our hands. Jürgen Klopp’s post-match interviews hinted that he would have been happy for Woodburn to have waited another 100 or so days before notching his first goal, just to keep some of the focus and headlines away from him for a little longer, avoiding him being “the new Michael Owen”.

      The City v Chelsea game suggests similar things. The narrative after that game was that Chelsea were too good for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola could barely hide his contempt for Geoff Shreeves during his post-match interview in which he had to point out to the Sky reporter that they had at least two clear chances to wrap the game up and missed. How can he account for Kevin de Bruyne missing an open goal? Does that miss, and Chelsea scoring on the break, mean that City didn’t play well, or is that just the narrative put on the game after the event by the media’s love of celebrating the wrong things? After all, if 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that there’s little room these days for balanced opinions and non-extreme views.

      The modern football fan, supported by Fanzone and Opta, has far more insight into the game than the older generation, simply because of the amount of data and footage available these days, but I think in some ways that just heightens the problem I’m talking about because, armed with those stats, the modern football supporter thinks he or she knows more than the back room team at the club as well as the manager.

      When Michael Edwards is referred to as a data analyst, I think most supporters think that means he follows OptaJoe on Twitter and jots down everyone’s key pass stats into an excel spreadsheet on his laptop. In reality, Edwards has a degree in business management and informatics (admittedly I have no idea if that is even a real degree) and has been working in data analysis for football clubs since 2003.

      The type of analytics work going on behind the scenes and how much more detailed it is than anything we consider as fans was highlighted in a story I read from Brendan Rodgers about Steven Gerrard a few weeks ago. Rodgers was talking about the number of times Gerrard was turning his head during a game, and how a dip in that number had led to a dip in other aspects of Gerrard’s game, something Steven knew in his gut but couldn’t put his finger on without the help of the analytics team.

      We discussed on a podcast last week about Roberto Firmino and how he must be an absolute pain in the arse to play against, but Opta doesn’t have a pain in the arse stat so it goes unnoticed by most people watching football. You can bet that Michael Edwards has a pain in the arse stat that he and his team can rely on, though.

      When thinking about how we all analyse games and pass judgment on footballers over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how little we actually watch them in order to form our views. At most, we watch each player for 180 minutes each week (if there are two games). But the coaching staff watch the same players every day in training. Let’s say that they train for five hours every day, five days a week, that means that, at most, we are watching about 10.7 per cent of each player’s weekly work in order to make our judgment of them. If they play only once a week that drops to around 5.7 per cent and it’s obviously even less for the players we don’t see for 90 minutes at the weekend or midweek (the likes of Ragnar Klavan and Lucas Leiva, for example).
      Think about that for a second, then think about how we form conclusions on other players based on snippets that we see on TV. What percentage of the minutes he’s played this season do you think the supporter you stopped in the street earlier who told you to sign van Dijk from Southampton has watched him play? More often than not it will be 10 minutes on Match of the Day each weekend, during which 30 seconds was shown of van Dijk’s best bits.

      It’s difficult to think of anything else in life that we’d consider ourselves to be experts in by observing five per cent of the weekly goings on from the outside. “Brain surgery, you say? Not a problem, I’ve spent a couple of hours each week for the past 20 years watching through the window of the operating theatre and, to be honest, I think the surgeon you’ve got now is useless, anyway. Grab me a gown while I wash my hands.”

      Even Jürgen said in his pre-Bournemouth press conference that the academy coaches know the young players better than he does, and he’s one of the world’s most qualified and experienced elite level managers. Even he is saying that he can’t give an opinion on those players which is more qualified than the coaches who watch them every day. I often think top level managers must think it’s quite funny when they’re being criticised by journalists, pundits and supporters who have little or no qualifications or experience in football management.

      It always makes me think of the time Rafa Benitez turned down the opportunity to be a pundit at a summer tournament a few years ago because the TV company couldn’t guarantee him access to the players before each game. Rafa’s position was simple: how could he possibly analyse how any player had done in a game if he didn’t know what the player’s specific role given to him by his manager was? Most supporters, pundits and the media don’t let a little thing like that get in their way, though.
      Football, like life, is mainly a matter of perception and small margins.

      I started writing this article before Liverpool had an awful second 45 minutes against Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon, not expecting the result of that game to fall into what I was already writing about but, football being the way it is, it was almost inevitable that there would be some relevance to a piece of this nature. Klopp said in his post-match press conference that the press can write whatever they want about his team, whether it’s that they’re “blind, silly, not good enough, whatever”, but it won’t change what he thinks about the players. After all, he watches them every day and knows their strengths, weaknesses and character inside out. He watches them 100 per cent of the time, not just the five per cent or 10 per cent of the time that we’re all watching.

      As much as I obviously love and respect him, Jamie Carragher even found himself being caught up in the emotional response to the result on Sunday, saying that this Liverpool team crumbles too easily under pressure. He referenced that problem going right back to the Brendan Rodgers team. I mentioned on Twitter immediately after the game that I think Jamie’s response was really harsh, given that we’d gone 15 games unbeaten and had shown on a number of occasions during that run that we are a far more solid and resolute side than we’ve seen playing in red for a number of years. We’re not perfect, but nobody claimed that we are. To fall into the trap of giving a blanket criticism of this team’s defensive ability or character after the Bournemouth game only shows the other propensity of the football fan and pundit, to jump to easy conclusions about what’s wrong with a side at any given time.

      We’d conceded one goal in four games before Sunday, with a settled back five starting to look really solid, especially compared to our main rivals. What do we think Chelsea would look like if all of a sudden they lost David Luiz or Cahill from their newly established back three? Whilst we might need to find a better solution for the times when Joel Matip isn’t playing, this isn’t a time to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to judging our defensive abilities or the team’s character.

      It’s amazed me in the post-match reaction that all of a sudden people are forgetting that we started a tricky away game without three of our most influential players of the season (Matip, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho), with a 21 year-old leading the line who’s only just working his way back to full match fitness and form, and without Daniel Sturridge to use as an option.
      Roberto Firmino, our other standout performer of the season, also came into the game having suffered from a knock himself, leading to possibly his worst performance of the season. Is it any wonder then, that we struggled to control the game as Bournemouth turned up the pressure and intensity in the second half? To use the Chelsea analogy, that’s like them starting a game without Luiz, Eden Hazard and Pedro, with Diego Costa carrying a knock and Michy Batshuayi not being available. How do you think that team would do?

      This is very easily forgotten when we’re all, including me, staring at our ‘keeper and wondering what he’s doing, or blaming Dejan Lovren and Lucas for being poor defensively. This is a team game, after all, and I have no doubts that Jürgen’s coaching staff will be looking at the intricate details of how the front six lost control of the game, how their positioning lost focus and their passing lost its accuracy. There will no doubt be discussions about the frequency of heads being turned in the middle of the pitch.

      Remember at 1-3 we were literally an inch away from making it 1-4 when James Milner’s corner was nearly carried into his own goal by Artur Boruc, and at 3-3 Divock Origi came within a foot of scoring the winner from a corner. If either of those things had gone the other way (by inches), the emotion and analysis following the game would have changed emphasis.
      Several journalists said of our result that we simply lack the resilience of Chelsea, despite us already having beaten Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and having not collapsed after their goal. Oliver Kay said that Chelsea “rode their luck” against City but that they have an in-built resilience that we and City do not have. I’m not sure how De Bruyne missing from five yards has anything to do with Chelsea’s resilience, and the same journalists would be spouting a different set of nonsense if City had won 2-0 as they could so easily have done. In that scenario, Antonio Conte’s three at the back formation will have “cracked” or some other extreme reaction.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t put myself on a higher plane than most football supporters when discussing these things. I’ll still be getting carried away by goals scored in The Kop end by a new youngest ever goalscorer, ripping my top off when we score an undeserved last minute winner to take us top of the league, watching YouTube videos of the latest new signing we’ve been linked with and being disappointed when we throw away three points from a comfortable winning position. After all, that’s where most of the fun lies in this mad game that we dedicate so much of our lives to, and it would be remiss of us not to get caught up in the romance, the dreams, the excitement and the disappointment. That’s all part of the journey.

      But we’d also do well to remember that most of us don’t really have a clue what we’re talking about when it comes to elite level football and, if we do, we’d probably be best quitting our jobs and taking our coaching badges. I’ve heard that Premier League managers get paid quite a few quid, and there might well be a vacancy coming up across Stanley Park soon for another Liverpool supporting head coach to wind up our blue brethren. At the very least, you might end up with a cushy gig on Sky or BT Sport informing the rest of us where the elite managers have gone wrong.

      All of this reminds me of the best trick that Bill Shankly ever pulled, which was telling everyone that football is a simple game. What Shanks omitted from that famous quip is that the game may be simple but, as with many things in life, it’s far from easy.
      It’s time to hold your nerve, Reds, the process is still working and another 15-game unbeaten run awaits.

      https://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2016/12/liverpool-why-supporters-and-pundits-are-celebrating-the-wrong-things/
      what-a-hit-son
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • Started Topic
      • 14,543 posts | 3570 
      • @MrPrice1979
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #30: Dec 07, 2016 04:17:03 pm
      Excellent. Who does he write for?

      I wrote about elite youth soccer here in the States for 10 years and this idea of missing the point from games was a recurring one in player development circles. Even just obsession with winning and losing matches at U10 level is a problem (over here anyway).

      And as he notes, we can respond to first team happenings in all the wrong ways as well (and by "we" I mean, including me).


      He contributes to the Anfield Wrap mate.

      Also changed the way I cook eggs for ever.
      crouchinho
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 42,442 posts | 2590 
      • TU TA LOUCO? FILHO DA PUTA!
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #31: Dec 11, 2016 01:33:10 pm
      Liverpool: Why Supporters And Pundits Are Celebrating The Wrong Things
      We discussed on a podcast last week about Roberto Firmino and how he must be an absolute pain in the arse to play against, but Opta doesn’t have a pain in the arse stat so it goes unnoticed by most people watching football. You can bet that Michael Edwards has a pain in the arse stat that he and his team can rely on, though.

      Literally LOL'd at this. The amount of times i've had a conversation and someone countered this argument with, "Yeah but he has no goals/assists" does my head in.

      It's a cancer in footballing discussions across Australia.

      EDIT: Just to add to this idea:

      Chelsea just scored against a team parking the bus with just their second shot on target in 76 minutes at home. They'll be credited with finding a way through a defensive team.

      We have been held by teams doing the same thing but created multiple chances but that'll be ignored. Our flaws will be highlighted over and over by the pundits and all of Chelsea's struggles will be conveniently forgotten.
      Robby The Z
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 5,210 posts | 1283 
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #32: Dec 15, 2016 04:33:12 pm
      Long but excellent article about Michael Owen, his development, his mentality and his relationship with LFC supporters over the years.

      http://thelab.bleacherreport.com/red-lightning/?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=programming-UK

      Frankly, Mr Shankly
      • Guest
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #33: Dec 15, 2016 04:54:57 pm
      Long but excellent article about Michael Owen, his development, his mentality and his relationship with LFC supporters over the years.

      http://thelab.bleacherreport.com/red-lightning/?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=programming-UK



      The thing that surprises me, even impresses me to an extent, about Owen was his ability to not feel the pressure. A good example was the Euro 2004 quarter final against Portugal when he was the first man to put his name forward for a successfully converted penalty (a match in which he scored early on as well). I think that ability to shun emotion meant that he was able to rise above the fervent big occasions better than anyone else on the pitch and he more often than not showed it with some mega contributions - 2001 FA Cup Final, any major England match they played (while his teammates crumbled under pressure). The downside to that is that I think pressure comes from emotion and emotion wasn't really something that Owen felt. Maybe that's why he never really "felt" it with the passion in the stands at Anfield hence his very unsentimental exit and his decision to join the Mancs later on. It's like he never understood what the big deal was but someone fully engaged with the emotional side of football would have thought otherwise. While that side of him undoubtedly helped him become the fantastic and crucial player he was, it ultimately proved to be the downfall of his career where that emotional detachment led to some career ruining transfers, Mancs very much included.

