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The Athletic - LFC related articles

Discussion in 'The Football Forum' started by Hass, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    "Sometimes he would watch the birds at the side of the pitch.”
    Fabinho (27 appearances)
    By Elio Sizenando, his coach at Paulinia FC in Sao Paulo, Brazil

    There are two clubs in Campinas, Ponte Preta and Guarani, but no one was training the younger kids. This is the Sao Paulo region, where everyone is obsessed with football. Yet there was no structure behind that obsession.
    We brought together a few coaches for a new project in Paulinia, thinking that we could improve the level of youth coaching in the area. We started watching youth tournaments in Campinas – futsal, seven-a-side – and selected 60 kids aged 12 and 13. That was when I saw Fabinho. He was born in 1993, but we brought him in with the 1992 intake.
    I wasn’t Fabinho’s coach at first, but I watched him play every week. He was very good technically and carried out his role well. I started training him directly in 2006, when he was in the under-13s. I was with him at under-14 level, and again when he was 17.
    Fabinho top row, second from left
    At 16, he hardly played at all because he was a late developer. We were runners-up in the Campeonato Paulista, but he didn’t appear in a single game. He had always been a starter until that point. Always. I didn’t understand it, but that was the coach’s decision. I don’t think he was very happy about it. But he knew that he was a year younger than the other boys and that he’d get his chance the following year.
    When he turned 17, he had his growth spurt and started to really stand out. That was when the scouts started to pay attention to him. It was a drastic change from one year to the next. He was one of my key players for the under-17 side in the first part of that season. I was under-20 coach that season as well, and it wasn’t long before I moved him up. He was playing in that team at 17 – three years early.
    He was always a right-back in the lower age groups but I started using him in different positions: as a defensive midfielder, as a centre-back, as a left-back. It was born of necessity, but he was a very intelligent kid and really understood the game. He absorbed everything that we taught him. He played mostly in midfield at under-20 level, either just in front of the back four or a bit further forward. But it was as a right-back that he caught the eye at the Copa Sao Paulo in 2011. He was mature and confident and he pushed the team forward. He could put his foot on the ball and pick out a diagonal pass and he could shoot from range. I even let him take the free kicks because he struck the ball so well. Everyone fell in love with him at that tournament. That was when he introduced himself to the world.
    He was always intelligent, but at 13 or 14 he didn’t have the same focus that he has today. Fabinho didn’t arrive at the project thinking he was going to be a football star. He was there to have a kick-around and to enjoy himself. He was a real joker, a cheeky kid who liked to mess around. On the pitch, he could be quite distracted. I always told my assistant, “Keep an eye on Fabinho”. He would fall asleep and we’d concede a goal from an attack down his flank. Sometimes he would watch the birds at the side of the pitch. We would laugh and say, “Stop staring at the birds, Fabinho!” You had to keep grabbing his attention. But at 16 or 17, he started to mature. That’s when he started to get that level of concentration.
    He was a quiet kid, softly-spoken around adults. Fabinho wasn’t the kind of boy who would demand everyone’s attention; he was more modest. But he was a good talker, a good communicator among his peers, and very popular.
    I always compared him to Maicon, who was doing really well for the Brazil national team at the time. He was a good decision-maker, was good in the air and struck the ball well. He was starting to get really strong. He could switch the play bloody well, and he was a good crosser. I would demand a lot from him: “You need to improve this, improve that.” I really bugged him, challenging him to get better. That’s why we have such a strong friendship, and why he speaks so fondly of me today. I really saw his potential at 17 and wanted to stretch him.
    I spoke to him the other day. I asked him about his injury when he’d be back playing. We mostly talk when he’s back in Brazil; he invites me to his house for dinner and we have a good chat.
    I’ve been a coach for nearly 15 years. You always hope one of your kids can make it, but you know that it’s tough. He’s not someone who loves the spotlight. He doesn’t have tattoos and he doesn’t wear jewellery. He has a plain car. He just wants to play football. That’s what he likes. In Brazil, we lose a lot of talent because kids don’t know how to deal with the fame and the money. Fabinho came from a modest background. His dad was a pastor, and he came from Dique, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of town. We had a lot of kids who got lifts to training from their parents, but Fabinho always arrived by bus. The respect he has for his mum and dad is obvious. It’s lovely to see.