      Great player though.
      Robby The Z
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 5,210 posts | 1283 
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #34: Dec 16, 2016 03:15:02 pm
      The thing that surprises me, even impresses me to an extent, about Owen was his ability to not feel the pressure. A good example was the Euro 2004 quarter final against Portugal when he was the first man to put his name forward for a successfully converted penalty (a match in which he scored early on as well). I think that ability to shun emotion meant that he was able to rise above the fervent big occasions better than anyone else on the pitch and he more often than not showed it with some mega contributions - 2001 FA Cup Final, any major England match they played (while his teammates crumbled under pressure). The downside to that is that I think pressure comes from emotion and emotion wasn't really something that Owen felt. Maybe that's why he never really "felt" it with the passion in the stands at Anfield hence his very unsentimental exit and his decision to join the Mancs later on. It's like he never understood what the big deal was but someone fully engaged with the emotional side of football would have thought otherwise. While that side of him undoubtedly helped him become the fantastic and crucial player he was, it ultimately proved to be the downfall of his career where that emotional detachment led to some career ruining transfers, Mancs very much included.

      Great player though.

      Well stated, and so many personality traits have that "good-side, bad-side" aspect to them. My oldest son was blessed with exceptional athletic ability, but he just had no competitiveness about him. On long car rides I never had to worry about him getting into spats with his sisters, but on the playing field you could always tell he could take it or leave it, which would allow less gifted players to get one over on him. Thankfully he's more driven on a professional level. My youngest son on the other hand doesn't want to lose anything, ever. A great attribute on the playing field, but when he loses a family game of Monopoly...not so much. :-)

      Whenever I think of Owen on the playing field, "predator" is the first word that comes to mind. Seems like he always found the opening before he started suffering the injuries.
       
      what-a-hit-son
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • Started Topic
      • 14,543 posts | 3570 
      • @MrPrice1979
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #35: Jan 08, 2020 05:56:16 pm
      You're all welcome 😊

      'Jürgen surprises me everyday. His brain works differently to other people' - Exclusive interview with Klopp'a No 2 Pep Lijnders


      By James Pearce for The Athletic

      Pep Lijnders is in full flow.

      Liverpool’s articulate assistant manager is eulogising about the tempo and intensity of the training session he has just overseen at Melwood. These are the words of a coach with complete job satisfaction.

      “The passion and ambition of these players is from another planet,” Lijnders tells The Athletic.

      “Their self-confidence, their self-criticism, that is what makes us consistent. These boys have the ability to make even a simple rondo competitive.

      “People talk about going game to game — no, we commit session to session. Small things make big things happen. You have to focus on doing the small things right constantly.

      “The passion and ambition I see, especially on the rainy and windy days here, that for me is what separates us from the others.”

      Over the course of two hours in his company, Jürgen Klopp’s trusted lieutenant provides a fascinating insight into Liverpool’s stunning rise to the heights of European and world champions as well as runaway Premier League leaders.

      The Dutchman’s own personal journey has been no less spectacular. He opens up for the first time about the circumstances surrounding his short spell away from Merseyside in 2018 when he went to manage NEC Nijmegen in his homeland.

      Lijnders made player development his life’s work after seeing his own hopes of a professional career wrecked by a serious knee injury as a teenager.

      From coaching in the youth ranks at PSV Eindhoven and Porto, to being responsible for the entire training programme of a Liverpool team who are rewriting the Anfield record books with their dominance, it’s been some ride. Lijnders is still only 36 but his expertise is vast and he commands the respect of the dressing room. Owners Fenway Sports Group regard him as a pivotal cog in this winning machine.

      Like Klopp, he recently signed a contract extension to keep him at Liverpool until 2024. The pair enjoy a close bond.

      “There’s a super dynamic between us,” Lijnders says.

      “It’s much more than just assistant and manager. What I mean by that is that I believe you need 100 per cent trust in this job because we have to make so many decisions on a daily basis. I love working for him. He sees who I am, and respects that. We know what to expect from each other.

      “Jürgen is a true leader. He’s inspirational and motivational. He still surprises me every day with something he says. His brain works differently to a lot of other brains!

      “He sees through situations and processes. There is a saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And I think everyone who works with Jürgen has the feeling he really cares about you and your development. There is no ego, he purely searches for the right thing to do.”

      Klopp’s famed man-management skills are undoubtedly one of his greatest assets. He has fostered a cherished unity and spirit in the squad which has propelled Liverpool towards glory. On a daily basis Lijnders witnesses the manager’s knack of finding the right words at the right times to get the best out of people.

      “When Jürgen speaks to the players, he speaks from the heart and it goes directly into the hearts of the players,” he says.

      “He has this remarkable capacity to touch people with the words he selects. That’s not easy, especially with this level of players. I find that intriguing, how it’s possible, the convincing way he has and that ability to touch people. You are dealing with a lot of egos in football but in our club it looks like there are no egos.

      “Jürgen has created an environment where everyone has bought into it. He solves problems before they arise. He has this capacity of making sure that certain things won’t happen because he speaks about them. The level of respect the players have for him is huge.

      “No written word, no spoken plea, can teach our team what they should be, nor all the books on the shelves, it’s what the coach is himself. Do you know what I mean? The character of the coach becomes the character of the team. You can see it throughout the club. That’s the power of Jürgen’s personality.”

      Klopp’s fiercely competitive edge extends to the paddle tennis court that he had installed at Melwood. Most days before training Lijnders and Klopp lock horns. If training is at 3pm then they will arrange to meet for an 11am showdown. They can be noisy affairs.

      “The staff hear the shouting — me probably more than him,” laughs Lijnders.

      “I don’t know how he does it but Jürgen is actually quite reserved on the court. He can control his emotions. We put our character into these games and there’s a lot of passion.

      “It’s usually a doubles sport but we play one v one. We like the fact we have to run more and fight more. He always says his players are mentality monsters, well he’s a mentality monster at paddle tennis! He never knows when he’s beaten. He’s won the past two games and that hurts a lot.

      “There have been many times when he’s won without deserving it but I’ve got to admit he’s deserved the past two wins.”

      Lijnders enjoys parity with fellow assistant boss Peter Krawietz, whose association with Klopp dates back to his role as chief scout at Mainz nearly two decades ago.

      Whereas Lijnders’ time is largely spent planning and delivering training sessions, Krawietz’s area of expertise is video analysis. They complement each other well.

      “It’s about constantly giving each other information and working together,” Lijnders says.

      “It’s always easier with a good leader but still, life is a team sport. We support Jürgen in our best way possible. We know that we have to use each other’s strengths to be able to accomplish great things.

      “Pete is one of the world’s best analysts and knows Jürgen’s way very well. He puts his mark in each game’s preparation. He supports me and Jürgen with information to include in our exercises and searches for weakness to exploit. The best football analysts simplify instead of complicate.

      “There’s a culture of preparation and perfection here but with a lot of freedom. It’s a complex job being manager of such a big club. You need people around you and under you to focus on specific things. Jürgen tries to collect good ones, ones he can trust, he’s very strong on that.”

      Klopp doesn’t tolerate yes-men. He wants his viewpoint to be challenged. How much input do Lijnders and Krawietz have on team selection?

      “Jürgen makes the decisions,” he says firmly. “In the end he’s the one who decides but we try to support him with all the information we have and with all the opinions we have. Everyone is encouraged to say exactly what they think. You might not always agree with each other but it’s about always thinking together. Six eyes see more than two eyes. Three brains with a common idea can come up with different things and different insights compared to just one.

      “The best meeting of the week is always the day before a game when Jürgen, Peter and I are in the office and we go through the video analysis and the plan for the game. Always in this meeting there’s a moment when we have full conviction in what we’re going to do. We speak about team selection and tactics. It’s a beautiful moment.”

      Lijnders grew up in the small village of Broekhuizen in the Dutch province of Limburg. He was a promising central midfielder on the books at lower league outfit SVEB.

      “I was a leader, someone who tried to control and guide the team,” he says. “Would I have made it as a pro? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I always thought I would.”

      That dream was dashed by a ruptured cruciate ligament at the age of 17 and he reassessed his goals. He went to study sports in the city of Sittard and channelled all his efforts into earning a coaching apprenticeship at PSV Eindhoven.

      “There was only one available and I fought so hard to get it,” he recalls.

      “I became a youth coach there. After I got injured and couldn’t play anymore, my uncle, who was the president of SVEB, asked me to take the sessions for their second team and become head of their academy. I was only 18 or 19 but I was coaching at both SVEB and PSV, it was a super time.

      “Everything I learned at PSV I tried to implement at SVEB. My dad worked as a creative designer at a printers and I designed two big flipovers (flip charts) with our playing formation on and 15 different principles. One flipover for when we had the ball, one for when the opposition had the ball.

      “It was implemented so that all teams from the youngest to the oldest age groups trained and played in this way. It was brilliant. I tried to create a common idea inside the club based on an authentic Dutch ‘total football’ way — trying to be dominant and structured with and without the ball.

      “I grew as a coach during my five years at PSV. People really took care of me and guided me. They really wanted me to do well. In my second year I got a small contract, in my third year I got a full-time contract and in my fourth year I went to the United States to give presentations and work together with a few clubs.

      “Then I felt I was ready to work outside of Holland. I was 24 and in my last season the PSV academy was named the best one in the country. That was the moment to go.”

      Porto came calling.

      Having been heavily influenced by the coaching techniques of the great Johan Cruyff and former Feyenoord boss Wiel Coerver during his formative years, Lijnders found new sources of inspiration in Portugal.

      Not least in the methodology of Vitor Frade, who helped to revolutionise coaching by combining all phases of the game rather than having specific physical, tactical or technical training. With his tactical periodisation, Frade sought to ensure that the tactical dimension was at the forefront of every session.

      “Vitor Frade took me to Porto,” says Lijnders.

      “I had my own ideas. I admired Coerver and his attacking philosophy. That if you want to play an attacking game, each player needs an all-round technique and a spirit of initiative. That in each position we needed attacking impulses.

      “Of course there was Cruyff who taught the false No 9 and the three-diamond-three. I had all these ideas but without great structure.

      “Vitor Frade helped me to structure my ideas into principles. That if you want to play like this then on a Wednesday it’s better to train like this. I was an individual coach but he made me look at the collective. I’ll always be grateful that I met him. For me, he’s in the category of Cruyff and Coerver. He’s very important for a new generation of Portuguese coaches who came through with his ideas.”

      The names of the gifted youngsters Lijnders helped to develop during his seven years at Porto roll off the tongue. The impressive list includes Joao Felix, Ruben Neves, Andre Gomes, Andre Silva, Diogo Dalot and Goncalo Paciencia.

      “To explain the culture of Porto in one sentence; you go into the complex and written in big letters are the words ‘we love the ones who hate to lose’,” says Lijnders.

      “Between 2006 and 2011 there was a project there to restructure the first team, the academy and the scouting. I became responsible for the academy restructure with Luis Castro, who is now the manager of Shakhtar Donetsk. He’s a good friend of mine. Vitor Matos, who is working here at Liverpool now, was a young coach in that project.

      “I coached each Porto team two times a week, even the first team after a while in small groups. I was also responsible for the department of individual development.

      “It’s completely different in southern Europe compared to Holland and England. Where we are thoughtful before we say something, in southern Europe it’s more emotional. I enjoyed working there a lot. We were successful with the academy and the first team. We were five-time champions and won the Europa League. It was special to be part of that.”

      Lijnders grabs the water bottles and mobile phones on the table in front of us and starts rearranging them. Briefly, he’s transported back to the pristine green fields of the Iberian Peninsula.

      “We would have eight flat goals on the training pitch where you can shoot from both ways. I’d have 100 balls and 30 to 40 kids,” he explains.

      “We called it ‘Zidane’ and ‘Maradona’. ‘Zidane’ was under the highest pressure, find solutions, shield the ball. ‘Maradona’ was about getting the ball, trying to outplay and shoot. It was about showing initiative, playing in the opposition half.

      “It was a great time with a lot of talent and the young boys inspired me. It makes me really proud to see them play now. To see Joao Felix now, wow, how he turns, combines, how he makes the game so unpredictable…”

      By the summer of 2014 Lijnders was looking for a new challenge. He was on the brink of leaving Porto for Ajax when a phone call from then Liverpool academy coach Michael Beale changed everything. He was offered the job of Under-16s coach.

      “Liverpool kidnapped me!” he laughs.

      “I was in Wales for my UEFA A Licence. Over that weekend I had to give a presentation and while I was there Michael and I met to talk. He’d heard a lot about me.

      “On the Monday I was supposed to go to Ajax to make the final negotiations with them. I had to call my wife and tell her there had been a change of plan.

      “Michael said: ‘You’re coming in the car to Liverpool with us.’ I went to the Hope Street Hotel and I was in the Quarter (a nearby restaurant), drinking espresso and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day.

      “Why did I want to leave Porto? I wanted just one team to put into practice all I had learned over the years at PSV and Porto. When Liverpool said I could have the under-16s and under-15s, I thought ‘this is perfect’.”

      Lijnders had attracted interest from Manchester United the previous year but after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement those discussions had gone cold. United’s loss proved to be Liverpool’s gain.

      His impact at the club’s Kirkby academy over the course of the 2014-15 season was immense. The squad of youngsters he inherited included Trent Alexander-Arnold and Rhian Brewster.

      Alexander-Arnold, now arguably the most complete right-back in world football, told The Athletic earlier this season about the importance of the role played by Lijnders in his rise through the ranks.

      “Trent developed as a guy incredibly that season,” Lijnders says.

      “He was my captain and our No 6 with only three players behind him in a three-diamond-three so he had to do everything well. You have leaders by talking, but Trent was a leader very naturally.

      “After sessions, Trent and I would stay out there for another 20 minutes doing some skills until the lights went out. Trent would always be like ‘again, again’.

      “That was one of my favourite years of coaching. I must have said 50 times, ‘Guys, I thought you couldn’t play better than yesterday but today you proved me wrong again’. We trained for two hours each day and every session ended with three teams of seven. Goal on, goal off. The better you played, the more you played. With the streetwise Liverpool boys that was the way to push them.

      “I really believe that if you want to play quick then it starts in the mind and you have to train like the game. I do it a lot now with the first team. One team attacks, one team defends. They have 40 seconds to score, if they can’t then they’re out. If they score then they play against the third team who are waiting. You split the pitch in two and we call it the ‘wave’ game. If the team defending win the ball then they have to break the halfway line.

      “That’s how we want to play. We’re not defending our goal, we defend the halfway line first. And if you lose the ball it has to be intense with maximum concentration.”

      Lijnders was invited to Melwood by then boss Brendan Rodgers on a number of occasions to talk about his counter-pressing methods. He blew Rodgers away with his tactical insights and in the summer of 2015 he was promoted to the Northern Irishman’s backroom staff as first-team development coach. He became the key link between the club’s two bases in Kirkby and Melwood and relished being responsible for the ‘Talent Group’ which brought the best young players together from across a number of age groups.

      However, just four months later, uncertainty reigned after results nosedived and Rodgers was sacked. Fears that his own job was in jeopardy were swiftly alleviated by Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon.

      “When Brendan got fired I was really upset. I saw it on the news and called him straight away,” Lijnders recalls.

      “Twenty minutes later Mike Gordon called me. In your lifetime there are moments that you will never forget and that’s one of them; why people will always be very important to you.

      “Mike explained everything to me. He said: ‘Pep, you’re here, you will be part of the set-up with the new coach but I need you to help me.’ They needed a week to get everything organised and he wanted me to take the training by myself. I tried to keep Melwood alive and keep everyone going.

      “During their talks, Jürgen said to Mike: ‘Listen, this is the staff I want to work with, plus I’ll need a goalkeeper coach and a sports science guy.’ But Mike told him ‘Pep has to stay, I promise you’ll like him.’

      “This is a funny story that Mike later told me. Jürgen called him two months later and said: ‘Mike, you were completely wrong, you told me I’d like Pep.’ Mike was like ‘Oh, OK…’ Then Jürgen said: ‘I don’t like Pep, I love him!’”

      There was another moment early on in Klopp’s reign when Lijnders realised that his work was being appreciated by the new man at the helm.

      “Jürgen came to me with a letter that someone from Germany had written to him,” he reveals.

      “It had a CV with it from a coach who was looking for a job at Liverpool. It was written in English and Jürgen came to me and said ‘Pep, what is this? I don’t understand it.’ So I started to read it out and said ‘Gaffer, this guy wants to be on the training pitch with you doing sessions.’

      “Jürgen said: ‘Ah, so basically he wants your job?’ I said: ‘Yes, you could look at it like that!’ He took the letter, ripped it up, threw it in the bin and walked off without saying anything. That was when I thought ‘things are going well here’. It’s difficult to put a moment like that into words.

      “When Jürgen got announced, I had a good feeling. I thought it would work well but you can never be 100 per cent sure. For the first few months it felt like I was always writing, probably a page of A4 every day, with all the messages he had been giving to the players.

      “You need to know exactly what the manager wants. To coach is easy but to know what to coach is much more difficult. Jürgen had a way of coaching and exercises which were close to my own. It was so nice to find someone so good.”

      Lijnders walked away from a job, a club and a city he loved when he accepted the opportunity to become manager of NEC Nijmegen in January 2018. His mission was to get them promoted back to the Eredivisie.

      It was a decision based on professional ambition but also personal anguish. His dad Leo was battling cancer.

      “He was really ill and I’m the oldest child. I had felt guilty for a long time that I wasn’t at home to take care of him,” Lijnders reveals.

      “If that hadn’t been the case then I wouldn’t have left in that January. I would have at least finished the season before making any decision. It was a difficult time. I felt like I was leaving a really big chapter of being abroad behind. I felt that I’d go back home for a long time.

      “I was so blessed at Liverpool but there was a big desire to become a leader of a team and be more responsible for the coaching process — not just delivering it but planning and preparing. I had a big desire to step out of my comfort zone and be the main man.”

      Lijnders’ stint at NEC lasted just five months. Having finished third and missed out on automatic promotion, they lost in the play-offs to Emmen. Going from being a coach to a manager proved to be a steep learning curve.

      “I knew it would take time,” he adds. “I went to a very traditional, historic club, one of the bigger ones in Holland, who weren’t in a good moment and had a lot of problems.

      “As the manager, you have much more communication with the team and in the beginning that worked really well. I think one of my strengths is explaining things.

      “The problem then as the main man was to guide and manage expectations of the people around you when things don’t go well. When you have a few bad results, you have to keep everyone in the same direction and convince them that the way you are setting up is still the right way.

      “A lot of times with development, first there’s a period of instability because you ask players to do things that they aren’t used to. I asked a lot, that’s my nature. As a manager, you really need to learn with time, you need to learn from the mistakes that you make, you need to learn from the situations you have to deal with.

      “In the back of my mind, I was always thinking: ‘How would Jürgen approach this?’ That half a year was really important for me. I wouldn’t be able to support Jürgen in the way I do if I hadn’t had that short time away. I respected him a lot already but I respected him even more having been in that job and seen what comes at you.”

      Lijnders parted company with NEC by mutual consent in the middle of May 2018 and a fortnight later he accepted Klopp’s invitation to attend the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Kiev.

      The perceived wisdom is that his return to Melwood was sealed during discussions in the Ukrainian capital. However, the truth is that Lijnders had long since agreed to re-join Klopp’s staff.

      Klopp needed a new assistant after Zeljko Buvac’s surprise exit in the April and it wasn’t a long shortlist he had drawn up.

      “Jürgen called me really early,” Lijnders reveals.

      “It wasn’t after the season, it was in the season. He told me he was searching for a new No 2. He explained that he wasn’t making a list, he said ‘I’m just asking you.’

      “I never expected it. I answered ‘yes’ straightaway but I told him ‘Gaffer, I’m still competing to be the champion and if we don’t win the league, we have the play-offs so I need to focus on getting them back to the highest level.’

      “I also told him I’d need to speak with my wife Danielle. Her family lived seven miles away, we were living in our house on the river and the kids were all going to school with their friends and nephews, all the family together.

      “I was standing in front of the river talking to Jürgen and I had to walk back towards the house. Danielle was sitting outside with my mum having a glass of wine.

      “I said: ‘OK, we really need to talk.’ My mum could see it in my eyes. Danielle and I went for a long walk by the river and discussed everything. For me, it was clear, but it was really important for me that she was behind it. I couldn’t do this alone. I need my family around me.

      “I gave everything to get NEC promoted but it wasn’t to be. But whatever had happened, I’d already decided that I was coming back to Liverpool. Nobody knew though, only me and Jürgen. I didn’t want to create any fuss before Kiev. There are two big things in my life. My Liverpool family and my own family. That’s it, nothing else.”

      The day he signed the contract to become Liverpool’s assistant manager was especially poignant.

      “My dad got the test results back to say that he was completely clean. He had been sick for two years. There was a lot of emotion. Thankfully, he’s still good now. He lives in my hometown but he comes over for some games. He never stops watching football. He knows a lot, well he thinks he does! He’s become a big Liverpool fan.”

      The role Lijnders came back to was very different from the one he left behind. More demanding but also more rewarding as he was tasked with filling the void created by Buvac’s departure.

      “In Holland they said I was going back to my old job but that wasn’t true,” he says.

      “I became the No 2. If that hadn’t been the job Jürgen offered me then I wouldn’t have come back. He gave me responsibility for the training process and that was very important to me.

      “Before, I didn’t decide if we played eight minutes or six minutes, whether we did this exercise or that exercise, I just delivered sessions. When I came back I was responsible.

      “My time away from Liverpool was good for self-reflection. I became much clearer how I wanted to work and what is decisive to become successful. I know exactly what I would do differently now. No more concessions, we do it like I want in training, nothing else, convincing each day, create happiness in the players, a clear week plan and we play everywhere we go in the same manner, full energy.”

      What does a normal day in the life of Pep Lijnders look like?

      He says: “My alarm is my youngest one. My two boys are three-and-a-half and five-and-a-half. When they come into our bed, sleeping is done!

      “Early in the morning, I usually call Vitor Manos (elite development coach), I’ll text Jürgen and then come into Melwood. I have a meeting with Jürgen in his office to talk about training. What are we going to do? Who is delivering what and how is it going to look? Do we want to have Sadio (Mane) on the left wing or as the striker? Things like that.

      “When the training is planned, I explain what the ideas behind it are to Andreas (Kornmayer, head of fitness and conditioning), Pete, Vitor, John (Achterberg, goalkeeping coach) and Jack (Robinson, assistant goalkeeping coach).

      “Then I go out and put everything on the pitch. Normally Jürgen has a meeting with the players either in the dressing room or outside to give some details about the sessions. We train always in the same intensity as the game, same concentration and tempo. This is the secret of training in my opinion.

      “Everything is designed around the training. The day basically starts when the training ends. I’ll watch the session back on the video and try to get as many opinions as possible from the people around me. Then the planning starts for the next session. We make decisions about how tomorrow will look. What do we want to do? What players will we have?

      “I have to speak with the medical department and try to plan the session in more detail and I’ll put it in the tactics planner and work everything out in terms of how it relates to our next opponent. Pete will also give input. Then the plan is clear for the next day and I’ll go home. In the evening when the kids have gone to bed I’ll watch footage of our opponents.”

      During Lijnders’ time as assistant manager, Liverpool have collected an extraordinary 155 points out of a possible 174. They have gone to the next level since winning the Champions League in Madrid last June and find themselves 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League as they close in on a first domestic title since 1990.