    “He was cold-blooded and had a serenity about him.”
    Alisson (27 appearances)
    By Daniel Pavan, his goalkeeping coach at Internacional in Porto Alegre, Brazil

    I first met Alisson when he was very small. This was before he joined Internacional’s youth set-up. He would come to training to accompany his older brother Muriel. That was when he first started to really pay attention to football and the position of goalkeeper. His brother was his great inspiration.
    Even from a young age, his technique was above average. But what really caught the eye was how quick a learner he was: he was able to assimilate everything he was taught. He was a good kid, with a marvellous family structure around him.
    He was always a calm, cold-blooded goalkeeper. Even in tough moments, he had this serenity that allowed him to resolve situations in the quickest and best way possible. He had a very strong personality, even as a boy. He was able to marry technical qualities with coolness under pressure. The ability with the ball at his feet is the thing that has improved most during his time playing in Europe.
    I remember that he almost stopped playing at 13. He had built up all the skills and foundations you need, but biology hadn’t kept up: for his age, he had not matured physically. That often meant that other goalkeepers – who were technically inferior, but bigger – were picked ahead of him. Size can make a difference at that age. He was quite disillusioned, and his parents thought about taking him away from football. But I spoke with them and was able to convince them that he should keep training and that he could yet have a bright future as a goalkeeper.
    Alisson (far left) with Pavan (looking at the camera). Far right is former Brazil goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel
    I speak with him whenever possible. We exchange messages on WhatsApp, and there is also a group with him, Muriel, Dida, and the goalkeepers who are currently at Inter. We’re always in contact. Alisson will always be an example to youngsters at this club, as a goalkeeper but also as a person. He really deserves it all, and he is capable of winning a lot more yet. He is aware that everything he achieves brings us great happiness.

    “He was flat-footed so we helped him change the way he ran.”
    Joe Gomez (26 appearances)
    By Peter Lodge, his coach at Lewisham Youth FC, London

    I’d worked with Kasey Palmer from the age of around five and Joe was one of his best friends. One day Joe came along with him to Charlton Athletic’s development centre in Lewisham. He had just turned eight. I looked after the under-7s and under-8s for Charlton and ran Lewisham Youth as secretary and coach.
    Kasey, who is now at Bristol City, was an exceptional talent. He stood out more because he was so good technically. Joe had potential but he was a slow-burner, a late developer. He always wanted the ball. He was full of passion and desire. He didn’t like people getting past him.
    We used to train in an indoor sports hall. Joe used to run on his heels and you could always hear him flapping around! It sounds harsh but he was flat-footed. The coaches who came into assist me could see the problem too as they stood and listened.
    We decided not to sign Joe to Charlton at under-9s. We decided it would be better for him to spend the following season playing for Lewisham Youth instead.
    It was a very talented squad and we feared that if we put Joe in at that stage he would have got lost in the system. He wouldn’t have got much game time. The decision was taken to develop him away from the glare of academy football.
    He was always a strong kid but athletically he couldn’t get around the pitch quickly enough. We worked hard with Joe on his speed and agility and making changes to how he ran.
    Joe was such a great kid. He embraced it 100 per cent. He trusted me. He was like a sponge taking advice and information on board. He knew he had a big challenge in front of him but he was fully committed to it. He always wanted to get more out of himself.
    We never had an ounce of trouble from Joe. He was so dedicated. He was never distracted by anything outside of football. His dad Gus was a massive influence and a great role model with tremendous family values.
    Some kids are better receiving the ball with their back to goal. But Joe always preferred having the game in front of him. That’s why right from a very young age he looked likely to be a defender.
    After a season playing for Lewisham Youth we felt he was ready to take the next step and he joined Charlton under-10s. Talented midfielders and forwards tend to stand out more. As a young defender it’s more difficult to grab the limelight. But Joe got better and better and by the time he was 17 he was playing for Charlton’s first team.
    I’m still involved at Lewisham Youth in the background and I’m back working at Charlton’s academy. I always mention Joe’s rise to the kids.
    I’m still in touch with him. The year before last we brought a group up to do the stadium tour at Anfield. I got my picture taken in front of Joe’s shirt in the dressing room.
    I sent him the photo and joked that I was going to nick the shirt. He sent me one back saying, “Don’t do that, I’ll send you one!” I left it where it was!

    “I played against him in training because it was too easy against the other kids.”
    Divock Origi (26 appearances)
    By Michel Ribeiro, technical director at Genk, Belgium

    I first worked with Divock when he was nine years old. He had started out at a junior club called Zwaluw Diepenbeek and then moved on to Park Houthalen, close to Genk, which is where we scouted him.
    The first thing that struck me was how tall he was for his age but he was also very comfortable with the ball at his feet. He had great technical ability. It was clear that he had a really good base for us to work with and develop.
    Divock was always a hard-working, friendly and humble kid. As a coach you couldn’t ask for any more from him. He never caused a problem for anyone.
    It helped that he had his dad Mike, who played for Genk, to guide him away from the training ground. There were never any occasions when Divock stepped out of line. He was always so committed to making it as a professional.
    At Genk, we always play young players in a number of different positions rather than pinning them down to just one. It was clear early on that Divock would be an attacker so we never played him at the back. He had such good feet. He led the line as a No 9, he played out on the wing and he played centrally a bit deeper sometimes.
    I think that stood him in good stead because at Liverpool and for Belgium he has been used out on the left at times.
    As the technical coach, I used to give Divock a lot of homework. I wanted him to work on his mobility. When kids are tall like that you need to ensure that they don’t just rely on how big they are. You have to work on their technique and their movement.
    When he started having it too easy in the one-v-one at the age of 12 or 13, I made things a bit harder for him. I put myself as the defender and used my body to make things more difficult. It was about working with him to try to ensure he had the full package and not just relying on the physical side. We would work a lot on his quick turns and the need to have fast feet.
    By the age of 12 we were playing him a year above his age group. That wasn’t just because of his size, he deserved it. He was too good to stay in his own group. We needed to challenge him more. At the age of 14 he was playing two years above in the under-16s. He wouldn’t always play the whole game, we would carefully manage his minutes. We didn’t move too fast with him.
    We played in a youth tournament against Schalke and a number of English teams, including Liverpool, and Divock played so well. We tried to do everything we could to keep him. But by the age of 15 he had attracted interest from a lot of clubs in England, Spain and France. In the end he and his family made the decision to move to Lille.
    When a young player is in such demand like that they can start acting like a superstar. But Divock was never like that. He didn’t change. We lost him in one sense but the relationship remained strong. We parted on good terms. There were no bad words exchanged.
    We still keep in contact and when I talk with him on the phone it’s clear that Divock still hasn’t changed.

  2. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    “Other teams complained he shouldn’t be allowed to play.”
    James Milner (20 appearances)
    By Jim Ryan, his coach at Westbrook Juniors, Leeds

    I was a school teacher but I was also coaching a team called Westbrook Juniors in Horsforth, Leeds. We had an under-12s team and I remember this little lad being brought along by his mum. He was two years younger than all the other lads and he looked far too frail and fragile to be playing with the bigger boys. I was concerned he would get hurt.
    But we let him join in and he really could handle himself. He could hold his own. He was very gifted, very fast, great coordination and, although he was small, he was quite strong physically. He could evade tackles and, even if he went down, got straight back up again. He always wanted to be involved in every aspect of the game and — this won’t surprise you — he would be up and down, up and down, covering the whole pitch.
    Even playing among boys who were two years older, he stood out. It ended up with some of the other teams’ managers complaining to the league secretary that James was too young and shouldn’t be allowed to play. I think what really bothered them was that he was such a good player. The league didn’t enforce that, fortunately. We won the league that year and he was the difference. I remember saying, “Mark my words. That lad will play for England.” It was slightly tongue-in-cheek at the time, but I think we all knew he was very very gifted.
    Milner (bottom row, with the ball)
    But that was the only year he played for us because the following season his dad informed us that he was going to be joining Leeds United’s academy. I remember his dad telling me there was only one other player in his age group who was as good as James — and that was a lad called Rooney at Everton. And by the age of 16, James was playing in the Premier League for Leeds.
    I think James is the perfect example for young players. He’s not into flash things or drinking or nightlife. You hear of players who play a few games and they think they’ve made it. James has always kept focused. I know he has this reputation for being boring or whatever, but I think that’s something he has cultivated. He has got a great sense of humour.
    It’s been great to watch him progress, playing for England, playing for Liverpool, but I can’t take any credit for it at all. I added nothing to his game. I was just privileged to see him develop.

    “I used to say to him, ‘If you want to be like Deco, you have to be braver’.”
    Naby Keita (16 appearances)
    By Alya Soumah, his coach at FC Alya de Dixinn, Guinea