      “Winning something big puts more conviction, more trust into everything; subconsciously you feel stronger. There’s a real hunger to fight for more prizes,” he says.

      “But for me it’s about the journey and how the team developed. The trust I got from keeping things simple, never giving up on our way, believing in training and video meetings to improve, clear messages with a lot of conviction from Jürgen, Pete or myself, repeating that process over and over again.

      “Trusting the players to always look at our best games and think about what steps won us those games. Was it our full-backs being constantly ready to jump? Was it the centre-backs coming in front of offensive players rather than stepping back? Was it our midfielders being really together and always connected rather than just searching for it? It’s about doing it our way again, becoming better and searching for perfection. We know it doesn’t exist but you still have to search for it.

      “People say Liverpool developed so much here and there but I think our main strength is that we’re always together. By that I mean on the pitch, the distances, the organisation, the way we are. That’s the only way to be an aggressive, pressing team. If the distances and the organisation are not right then you have no chance.

      “That’s where we’ve made the biggest improvement. Wherever the game is on the pitch, we are there together. A compact team, an intense team, both on and off the ball. Jürgen talks about the principle that everyone is responsible for everything. It’s easy to say, it’s harder to put it into practice on the pitch for 95 minutes but that’s what these players have been doing a lot. If we recover well and have freshness in our game, we go into every game with a common idea of chasing them all over the pitch.

      “Each individual in our team has become a better player from working here. If you compare (Andy) Robertson, Trent and Sadio to when they came in, consistency-wise… I could go on. Jürgen has created a culture of preparation. Each department in the club feels this responsibility and is better connected. It’s clear what we want and the standards have gone up and up and up.”

      The style of the team has certainly evolved. Game-management has been a feature of this record-breaking season which has seen Liverpool drop just two points. They put themselves in winning positions and then play with real maturity and control.

      “That has to grow within a team, you can’t just put it there,” Lijnders says.

      “Even if we’re 3-0 up we want to be dominant. We still search for the 4-0 but the way we do that can be different from how we searched to make it 1-0 or 2-0. We can make more passes, we can switch the play more from one side to the other, we can create more doubt for the opponents with our positioning. But we are still searching for the 4-0.

      “When you become European champions, when you become more dominant on the ball, you don’t rely as much on defensive organisation and counter-attack which is a very attractive part of our game. We’ve become better on the ball as teams have set up differently against us. I’d say 75 per cent of teams in the Premier League, even the bigger teams, changed their system or approach to play against us this season – lines much closer together, dropping deeper.

      “Can we then expect to have attack, attack, attack? No, we can’t. We have to respect that and find a new way against them. It’s why our variety of creating and scoring is so important. It pushes us to evolve again. What I like about our game is that we have so many different weapons and that makes us unpredictable. It’s not about playing it from A to B to C to D. That’s not the game we want. Even our defensive principles aren’t like that. That makes us very difficult to read.

      “Teams can’t just drop deep against us and try to stop us playing through them because Trent and Robbo will get down the wings and then you’ve got the centre-backs bringing it forward and creating space. There’s a lot of freedom because we focus on principles rather than exact plays. We know that if all this is present then the mentality of Jürgen and the boys will put us above the other team. But all this has to be right (Lijnders bangs the desk).

      “You can have a lot of passion but if there’s no structure then you have no chance. You need organisation, tactical discipline and the right distances. That’s the base – that’s the father and mother of football and being a consistent team.”

      Lijnders’ stock has risen to the point that he’s been mentioned as a potential successor to Klopp one day. But such talk is far from his thoughts. He’s too busy savouring every second of the here and now.

      “It makes me proud but it’s not realistic because it’s not important at this moment in time,” he adds.

      “My only ambition is to support Jürgen and our project in the best way possible. Mike Gordon and Jürgen have been the most important people in my career. They gave me the chance and the belief to lead the process of training and methodology with the first team.

      “This is my life. I feel passionate about this club and I feel blessed to work with passionate colleagues. I feel that what we have here in this period we will never experience again in our lives.

      “So many things have come together with the owners, the manager, people behind the manager who in hard moments never give up, and a playing group who are so together and really want to play for Liverpool and for us as a staff. In the end I really hope that we get what the boys deserve.

      “I believe each football project is like the sun rising up and going down, and for our project it’s not even noon. That’s the reason why we committed for another four years.”

      Like the team he has helped to shape, Pep Lijnders is relentless.

      The Athletic
      Billy1
      • Forum Legend - Paisley
      • *****

      • 10,538 posts | 1893 
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #36: Jan 09, 2020 07:38:31 am
      Never ever lose the memories you have of going to the match at Anfield with your Dad-they can never be replaced.I still remember going to Anfield for the first time in 1947 with my Dad,he put me in the boys pen in Kemlyn Road and I was hooked on L.F.C for life.I remember him taking me to Blackburn for a cup tie and getting the train from Exchange Station.As a matter of interest does anyone else remember the boys pen when it was in Kemlyn Road before they moved it to the back of the Kop.
      billythered
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 6,653 posts | 2204 
      • From Doubters to Believers
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #37: Jan 09, 2020 12:13:34 pm
      You're all welcome 😊

      'Jürgen surprises me everyday. His brain works differently to other people' - Exclusive interview with Klopp'a No 2 Pep Lijnders


      By James Pearce for The Athletic

      Pep Lijnders is in full flow.

      Liverpool’s articulate assistant manager is eulogising about the tempo and intensity of the training session he has just overseen at Melwood. These are the words of a coach with complete job satisfaction.

      “The passion and ambition of these players is from another planet,” Lijnders tells The Athletic.

      “Their self-confidence, their self-criticism, that is what makes us consistent. These boys have the ability to make even a simple rondo competitive.

      “People talk about going game to game — no, we commit session to session. Small things make big things happen. You have to focus on doing the small things right constantly.

      “The passion and ambition I see, especially on the rainy and windy days here, that for me is what separates us from the others.”

      Over the course of two hours in his company, Jürgen Klopp’s trusted lieutenant provides a fascinating insight into Liverpool’s stunning rise to the heights of European and world champions as well as runaway Premier League leaders.

      The Dutchman’s own personal journey has been no less spectacular. He opens up for the first time about the circumstances surrounding his short spell away from Merseyside in 2018 when he went to manage NEC Nijmegen in his homeland.

      Lijnders made player development his life’s work after seeing his own hopes of a professional career wrecked by a serious knee injury as a teenager.

      From coaching in the youth ranks at PSV Eindhoven and Porto, to being responsible for the entire training programme of a Liverpool team who are rewriting the Anfield record books with their dominance, it’s been some ride. Lijnders is still only 36 but his expertise is vast and he commands the respect of the dressing room. Owners Fenway Sports Group regard him as a pivotal cog in this winning machine.

      Like Klopp, he recently signed a contract extension to keep him at Liverpool until 2024. The pair enjoy a close bond.

      “There’s a super dynamic between us,” Lijnders says.

      “It’s much more than just assistant and manager. What I mean by that is that I believe you need 100 per cent trust in this job because we have to make so many decisions on a daily basis. I love working for him. He sees who I am, and respects that. We know what to expect from each other.

      “Jürgen is a true leader. He’s inspirational and motivational. He still surprises me every day with something he says. His brain works differently to a lot of other brains!

      “He sees through situations and processes. There is a saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And I think everyone who works with Jürgen has the feeling he really cares about you and your development. There is no ego, he purely searches for the right thing to do.”

      Klopp’s famed man-management skills are undoubtedly one of his greatest assets. He has fostered a cherished unity and spirit in the squad which has propelled Liverpool towards glory. On a daily basis Lijnders witnesses the manager’s knack of finding the right words at the right times to get the best out of people.

      “When Jürgen speaks to the players, he speaks from the heart and it goes directly into the hearts of the players,” he says.

      “He has this remarkable capacity to touch people with the words he selects. That’s not easy, especially with this level of players. I find that intriguing, how it’s possible, the convincing way he has and that ability to touch people. You are dealing with a lot of egos in football but in our club it looks like there are no egos.

      “Jürgen has created an environment where everyone has bought into it. He solves problems before they arise. He has this capacity of making sure that certain things won’t happen because he speaks about them. The level of respect the players have for him is huge.

      “No written word, no spoken plea, can teach our team what they should be, nor all the books on the shelves, it’s what the coach is himself. Do you know what I mean? The character of the coach becomes the character of the team. You can see it throughout the club. That’s the power of Jürgen’s personality.”

      Klopp’s fiercely competitive edge extends to the paddle tennis court that he had installed at Melwood. Most days before training Lijnders and Klopp lock horns. If training is at 3pm then they will arrange to meet for an 11am showdown. They can be noisy affairs.

      “The staff hear the shouting — me probably more than him,” laughs Lijnders.

      “I don’t know how he does it but Jürgen is actually quite reserved on the court. He can control his emotions. We put our character into these games and there’s a lot of passion.

      “It’s usually a doubles sport but we play one v one. We like the fact we have to run more and fight more. He always says his players are mentality monsters, well he’s a mentality monster at paddle tennis! He never knows when he’s beaten. He’s won the past two games and that hurts a lot.

      “There have been many times when he’s won without deserving it but I’ve got to admit he’s deserved the past two wins.”

      Lijnders enjoys parity with fellow assistant boss Peter Krawietz, whose association with Klopp dates back to his role as chief scout at Mainz nearly two decades ago.

      Whereas Lijnders’ time is largely spent planning and delivering training sessions, Krawietz’s area of expertise is video analysis. They complement each other well.

      “It’s about constantly giving each other information and working together,” Lijnders says.

      “It’s always easier with a good leader but still, life is a team sport. We support Jürgen in our best way possible. We know that we have to use each other’s strengths to be able to accomplish great things.

      “Pete is one of the world’s best analysts and knows Jürgen’s way very well. He puts his mark in each game’s preparation. He supports me and Jürgen with information to include in our exercises and searches for weakness to exploit. The best football analysts simplify instead of complicate.

      “There’s a culture of preparation and perfection here but with a lot of freedom. It’s a complex job being manager of such a big club. You need people around you and under you to focus on specific things. Jürgen tries to collect good ones, ones he can trust, he’s very strong on that.”

      Klopp doesn’t tolerate yes-men. He wants his viewpoint to be challenged. How much input do Lijnders and Krawietz have on team selection?

      “Jürgen makes the decisions,” he says firmly. “In the end he’s the one who decides but we try to support him with all the information we have and with all the opinions we have. Everyone is encouraged to say exactly what they think. You might not always agree with each other but it’s about always thinking together. Six eyes see more than two eyes. Three brains with a common idea can come up with different things and different insights compared to just one.

      “The best meeting of the week is always the day before a game when Jürgen, Peter and I are in the office and we go through the video analysis and the plan for the game. Always in this meeting there’s a moment when we have full conviction in what we’re going to do. We speak about team selection and tactics. It’s a beautiful moment.”

      Lijnders grew up in the small village of Broekhuizen in the Dutch province of Limburg. He was a promising central midfielder on the books at lower league outfit SVEB.

      “I was a leader, someone who tried to control and guide the team,” he says. “Would I have made it as a pro? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I always thought I would.”

      That dream was dashed by a ruptured cruciate ligament at the age of 17 and he reassessed his goals. He went to study sports in the city of Sittard and channelled all his efforts into earning a coaching apprenticeship at PSV Eindhoven.

      “There was only one available and I fought so hard to get it,” he recalls.

      “I became a youth coach there. After I got injured and couldn’t play anymore, my uncle, who was the president of SVEB, asked me to take the sessions for their second team and become head of their academy. I was only 18 or 19 but I was coaching at both SVEB and PSV, it was a super time.

      “Everything I learned at PSV I tried to implement at SVEB. My dad worked as a creative designer at a printers and I designed two big flipovers (flip charts) with our playing formation on and 15 different principles. One flipover for when we had the ball, one for when the opposition had the ball.