    Every morning I would cycle to Naby’s house just before seven and ask his mum’s permission to take him to training. He would sit on the back of my bike and off we went to the stadium, three or four kilometres away. He was eight years old.
    There wasn’t a president of the club. We didn’t have much equipment so I had to buy everything, balls, cones, the lot. I sometimes asked the children to see if their parents could lend the team some money.
    Naby’s family couldn’t afford much either. His mum used to sell a dish called akyeke, made from grated cassava, usually served with fried fish and ground pepper, to feed the family. He sometimes ate at mine but his mum didn’t want him to live with us.
    I took Naby under my wing. I bought his kit. He was like a son to me. The other players used to say that I loved him more than everyone else but they didn’t know all that I was doing for Naby.
    Keita, second boy from left in the back row
    He scored some incredible goals. With his small stature, he could go round one, two, three players, even past the goalkeeper. We nicknamed him “Deco” after the Barcelona player.
    If someone hurt him though he would start crying straight away. He didn’t like contact that much. I used to say to him, “If you want to be like Deco, you have to be braver. Football is difficult.” I told him that it would be a real shame if he didn’t use his talent. He said he wasn’t going to give up, professional football was his dream. He would do anything for football.
    I still speak to him often, once or twice a month. He has bought me a television and a motorbike and a car. I’m always there for him, like a father. I give him some advice. I tell him he can be like Lionel Messi.

    “He had a low centre of gravity and great balance.”
    Adam Lallana (15 appearances)
    By Terry Wateridge, his coach at Bournemouth

    We used to run community football sessions on Monday evenings and I remember Adam coming along at a very, very young age — no more than five or six years old. He was desperate to play with the older lads even then. He was a really bubbly young lad, really full of it. He just wanted to play football all the time. That was difficult at first because he was so young and he was very small at that age but he joined in and his enthusiasm was limitless.
    He had a real natural talent and was always going to be a good player. Even though he was so young, you could just tell. And because he was so small, he had a very low centre of gravity and great balance. He was two-footed and he would move very, very quickly with the ball.
    We had some very good players at the time, but Adam was the one who really stood out, which is how eventually Southampton ended up taking him from us. He was a player we really didn’t want to lose. It was a shame, but Bournemouth managed to get a very good sell-on clause which eventually they did very well out of when he moved on to Liverpool.
    He has had his share of injuries over the last few years, but he has done very well for himself, getting into the England squad when he was at Southampton, getting the move to Liverpool and doing well there. It’s nice, as a coach, to see someone do well like that and think that you’ve played a small part in helping to get there.

    “He was a right winger until he made the sacrifice to become a keeper.”
    Adrian (11 appearances)
    By Javier Lozano, his sports teacher at Colegio Altair in Seville, Spain

    Adrian is a goalkeeper now but he used to play as a right winger. He was fast and would time his runs into the opposition box well, so he would score in nearly every game. He also provided good cover to his full-back. He was a great team-mate to the others, very supportive.
    He changed position aged 11 or 12. We had three goalkeepers at the start of the season, so he was still flying down the wing and scoring goals. But one of our goalkeepers had an operation on both legs, the second moved to Seville with his parents, and the third picked up an injury. So I gathered all of the players and asked for some volunteers to go in goal. Adrian raised his hand immediately. He said, “Mister, I’ll sacrifice myself for the group.”
    He was a kind, happy kid. He had a mischievous streak, like quite a few of the boys. But he was also a good student and responsible at home. Aged seven, he studied at another school but lots of his friends were at Altair and they played in a football team together. At a barbecue, he was convinced by his friends to enrol at Altair, a college in the south-east of Seville close to the ring road.
    Adrian in his goalkeeper’s kit with his youth team
    He was a very determined boy with perseverance, so I was always sure he would go far and have a long football career. Have I continued to follow his progress? I have seen almost every game he has played since he moved to Real Betis as a youngster, including matches for West Ham and now for Liverpool.
    We have remained very close. There is a WhatsApp group with most of his team-mates from that time, and they added me to it. We still meet several times a year – the parents and their children – for a big meal. And Adrian brings me a new football jersey every time we meet up.

    “His dad sat in the car in the dark with the headlights on so Dejan could train.”
    Dejan Lovren (10 appearances)
    By Sanjin Lucijanic, his coach at NK Karlovac, Croatia

    I was in my mid-twenties, fresh from the coaching academy, when I first came in contact with a 10-year-old Dejan Lovren. His family had moved to Karlovac from Germany.

    I don’t want to come across as falsely modest. But I can’t really claim any of the credit for developing Dejan into the player he is now. I think he would have made it just as well with any other youth coach because of his extraordinary talent and, even more so, his attitude.

    Of course, I did my best to nurture his skills in NK Karlovac’s “mladi pioniri” (under-12s) youth category, but to go any further than that in my claims would be distasteful. I’ve never seen a kid so eager, so determined to succeed. His work ethic was remarkable and he was absolutely dedicated to becoming a top professional footballer. And by that, I don’t mean he thought he’d make it to Dinamo Zagreb — even then he looked beyond that and had his mind set at playing for one of the biggest clubs in Europe one day.