      “It was implemented so that all teams from the youngest to the oldest age groups trained and played in this way. It was brilliant. I tried to create a common idea inside the club based on an authentic Dutch ‘total football’ way — trying to be dominant and structured with and without the ball.

      “I grew as a coach during my five years at PSV. People really took care of me and guided me. They really wanted me to do well. In my second year I got a small contract, in my third year I got a full-time contract and in my fourth year I went to the United States to give presentations and work together with a few clubs.

      “Then I felt I was ready to work outside of Holland. I was 24 and in my last season the PSV academy was named the best one in the country. That was the moment to go.”

      Porto came calling.

      Having been heavily influenced by the coaching techniques of the great Johan Cruyff and former Feyenoord boss Wiel Coerver during his formative years, Lijnders found new sources of inspiration in Portugal.

      Not least in the methodology of Vitor Frade, who helped to revolutionise coaching by combining all phases of the game rather than having specific physical, tactical or technical training. With his tactical periodisation, Frade sought to ensure that the tactical dimension was at the forefront of every session.

      “Vitor Frade took me to Porto,” says Lijnders.

      “I had my own ideas. I admired Coerver and his attacking philosophy. That if you want to play an attacking game, each player needs an all-round technique and a spirit of initiative. That in each position we needed attacking impulses.

      “Of course there was Cruyff who taught the false No 9 and the three-diamond-three. I had all these ideas but without great structure.

      “Vitor Frade helped me to structure my ideas into principles. That if you want to play like this then on a Wednesday it’s better to train like this. I was an individual coach but he made me look at the collective. I’ll always be grateful that I met him. For me, he’s in the category of Cruyff and Coerver. He’s very important for a new generation of Portuguese coaches who came through with his ideas.”

      The names of the gifted youngsters Lijnders helped to develop during his seven years at Porto roll off the tongue. The impressive list includes Joao Felix, Ruben Neves, Andre Gomes, Andre Silva, Diogo Dalot and Goncalo Paciencia.

      “To explain the culture of Porto in one sentence; you go into the complex and written in big letters are the words ‘we love the ones who hate to lose’,” says Lijnders.

      “Between 2006 and 2011 there was a project there to restructure the first team, the academy and the scouting. I became responsible for the academy restructure with Luis Castro, who is now the manager of Shakhtar Donetsk. He’s a good friend of mine. Vitor Matos, who is working here at Liverpool now, was a young coach in that project.

      “I coached each Porto team two times a week, even the first team after a while in small groups. I was also responsible for the department of individual development.

      “It’s completely different in southern Europe compared to Holland and England. Where we are thoughtful before we say something, in southern Europe it’s more emotional. I enjoyed working there a lot. We were successful with the academy and the first team. We were five-time champions and won the Europa League. It was special to be part of that.”

      Lijnders grabs the water bottles and mobile phones on the table in front of us and starts rearranging them. Briefly, he’s transported back to the pristine green fields of the Iberian Peninsula.

      “We would have eight flat goals on the training pitch where you can shoot from both ways. I’d have 100 balls and 30 to 40 kids,” he explains.

      “We called it ‘Zidane’ and ‘Maradona’. ‘Zidane’ was under the highest pressure, find solutions, shield the ball. ‘Maradona’ was about getting the ball, trying to outplay and shoot. It was about showing initiative, playing in the opposition half.

      “It was a great time with a lot of talent and the young boys inspired me. It makes me really proud to see them play now. To see Joao Felix now, wow, how he turns, combines, how he makes the game so unpredictable…”

      By the summer of 2014 Lijnders was looking for a new challenge. He was on the brink of leaving Porto for Ajax when a phone call from then Liverpool academy coach Michael Beale changed everything. He was offered the job of Under-16s coach.

      “Liverpool kidnapped me!” he laughs.

      “I was in Wales for my UEFA A Licence. Over that weekend I had to give a presentation and while I was there Michael and I met to talk. He’d heard a lot about me.

      “On the Monday I was supposed to go to Ajax to make the final negotiations with them. I had to call my wife and tell her there had been a change of plan.

      “Michael said: ‘You’re coming in the car to Liverpool with us.’ I went to the Hope Street Hotel and I was in the Quarter (a nearby restaurant), drinking espresso and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day.

      “Why did I want to leave Porto? I wanted just one team to put into practice all I had learned over the years at PSV and Porto. When Liverpool said I could have the under-16s and under-15s, I thought ‘this is perfect’.”

      Lijnders had attracted interest from Manchester United the previous year but after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement those discussions had gone cold. United’s loss proved to be Liverpool’s gain.

      His impact at the club’s Kirkby academy over the course of the 2014-15 season was immense. The squad of youngsters he inherited included Trent Alexander-Arnold and Rhian Brewster.

      Alexander-Arnold, now arguably the most complete right-back in world football, told The Athletic earlier this season about the importance of the role played by Lijnders in his rise through the ranks.

      “Trent developed as a guy incredibly that season,” Lijnders says.

      “He was my captain and our No 6 with only three players behind him in a three-diamond-three so he had to do everything well. You have leaders by talking, but Trent was a leader very naturally.

      “After sessions, Trent and I would stay out there for another 20 minutes doing some skills until the lights went out. Trent would always be like ‘again, again’.

      “That was one of my favourite years of coaching. I must have said 50 times, ‘Guys, I thought you couldn’t play better than yesterday but today you proved me wrong again’. We trained for two hours each day and every session ended with three teams of seven. Goal on, goal off. The better you played, the more you played. With the streetwise Liverpool boys that was the way to push them.

      “I really believe that if you want to play quick then it starts in the mind and you have to train like the game. I do it a lot now with the first team. One team attacks, one team defends. They have 40 seconds to score, if they can’t then they’re out. If they score then they play against the third team who are waiting. You split the pitch in two and we call it the ‘wave’ game. If the team defending win the ball then they have to break the halfway line.

      “That’s how we want to play. We’re not defending our goal, we defend the halfway line first. And if you lose the ball it has to be intense with maximum concentration.”

      Lijnders was invited to Melwood by then boss Brendan Rodgers on a number of occasions to talk about his counter-pressing methods. He blew Rodgers away with his tactical insights and in the summer of 2015 he was promoted to the Northern Irishman’s backroom staff as first-team development coach. He became the key link between the club’s two bases in Kirkby and Melwood and relished being responsible for the ‘Talent Group’ which brought the best young players together from across a number of age groups.

      However, just four months later, uncertainty reigned after results nosedived and Rodgers was sacked. Fears that his own job was in jeopardy were swiftly alleviated by Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon.

      “When Brendan got fired I was really upset. I saw it on the news and called him straight away,” Lijnders recalls.

      “Twenty minutes later Mike Gordon called me. In your lifetime there are moments that you will never forget and that’s one of them; why people will always be very important to you.

      “Mike explained everything to me. He said: ‘Pep, you’re here, you will be part of the set-up with the new coach but I need you to help me.’ They needed a week to get everything organised and he wanted me to take the training by myself. I tried to keep Melwood alive and keep everyone going.

      “During their talks, Jürgen said to Mike: ‘Listen, this is the staff I want to work with, plus I’ll need a goalkeeper coach and a sports science guy.’ But Mike told him ‘Pep has to stay, I promise you’ll like him.’

      “This is a funny story that Mike later told me. Jürgen called him two months later and said: ‘Mike, you were completely wrong, you told me I’d like Pep.’ Mike was like ‘Oh, OK…’ Then Jürgen said: ‘I don’t like Pep, I love him!’”

      There was another moment early on in Klopp’s reign when Lijnders realised that his work was being appreciated by the new man at the helm.

      “Jürgen came to me with a letter that someone from Germany had written to him,” he reveals.

      “It had a CV with it from a coach who was looking for a job at Liverpool. It was written in English and Jürgen came to me and said ‘Pep, what is this? I don’t understand it.’ So I started to read it out and said ‘Gaffer, this guy wants to be on the training pitch with you doing sessions.’

      “Jürgen said: ‘Ah, so basically he wants your job?’ I said: ‘Yes, you could look at it like that!’ He took the letter, ripped it up, threw it in the bin and walked off without saying anything. That was when I thought ‘things are going well here’. It’s difficult to put a moment like that into words.

      “When Jürgen got announced, I had a good feeling. I thought it would work well but you can never be 100 per cent sure. For the first few months it felt like I was always writing, probably a page of A4 every day, with all the messages he had been giving to the players.

      “You need to know exactly what the manager wants. To coach is easy but to know what to coach is much more difficult. Jürgen had a way of coaching and exercises which were close to my own. It was so nice to find someone so good.”

      Lijnders walked away from a job, a club and a city he loved when he accepted the opportunity to become manager of NEC Nijmegen in January 2018. His mission was to get them promoted back to the Eredivisie.

      It was a decision based on professional ambition but also personal anguish. His dad Leo was battling cancer.

      “He was really ill and I’m the oldest child. I had felt guilty for a long time that I wasn’t at home to take care of him,” Lijnders reveals.

      “If that hadn’t been the case then I wouldn’t have left in that January. I would have at least finished the season before making any decision. It was a difficult time. I felt like I was leaving a really big chapter of being abroad behind. I felt that I’d go back home for a long time.

      “I was so blessed at Liverpool but there was a big desire to become a leader of a team and be more responsible for the coaching process — not just delivering it but planning and preparing. I had a big desire to step out of my comfort zone and be the main man.”

      Lijnders’ stint at NEC lasted just five months. Having finished third and missed out on automatic promotion, they lost in the play-offs to Emmen. Going from being a coach to a manager proved to be a steep learning curve.

      “I knew it would take time,” he adds. “I went to a very traditional, historic club, one of the bigger ones in Holland, who weren’t in a good moment and had a lot of problems.

      “As the manager, you have much more communication with the team and in the beginning that worked really well. I think one of my strengths is explaining things.

      “The problem then as the main man was to guide and manage expectations of the people around you when things don’t go well. When you have a few bad results, you have to keep everyone in the same direction and convince them that the way you are setting up is still the right way.

      “A lot of times with development, first there’s a period of instability because you ask players to do things that they aren’t used to. I asked a lot, that’s my nature. As a manager, you really need to learn with time, you need to learn from the mistakes that you make, you need to learn from the situations you have to deal with.

      “In the back of my mind, I was always thinking: ‘How would Jürgen approach this?’ That half a year was really important for me. I wouldn’t be able to support Jürgen in the way I do if I hadn’t had that short time away. I respected him a lot already but I respected him even more having been in that job and seen what comes at you.”

      Lijnders parted company with NEC by mutual consent in the middle of May 2018 and a fortnight later he accepted Klopp’s invitation to attend the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Kiev.

      The perceived wisdom is that his return to Melwood was sealed during discussions in the Ukrainian capital. However, the truth is that Lijnders had long since agreed to re-join Klopp’s staff.

      Klopp needed a new assistant after Zeljko Buvac’s surprise exit in the April and it wasn’t a long shortlist he had drawn up.

      “Jürgen called me really early,” Lijnders reveals.

      “It wasn’t after the season, it was in the season. He told me he was searching for a new No 2. He explained that he wasn’t making a list, he said ‘I’m just asking you.’

      “I never expected it. I answered ‘yes’ straightaway but I told him ‘Gaffer, I’m still competing to be the champion and if we don’t win the league, we have the play-offs so I need to focus on getting them back to the highest level.’

      “I also told him I’d need to speak with my wife Danielle. Her family lived seven miles away, we were living in our house on the river and the kids were all going to school with their friends and nephews, all the family together.

      “I was standing in front of the river talking to Jürgen and I had to walk back towards the house. Danielle was sitting outside with my mum having a glass of wine.

      “I said: ‘OK, we really need to talk.’ My mum could see it in my eyes. Danielle and I went for a long walk by the river and discussed everything. For me, it was clear, but it was really important for me that she was behind it. I couldn’t do this alone. I need my family around me.

      “I gave everything to get NEC promoted but it wasn’t to be. But whatever had happened, I’d already decided that I was coming back to Liverpool. Nobody knew though, only me and Jürgen. I didn’t want to create any fuss before Kiev. There are two big things in my life. My Liverpool family and my own family. That’s it, nothing else.”

      The day he signed the contract to become Liverpool’s assistant manager was especially poignant.

      “My dad got the test results back to say that he was completely clean. He had been sick for two years. There was a lot of emotion. Thankfully, he’s still good now. He lives in my hometown but he comes over for some games. He never stops watching football. He knows a lot, well he thinks he does! He’s become a big Liverpool fan.”

      The role Lijnders came back to was very different from the one he left behind. More demanding but also more rewarding as he was tasked with filling the void created by Buvac’s departure.

      “In Holland they said I was going back to my old job but that wasn’t true,” he says.

      “I became the No 2. If that hadn’t been the job Jürgen offered me then I wouldn’t have come back. He gave me responsibility for the training process and that was very important to me.

      “Before, I didn’t decide if we played eight minutes or six minutes, whether we did this exercise or that exercise, I just delivered sessions. When I came back I was responsible.

      “My time away from Liverpool was good for self-reflection. I became much clearer how I wanted to work and what is decisive to become successful. I know exactly what I would do differently now. No more concessions, we do it like I want in training, nothing else, convincing each day, create happiness in the players, a clear week plan and we play everywhere we go in the same manner, full energy.”

      What does a normal day in the life of Pep Lijnders look like?

      He says: “My alarm is my youngest one. My two boys are three-and-a-half and five-and-a-half. When they come into our bed, sleeping is done!

      “Early in the morning, I usually call Vitor Manos (elite development coach), I’ll text Jürgen and then come into Melwood. I have a meeting with Jürgen in his office to talk about training. What are we going to do? Who is delivering what and how is it going to look? Do we want to have Sadio (Mane) on the left wing or as the striker? Things like that.

      “When the training is planned, I explain what the ideas behind it are to Andreas (Kornmayer, head of fitness and conditioning), Pete, Vitor, John (Achterberg, goalkeeping coach) and Jack (Robinson, assistant goalkeeping coach).

      “Then I go out and put everything on the pitch. Normally Jürgen has a meeting with the players either in the dressing room or outside to give some details about the sessions. We train always in the same intensity as the game, same concentration and tempo. This is the secret of training in my opinion.

      “Everything is designed around the training. The day basically starts when the training ends. I’ll watch the session back on the video and try to get as many opinions as possible from the people around me. Then the planning starts for the next session. We make decisions about how tomorrow will look. What do we want to do? What players will we have?

      “I have to speak with the medical department and try to plan the session in more detail and I’ll put it in the tactics planner and work everything out in terms of how it relates to our next opponent. Pete will also give input. Then the plan is clear for the next day and I’ll go home. In the evening when the kids have gone to bed I’ll watch footage of our opponents.”

      During Lijnders’ time as assistant manager, Liverpool have collected an extraordinary 155 points out of a possible 174. They have gone to the next level since winning the Champions League in Madrid last June and find themselves 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League as they close in on a first domestic title since 1990.

      “Winning something big puts more conviction, more trust into everything; subconsciously you feel stronger. There’s a real hunger to fight for more prizes,” he says.

      “But for me it’s about the journey and how the team developed. The trust I got from keeping things simple, never giving up on our way, believing in training and video meetings to improve, clear messages with a lot of conviction from Jürgen, Pete or myself, repeating that process over and over again.

      “Trusting the players to always look at our best games and think about what steps won us those games. Was it our full-backs being constantly ready to jump? Was it the centre-backs coming in front of offensive players rather than stepping back? Was it our midfielders being really together and always connected rather than just searching for it? It’s about doing it our way again, becoming better and searching for perfection. We know it doesn’t exist but you still have to search for it.

      “People say Liverpool developed so much here and there but I think our main strength is that we’re always together. By that I mean on the pitch, the distances, the organisation, the way we are. That’s the only way to be an aggressive, pressing team. If the distances and the organisation are not right then you have no chance.

      “That’s where we’ve made the biggest improvement. Wherever the game is on the pitch, we are there together. A compact team, an intense team, both on and off the ball. Jürgen talks about the principle that everyone is responsible for everything. It’s easy to say, it’s harder to put it into practice on the pitch for 95 minutes but that’s what these players have been doing a lot. If we recover well and have freshness in our game, we go into every game with a common idea of chasing them all over the pitch.

      “Each individual in our team has become a better player from working here. If you compare (Andy) Robertson, Trent and Sadio to when they came in, consistency-wise… I could go on. Jürgen has created a culture of preparation. Each department in the club feels this responsibility and is better connected. It’s clear what we want and the standards have gone up and up and up.”

      The style of the team has certainly evolved. Game-management has been a feature of this record-breaking season which has seen Liverpool drop just two points. They put themselves in winning positions and then play with real maturity and control.

      “That has to grow within a team, you can’t just put it there,” Lijnders says.

      “Even if we’re 3-0 up we want to be dominant. We still search for the 4-0 but the way we do that can be different from how we searched to make it 1-0 or 2-0. We can make more passes, we can switch the play more from one side to the other, we can create more doubt for the opponents with our positioning. But we are still searching for the 4-0.

      “When you become European champions, when you become more dominant on the ball, you don’t rely as much on defensive organisation and counter-attack which is a very attractive part of our game. We’ve become better on the ball as teams have set up differently against us. I’d say 75 per cent of teams in the Premier League, even the bigger teams, changed their system or approach to play against us this season – lines much closer together, dropping deeper.

      “Can we then expect to have attack, attack, attack? No, we can’t. We have to respect that and find a new way against them. It’s why our variety of creating and scoring is so important. It pushes us to evolve again. What I like about our game is that we have so many different weapons and that makes us unpredictable. It’s not about playing it from A to B to C to D. That’s not the game we want. Even our defensive principles aren’t like that. That makes us very difficult to read.

      “Teams can’t just drop deep against us and try to stop us playing through them because Trent and Robbo will get down the wings and then you’ve got the centre-backs bringing it forward and creating space. There’s a lot of freedom because we focus on principles rather than exact plays. We know that if all this is present then the mentality of Jürgen and the boys will put us above the other team. But all this has to be right (Lijnders bangs the desk).

      “You can have a lot of passion but if there’s no structure then you have no chance. You need organisation, tactical discipline and the right distances. That’s the base – that’s the father and mother of football and being a consistent team.”

      Lijnders’ stock has risen to the point that he’s been mentioned as a potential successor to Klopp one day. But such talk is far from his thoughts. He’s too busy savouring every second of the here and now.

      “It makes me proud but it’s not realistic because it’s not important at this moment in time,” he adds.

      “My only ambition is to support Jürgen and our project in the best way possible. Mike Gordon and Jürgen have been the most important people in my career. They gave me the chance and the belief to lead the process of training and methodology with the first team.

      “This is my life. I feel passionate about this club and I feel blessed to work with passionate colleagues. I feel that what we have here in this period we will never experience again in our lives.

      “So many things have come together with the owners, the manager, people behind the manager who in hard moments never give up, and a playing group who are so together and really want to play for Liverpool and for us as a staff. In the end I really hope that we get what the boys deserve.

      “I believe each football project is like the sun rising up and going down, and for our project it’s not even noon. That’s the reason why we committed for another four years.”

      Like the team he has helped to shape, Pep Lijnders is relentless.

      The Athletic


      What a fantastic insight from our Pep, I love reading stuff like this, it really opens your eyes to the everyday goings on at Melwood, we have a fantastic future ahead of us, a very successful era that I doubt will ever be surpassed, everyone of us young and old need to acknowledge this moment in time, we are at the beginning of a era that could bring about a succession of Titles & Silverware, as a club we are hated throughout the land because of our historical success, within in the next decade we’ll be hated even more, and I f***in love it,

      In Jürgen & Pep, with Peter, John, Andreas, et al, we have the modern day equivalent of, Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran, Rueben Bennett, & Tom Saunders,

      The bit I like the most....”I believe each football project is like the Sun rising and going down, for our project it’s not even noon yet”


      YNWA

      ConzS
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 2,732 posts | 525 
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #38: Jan 15, 2020 10:35:59 am
      You're all welcome 😊

      'Jürgen surprises me everyday. His brain works differently to other people' - Exclusive interview with Klopp'a No 2 Pep Lijnders


      By James Pearce for The Athletic

      Pep Lijnders is in full flow.

      Liverpool’s articulate assistant manager is eulogising about the tempo and intensity of the training session he has just overseen at Melwood. These are the words of a coach with complete job satisfaction.

      “The passion and ambition of these players is from another planet,” Lijnders tells The Athletic.

      “Their self-confidence, their self-criticism, that is what makes us consistent. These boys have the ability to make even a simple rondo competitive.

      “People talk about going game to game — no, we commit session to session. Small things make big things happen. You have to focus on doing the small things right constantly.

      “The passion and ambition I see, especially on the rainy and windy days here, that for me is what separates us from the others.”

      Over the course of two hours in his company, Jürgen Klopp’s trusted lieutenant provides a fascinating insight into Liverpool’s stunning rise to the heights of European and world champions as well as runaway Premier League leaders.

      The Dutchman’s own personal journey has been no less spectacular. He opens up for the first time about the circumstances surrounding his short spell away from Merseyside in 2018 when he went to manage NEC Nijmegen in his homeland.

      Lijnders made player development his life’s work after seeing his own hopes of a professional career wrecked by a serious knee injury as a teenager.

      From coaching in the youth ranks at PSV Eindhoven and Porto, to being responsible for the entire training programme of a Liverpool team who are rewriting the Anfield record books with their dominance, it’s been some ride. Lijnders is still only 36 but his expertise is vast and he commands the respect of the dressing room. Owners Fenway Sports Group regard him as a pivotal cog in this winning machine.

      Like Klopp, he recently signed a contract extension to keep him at Liverpool until 2024. The pair enjoy a close bond.

      “There’s a super dynamic between us,” Lijnders says.

      “It’s much more than just assistant and manager. What I mean by that is that I believe you need 100 per cent trust in this job because we have to make so many decisions on a daily basis. I love working for him. He sees who I am, and respects that. We know what to expect from each other.

      “Jürgen is a true leader. He’s inspirational and motivational. He still surprises me every day with something he says. His brain works differently to a lot of other brains!

      “He sees through situations and processes. There is a saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And I think everyone who works with Jürgen has the feeling he really cares about you and your development. There is no ego, he purely searches for the right thing to do.”

      Klopp’s famed man-management skills are undoubtedly one of his greatest assets. He has fostered a cherished unity and spirit in the squad which has propelled Liverpool towards glory. On a daily basis Lijnders witnesses the manager’s knack of finding the right words at the right times to get the best out of people.

      “When Jürgen speaks to the players, he speaks from the heart and it goes directly into the hearts of the players,” he says.

      “He has this remarkable capacity to touch people with the words he selects. That’s not easy, especially with this level of players. I find that intriguing, how it’s possible, the convincing way he has and that ability to touch people. You are dealing with a lot of egos in football but in our club it looks like there are no egos.

      “Jürgen has created an environment where everyone has bought into it. He solves problems before they arise. He has this capacity of making sure that certain things won’t happen because he speaks about them. The level of respect the players have for him is huge.

      “No written word, no spoken plea, can teach our team what they should be, nor all the books on the shelves, it’s what the coach is himself. Do you know what I mean? The character of the coach becomes the character of the team. You can see it throughout the club. That’s the power of Jürgen’s personality.”

      Klopp’s fiercely competitive edge extends to the paddle tennis court that he had installed at Melwood. Most days before training Lijnders and Klopp lock horns. If training is at 3pm then they will arrange to meet for an 11am showdown. They can be noisy affairs.

      “The staff hear the shouting — me probably more than him,” laughs Lijnders.

      “I don’t know how he does it but Jürgen is actually quite reserved on the court. He can control his emotions. We put our character into these games and there’s a lot of passion.

      “It’s usually a doubles sport but we play one v one. We like the fact we have to run more and fight more. He always says his players are mentality monsters, well he’s a mentality monster at paddle tennis! He never knows when he’s beaten. He’s won the past two games and that hurts a lot.

      “There have been many times when he’s won without deserving it but I’ve got to admit he’s deserved the past two wins.”

      Lijnders enjoys parity with fellow assistant boss Peter Krawietz, whose association with Klopp dates back to his role as chief scout at Mainz nearly two decades ago.

      Whereas Lijnders’ time is largely spent planning and delivering training sessions, Krawietz’s area of expertise is video analysis. They complement each other well.

      “It’s about constantly giving each other information and working together,” Lijnders says.

      “It’s always easier with a good leader but still, life is a team sport. We support Jürgen in our best way possible. We know that we have to use each other’s strengths to be able to accomplish great things.

      “Pete is one of the world’s best analysts and knows Jürgen’s way very well. He puts his mark in each game’s preparation. He supports me and Jürgen with information to include in our exercises and searches for weakness to exploit. The best football analysts simplify instead of complicate.

      “There’s a culture of preparation and perfection here but with a lot of freedom. It’s a complex job being manager of such a big club. You need people around you and under you to focus on specific things. Jürgen tries to collect good ones, ones he can trust, he’s very strong on that.”

      Klopp doesn’t tolerate yes-men. He wants his viewpoint to be challenged. How much input do Lijnders and Krawietz have on team selection?

      “Jürgen makes the decisions,” he says firmly. “In the end he’s the one who decides but we try to support him with all the information we have and with all the opinions we have. Everyone is encouraged to say exactly what they think. You might not always agree with each other but it’s about always thinking together. Six eyes see more than two eyes. Three brains with a common idea can come up with different things and different insights compared to just one.

      “The best meeting of the week is always the day before a game when Jürgen, Peter and I are in the office and we go through the video analysis and the plan for the game. Always in this meeting there’s a moment when we have full conviction in what we’re going to do. We speak about team selection and tactics. It’s a beautiful moment.”

      Lijnders grew up in the small village of Broekhuizen in the Dutch province of Limburg. He was a promising central midfielder on the books at lower league outfit SVEB.

      “I was a leader, someone who tried to control and guide the team,” he says. “Would I have made it as a pro? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I always thought I would.”

      That dream was dashed by a ruptured cruciate ligament at the age of 17 and he reassessed his goals. He went to study sports in the city of Sittard and channelled all his efforts into earning a coaching apprenticeship at PSV Eindhoven.

      “There was only one available and I fought so hard to get it,” he recalls.

      “I became a youth coach there. After I got injured and couldn’t play anymore, my uncle, who was the president of SVEB, asked me to take the sessions for their second team and become head of their academy. I was only 18 or 19 but I was coaching at both SVEB and PSV, it was a super time.

      “Everything I learned at PSV I tried to implement at SVEB. My dad worked as a creative designer at a printers and I designed two big flipovers (flip charts) with our playing formation on and 15 different principles. One flipover for when we had the ball, one for when the opposition had the ball.

      “It was implemented so that all teams from the youngest to the oldest age groups trained and played in this way. It was brilliant. I tried to create a common idea inside the club based on an authentic Dutch ‘total football’ way — trying to be dominant and structured with and without the ball.

      “I grew as a coach during my five years at PSV. People really took care of me and guided me. They really wanted me to do well. In my second year I got a small contract, in my third year I got a full-time contract and in my fourth year I went to the United States to give presentations and work together with a few clubs.

      “Then I felt I was ready to work outside of Holland. I was 24 and in my last season the PSV academy was named the best one in the country. That was the moment to go.”

      Porto came calling.

      Having been heavily influenced by the coaching techniques of the great Johan Cruyff and former Feyenoord boss Wiel Coerver during his formative years, Lijnders found new sources of inspiration in Portugal.

      Not least in the methodology of Vitor Frade, who helped to revolutionise coaching by combining all phases of the game rather than having specific physical, tactical or technical training. With his tactical periodisation, Frade sought to ensure that the tactical dimension was at the forefront of every session.

      “Vitor Frade took me to Porto,” says Lijnders.

      “I had my own ideas. I admired Coerver and his attacking philosophy. That if you want to play an attacking game, each player needs an all-round technique and a spirit of initiative. That in each position we needed attacking impulses.

      “Of course there was Cruyff who taught the false No 9 and the three-diamond-three. I had all these ideas but without great structure.

      “Vitor Frade helped me to structure my ideas into principles. That if you want to play like this then on a Wednesday it’s better to train like this. I was an individual coach but he made me look at the collective. I’ll always be grateful that I met him. For me, he’s in the category of Cruyff and Coerver. He’s very important for a new generation of Portuguese coaches who came through with his ideas.”

      The names of the gifted youngsters Lijnders helped to develop during his seven years at Porto roll off the tongue. The impressive list includes Joao Felix, Ruben Neves, Andre Gomes, Andre Silva, Diogo Dalot and Goncalo Paciencia.

      “To explain the culture of Porto in one sentence; you go into the complex and written in big letters are the words ‘we love the ones who hate to lose’,” says Lijnders.

      “Between 2006 and 2011 there was a project there to restructure the first team, the academy and the scouting. I became responsible for the academy restructure with Luis Castro, who is now the manager of Shakhtar Donetsk. He’s a good friend of mine. Vitor Matos, who is working here at Liverpool now, was a young coach in that project.

      “I coached each Porto team two times a week, even the first team after a while in small groups. I was also responsible for the department of individual development.

      “It’s completely different in southern Europe compared to Holland and England. Where we are thoughtful before we say something, in southern Europe it’s more emotional. I enjoyed working there a lot. We were successful with the academy and the first team. We were five-time champions and won the Europa League. It was special to be part of that.”

      Lijnders grabs the water bottles and mobile phones on the table in front of us and starts rearranging them. Briefly, he’s transported back to the pristine green fields of the Iberian Peninsula.

      “We would have eight flat goals on the training pitch where you can shoot from both ways. I’d have 100 balls and 30 to 40 kids,” he explains.

      “We called it ‘Zidane’ and ‘Maradona’. ‘Zidane’ was under the highest pressure, find solutions, shield the ball. ‘Maradona’ was about getting the ball, trying to outplay and shoot. It was about showing initiative, playing in the opposition half.

      “It was a great time with a lot of talent and the young boys inspired me. It makes me really proud to see them play now. To see Joao Felix now, wow, how he turns, combines, how he makes the game so unpredictable…”

      By the summer of 2014 Lijnders was looking for a new challenge. He was on the brink of leaving Porto for Ajax when a phone call from then Liverpool academy coach Michael Beale changed everything. He was offered the job of Under-16s coach.

      “Liverpool kidnapped me!” he laughs.

      “I was in Wales for my UEFA A Licence. Over that weekend I had to give a presentation and while I was there Michael and I met to talk. He’d heard a lot about me.

      “On the Monday I was supposed to go to Ajax to make the final negotiations with them. I had to call my wife and tell her there had been a change of plan.

      “Michael said: ‘You’re coming in the car to Liverpool with us.’ I went to the Hope Street Hotel and I was in the Quarter (a nearby restaurant), drinking espresso and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day.

      “Why did I want to leave Porto? I wanted just one team to put into practice all I had learned over the years at PSV and Porto. When Liverpool said I could have the under-16s and under-15s, I thought ‘this is perfect’.”

      Lijnders had attracted interest from Manchester United the previous year but after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement those discussions had gone cold. United’s loss proved to be Liverpool’s gain.

      His impact at the club’s Kirkby academy over the course of the 2014-15 season was immense. The squad of youngsters he inherited included Trent Alexander-Arnold and Rhian Brewster.

      Alexander-Arnold, now arguably the most complete right-back in world football, told The Athletic earlier this season about the importance of the role played by Lijnders in his rise through the ranks.

      “Trent developed as a guy incredibly that season,” Lijnders says.

      “He was my captain and our No 6 with only three players behind him in a three-diamond-three so he had to do everything well. You have leaders by talking, but Trent was a leader very naturally.

      “After sessions, Trent and I would stay out there for another 20 minutes doing some skills until the lights went out. Trent would always be like ‘again, again’.

      “That was one of my favourite years of coaching. I must have said 50 times, ‘Guys, I thought you couldn’t play better than yesterday but today you proved me wrong again’. We trained for two hours each day and every session ended with three teams of seven. Goal on, goal off. The better you played, the more you played. With the streetwise Liverpool boys that was the way to push them.

      “I really believe that if you want to play quick then it starts in the mind and you have to train like the game. I do it a lot now with the first team. One team attacks, one team defends. They have 40 seconds to score, if they can’t then they’re out. If they score then they play against the third team who are waiting. You split the pitch in two and we call it the ‘wave’ game. If the team defending win the ball then they have to break the halfway line.

      “That’s how we want to play. We’re not defending our goal, we defend the halfway line first. And if you lose the ball it has to be intense with maximum concentration.”

      Lijnders was invited to Melwood by then boss Brendan Rodgers on a number of occasions to talk about his counter-pressing methods. He blew Rodgers away with his tactical insights and in the summer of 2015 he was promoted to the Northern Irishman’s backroom staff as first-team development coach. He became the key link between the club’s two bases in Kirkby and Melwood and relished being responsible for the ‘Talent Group’ which brought the best young players together from across a number of age groups.

      However, just four months later, uncertainty reigned after results nosedived and Rodgers was sacked. Fears that his own job was in jeopardy were swiftly alleviated by Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon.

      “When Brendan got fired I was really upset. I saw it on the news and called him straight away,” Lijnders recalls.

      “Twenty minutes later Mike Gordon called me. In your lifetime there are moments that you will never forget and that’s one of them; why people will always be very important to you.

      “Mike explained everything to me. He said: ‘Pep, you’re here, you will be part of the set-up with the new coach but I need you to help me.’ They needed a week to get everything organised and he wanted me to take the training by myself. I tried to keep Melwood alive and keep everyone going.

      “During their talks, Jürgen said to Mike: ‘Listen, this is the staff I want to work with, plus I’ll need a goalkeeper coach and a sports science guy.’ But Mike told him ‘Pep has to stay, I promise you’ll like him.’

      “This is a funny story that Mike later told me. Jürgen called him two months later and said: ‘Mike, you were completely wrong, you told me I’d like Pep.’ Mike was like ‘Oh, OK…’ Then Jürgen said: ‘I don’t like Pep, I love him!’”

      There was another moment early on in Klopp’s reign when Lijnders realised that his work was being appreciated by the new man at the helm.

      “Jürgen came to me with a letter that someone from Germany had written to him,” he reveals.

      “It had a CV with it from a coach who was looking for a job at Liverpool. It was written in English and Jürgen came to me and said ‘Pep, what is this? I don’t understand it.’ So I started to read it out and said ‘Gaffer, this guy wants to be on the training pitch with you doing sessions.’

      “Jürgen said: ‘Ah, so basically he wants your job?’ I said: ‘Yes, you could look at it like that!’ He took the letter, ripped it up, threw it in the bin and walked off without saying anything. That was when I thought ‘things are going well here’. It’s difficult to put a moment like that into words.

      “When Jürgen got announced, I had a good feeling. I thought it would work well but you can never be 100 per cent sure. For the first few months it felt like I was always writing, probably a page of A4 every day, with all the messages he had been giving to the players.

      “You need to know exactly what the manager wants. To coach is easy but to know what to coach is much more difficult. Jürgen had a way of coaching and exercises which were close to my own. It was so nice to find someone so good.”

      Lijnders walked away from a job, a club and a city he loved when he accepted the opportunity to become manager of NEC Nijmegen in January 2018. His mission was to get them promoted back to the Eredivisie.

      It was a decision based on professional ambition but also personal anguish. His dad Leo was battling cancer.

      “He was really ill and I’m the oldest child. I had felt guilty for a long time that I wasn’t at home to take care of him,” Lijnders reveals.

      “If that hadn’t been the case then I wouldn’t have left in that January. I would have at least finished the season before making any decision. It was a difficult time. I felt like I was leaving a really big chapter of being abroad behind. I felt that I’d go back home for a long time.

      “I was so blessed at Liverpool but there was a big desire to become a leader of a team and be more responsible for the coaching process — not just delivering it but planning and preparing. I had a big desire to step out of my comfort zone and be the main man.”

      Lijnders’ stint at NEC lasted just five months. Having finished third and missed out on automatic promotion, they lost in the play-offs to Emmen. Going from being a coach to a manager proved to be a steep learning curve.

      “I knew it would take time,” he adds. “I went to a very traditional, historic club, one of the bigger ones in Holland, who weren’t in a good moment and had a lot of problems.

      “As the manager, you have much more communication with the team and in the beginning that worked really well. I think one of my strengths is explaining things.

      “The problem then as the main man was to guide and manage expectations of the people around you when things don’t go well. When you have a few bad results, you have to keep everyone in the same direction and convince them that the way you are setting up is still the right way.

      “A lot of times with development, first there’s a period of instability because you ask players to do things that they aren’t used to. I asked a lot, that’s my nature. As a manager, you really need to learn with time, you need to learn from the mistakes that you make, you need to learn from the situations you have to deal with.

      “In the back of my mind, I was always thinking: ‘How would Jürgen approach this?’ That half a year was really important for me. I wouldn’t be able to support Jürgen in the way I do if I hadn’t had that short time away. I respected him a lot already but I respected him even more having been in that job and seen what comes at you.”

      Lijnders parted company with NEC by mutual consent in the middle of May 2018 and a fortnight later he accepted Klopp’s invitation to attend the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Kiev.

      The perceived wisdom is that his return to Melwood was sealed during discussions in the Ukrainian capital. However, the truth is that Lijnders had long since agreed to re-join Klopp’s staff.

      Klopp needed a new assistant after Zeljko Buvac’s surprise exit in the April and it wasn’t a long shortlist he had drawn up.

      “Jürgen called me really early,” Lijnders reveals.

      “It wasn’t after the season, it was in the season. He told me he was searching for a new No 2. He explained that he wasn’t making a list, he said ‘I’m just asking you.’

      “I never expected it. I answered ‘yes’ straightaway but I told him ‘Gaffer, I’m still competing to be the champion and if we don’t win the league, we have the play-offs so I need to focus on getting them back to the highest level.’

      “I also told him I’d need to speak with my wife Danielle. Her family lived seven miles away, we were living in our house on the river and the kids were all going to school with their friends and nephews, all the family together.

      “I was standing in front of the river talking to Jürgen and I had to walk back towards the house. Danielle was sitting outside with my mum having a glass of wine.

      “I said: ‘OK, we really need to talk.’ My mum could see it in my eyes. Danielle and I went for a long walk by the river and discussed everything. For me, it was clear, but it was really important for me that she was behind it. I couldn’t do this alone. I need my family around me.

      “I gave everything to get NEC promoted but it wasn’t to be. But whatever had happened, I’d already decided that I was coming back to Liverpool. Nobody knew though, only me and Jürgen. I didn’t want to create any fuss before Kiev. There are two big things in my life. My Liverpool family and my own family. That’s it, nothing else.”

      The day he signed the contract to become Liverpool’s assistant manager was especially poignant.

      “My dad got the test results back to say that he was completely clean. He had been sick for two years. There was a lot of emotion. Thankfully, he’s still good now. He lives in my hometown but he comes over for some games. He never stops watching football. He knows a lot, well he thinks he does! He’s become a big Liverpool fan.”

      The role Lijnders came back to was very different from the one he left behind. More demanding but also more rewarding as he was tasked with filling the void created by Buvac’s departure.

      “In Holland they said I was going back to my old job but that wasn’t true,” he says.

      “I became the No 2. If that hadn’t been the job Jürgen offered me then I wouldn’t have come back. He gave me responsibility for the training process and that was very important to me.

      “Before, I didn’t decide if we played eight minutes or six minutes, whether we did this exercise or that exercise, I just delivered sessions. When I came back I was responsible.

      “My time away from Liverpool was good for self-reflection. I became much clearer how I wanted to work and what is decisive to become successful. I know exactly what I would do differently now. No more concessions, we do it like I want in training, nothing else, convincing each day, create happiness in the players, a clear week plan and we play everywhere we go in the same manner, full energy.”

      What does a normal day in the life of Pep Lijnders look like?

      He says: “My alarm is my youngest one. My two boys are three-and-a-half and five-and-a-half. When they come into our bed, sleeping is done!

      “Early in the morning, I usually call Vitor Manos (elite development coach), I’ll text Jürgen and then come into Melwood. I have a meeting with Jürgen in his office to talk about training. What are we going to do? Who is delivering what and how is it going to look? Do we want to have Sadio (Mane) on the left wing or as the striker? Things like that.

      “When the training is planned, I explain what the ideas behind it are to Andreas (Kornmayer, head of fitness and conditioning), Pete, Vitor, John (Achterberg, goalkeeping coach) and Jack (Robinson, assistant goalkeeping coach).

      “Then I go out and put everything on the pitch. Normally Jürgen has a meeting with the players either in the dressing room or outside to give some details about the sessions. We train always in the same intensity as the game, same concentration and tempo. This is the secret of training in my opinion.

      “Everything is designed around the training. The day basically starts when the training ends. I’ll watch the session back on the video and try to get as many opinions as possible from the people around me. Then the planning starts for the next session. We make decisions about how tomorrow will look. What do we want to do? What players will we have?

      “I have to speak with the medical department and try to plan the session in more detail and I’ll put it in the tactics planner and work everything out in terms of how it relates to our next opponent. Pete will also give input. Then the plan is clear for the next day and I’ll go home. In the evening when the kids have gone to bed I’ll watch footage of our opponents.”

      During Lijnders’ time as assistant manager, Liverpool have collected an extraordinary 155 points out of a possible 174. They have gone to the next level since winning the Champions League in Madrid last June and find themselves 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League as they close in on a first domestic title since 1990.

      “Winning something big puts more conviction, more trust into everything; subconsciously you feel stronger. There’s a real hunger to fight for more prizes,” he says.

      “But for me it’s about the journey and how the team developed. The trust I got from keeping things simple, never giving up on our way, believing in training and video meetings to improve, clear messages with a lot of conviction from Jürgen, Pete or myself, repeating that process over and over again.

      “Trusting the players to always look at our best games and think about what steps won us those games. Was it our full-backs being constantly ready to jump? Was it the centre-backs coming in front of offensive players rather than stepping back? Was it our midfielders being really together and always connected rather than just searching for it? It’s about doing it our way again, becoming better and searching for perfection. We know it doesn’t exist but you still have to search for it.

      “People say Liverpool developed so much here and there but I think our main strength is that we’re always together. By that I mean on the pitch, the distances, the organisation, the way we are. That’s the only way to be an aggressive, pressing team. If the distances and the organisation are not right then you have no chance.

      “That’s where we’ve made the biggest improvement. Wherever the game is on the pitch, we are there together. A compact team, an intense team, both on and off the ball. Jürgen talks about the principle that everyone is responsible for everything. It’s easy to say, it’s harder to put it into practice on the pitch for 95 minutes but that’s what these players have been doing a lot. If we recover well and have freshness in our game, we go into every game with a common idea of chasing them all over the pitch.

      “Each individual in our team has become a better player from working here. If you compare (Andy) Robertson, Trent and Sadio to when they came in, consistency-wise… I could go on. Jürgen has created a culture of preparation. Each department in the club feels this responsibility and is better connected. It’s clear what we want and the standards have gone up and up and up.”

      The style of the team has certainly evolved. Game-management has been a feature of this record-breaking season which has seen Liverpool drop just two points. They put themselves in winning positions and then play with real maturity and control.

      “That has to grow within a team, you can’t just put it there,” Lijnders says.

      “Even if we’re 3-0 up we want to be dominant. We still search for the 4-0 but the way we do that can be different from how we searched to make it 1-0 or 2-0. We can make more passes, we can switch the play more from one side to the other, we can create more doubt for the opponents with our positioning. But we are still searching for the 4-0.

      “When you become European champions, when you become more dominant on the ball, you don’t rely as much on defensive organisation and counter-attack which is a very attractive part of our game. We’ve become better on the ball as teams have set up differently against us. I’d say 75 per cent of teams in the Premier League, even the bigger teams, changed their system or approach to play against us this season – lines much closer together, dropping deeper.

      “Can we then expect to have attack, attack, attack? No, we can’t. We have to respect that and find a new way against them. It’s why our variety of creating and scoring is so important. It pushes us to evolve again. What I like about our game is that we have so many different weapons and that makes us unpredictable. It’s not about playing it from A to B to C to D. That’s not the game we want. Even our defensive principles aren’t like that. That makes us very difficult to read.

      “Teams can’t just drop deep against us and try to stop us playing through them because Trent and Robbo will get down the wings and then you’ve got the centre-backs bringing it forward and creating space. There’s a lot of freedom because we focus on principles rather than exact plays. We know that if all this is present then the mentality of Jürgen and the boys will put us above the other team. But all this has to be right (Lijnders bangs the desk).

      “You can have a lot of passion but if there’s no structure then you have no chance. You need organisation, tactical discipline and the right distances. That’s the base – that’s the father and mother of football and being a consistent team.”

      Lijnders’ stock has risen to the point that he’s been mentioned as a potential successor to Klopp one day. But such talk is far from his thoughts. He’s too busy savouring every second of the here and now.

      “It makes me proud but it’s not realistic because it’s not important at this moment in time,” he adds.

      “My only ambition is to support Jürgen and our project in the best way possible. Mike Gordon and Jürgen have been the most important people in my career. They gave me the chance and the belief to lead the process of training and methodology with the first team.

      “This is my life. I feel passionate about this club and I feel blessed to work with passionate colleagues. I feel that what we have here in this period we will never experience again in our lives.

      “So many things have come together with the owners, the manager, people behind the manager who in hard moments never give up, and a playing group who are so together and really want to play for Liverpool and for us as a staff. In the end I really hope that we get what the boys deserve.

      “I believe each football project is like the sun rising up and going down, and for our project it’s not even noon. That’s the reason why we committed for another four years.”

      Like the team he has helped to shape, Pep Lijnders is relentless.

      The Athletic
      What a fantastic read. Took me some time that but found Pep’s insights very interesting. He seems to compliment Jürgen really well and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have improved since he has come in - 155 points out of 174 since he came back as assistant manager.
      billythered
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 6,653 posts | 2204 
      • From Doubters to Believers
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #39: Jan 15, 2020 11:50:08 am
      What a fantastic read. Took me some time that but found Pep’s insights very interesting. He seems to compliment Jürgen really well and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have improved since he has come in - 155 points out of 174 since he came back as assistant manager.




      Brilliant isn't it mate ?

      Love this kind of information, I'd be sending this to other forums such as Bluemoon, Redcafe etc, just to give them something to think about, and a reminder that their nemesis isn't going anywhere and WILL be around for a very long time...stopping you from adding titles & silverware....good luck ! !



      YNWA
      waltonl4
      • LFC Reds Subscriber
      • ******
      • 28,104 posts | 4207 
      Re: Writing about Liverpool Football Club
      Reply #40: Jan 15, 2020 10:00:31 pm
      just been watching Ian Callaghan recall 77 one of the best moments of my life. There are so many similarities now 43 years on.
      Sir Bob no nonsense genius very similar to Jürgen he knows football and he knows how people tick. Full backs scoring and creating Phil Neal 43 years ago was a wing back before the term was even invented. Hardwork everyone pulling the same direction creates success it all seems s o simple doesn't it. People write about Liverpool as if they had reinvented the wheel when the secret has always been there since Shanks turned up in 1959 its just a mystery it took so long to realise it

      Quick Reply