    His skills easily topped those possessed by kids who were two years his senior. We continued to work together at “stariji pioniri” (under-14s), so I had the privilege of coaching him for three or four years. If you look hard enough, you can still find my quotes from back then when I said Lovren was going to make it to the very top. We were all sure of it — sure of him, above all.

    Some say Lovren was a shy and withdrawn boy who spoke better German than he did Croatian. If you also consider the fact that he came from a Bosnian refugee family, he might think he would have struggled to fit in. But I never got that impression. He was a normal kid and I don’t remember him having any real social problems. His family had been through war horrors and hardships, but I believe they were well accepted in Karlovac. Dejan was completely focused on football and the only problem he had was other kids and their parents sometimes complaining because of him jumping age groups. But they stopped when they saw how good he was.

    Lovren’s father Sasa had coached Dejan while they were still in Munich. His dad’s support was invaluable. I had Dejan do some additional individual training; the two of us worked on some technical aspects of his game and he didn’t want to stop even after it got dark outside. So his dad would come, park his car by the side of the pitch and turn the headlights on so that Dejan could continue.

    At the time, our approach at the club was to rotate kids in various positions so that they learned the requirements and specifics of different roles. Dejan played all over the pitch as well, although he had already been cast as a defender when he came to us. I often used him as defensive midfielder though, because he had such a good understanding of the game and would dominate in that role.

    He played defensive midfielder in one game against Dinamo Zagreb when he was two years younger than most other players. We won that game 3-0 and he was the best player on the pitch by some distance. After that, we knew we couldn’t keep him for much longer. I got calls from Dinamo that very day already, they wanted his family to move to Zagreb so that he could play for them.

    (Additional reporting: Aleksandar Holiga)

    “He scored effortlessly from kick-off.”
    Joel Matip (9 appearances)
    By Thomas Vossing, his coach at SC Weitmar in Bochum, Germany

    SC Weitmar were a well-established club in southwest Bochum but our youth football set-up was a little basic in the mid-90s, to put it nicely. The kids were playing on a red clay pitch and there were no qualified coaches, it was all done by volunteers without any qualifications or particular plan. When they were looking for a coach for the kids, they asked the player’s from SC’s under-19 team whether anyone felt like teaching the youngsters how to play. I had said yes.
    Joel joined Weitmar’s under-6s aged four in 1995. His family lived nearby and still do today, one of his nephews plays for Weitmar now.
    At that age, many kids are easily distracted. They look at butterflies during the game or forget what it is they’re supposed to be doing. Joel — or Jimmy, as his nickname went — was totally different. He was physically more developed than the other kids but most importantly, he simply played football. You gave him the ball and he’d pass it back, straight and crisp. He had an intrinsic understanding what needed to be done.
    Matip, far left, at SC Weitmar
    I had never seen a kid who was so good at his age. He basically scored with every shot he took. But for someone so much better than anyone else on the pitch, he was the opposite of selfish: always tracking back, always looking out for a better-positioned team-mate. The classic Joel move was to win the ball in his own half, zip past three opponents and then put it on a plate for a team-mate. To say he made the difference for our team would be a crass understatement. With him on the pitch, we won 5-0 or 6-0. Without him, we lost 4-0.
    I remember the kids coming up with their own ploy for a while, they decided that he should score straight from the kick-off. He did, almost effortlessly. His shot was miles more powerful than anything you saw at this level.
    Joel was an extraordinary talent but no-one realised how far he would go when he left to Bochum’s biggest side, VfL, three years later. Weitmar has produced a few players that went on to become professionals. But he’s the first one to win the Champions League and the Premier League. We’re all incredibly proud of him.

    “He would only pass to those who had his understanding of the game.”
    Xherdan Shaqiri (7 appearances)
    By Michael Meier, his coach at junior club SV Augst, Switzerland

    The first thing that people from other countries often get wrong about Xherdan is the pronunciation of his surname. It is Schatschiri. All of the Kosovan Albanians in Switzerland say it that way, but it hasn’t travelled very well.
    He came from a big family. His father Isen arrived in Switzerland at the start of the 1980s while the rest of the family stayed at home in Kosovo. It was only later that Isen’s wife Fatmire joined them with the children, including Xherdan’s two brothers, Arianit and Erdin. They lived in a small apartment but when his sister, Medina, was born they moved into a farmhouse just outside Augst which had wood heating.
    When Xherdan was eight years old, he made football look easy. He was so far ahead of other players in terms of his speed and strength and he wasn’t afraid of trying new tricks. He wanted to try to be spectacular. Other boys would place their shots but Xherdan went for power and was able to reach the high corners of the goal. He was a match-winner.
    He understood the levels of his team-mates. He would only pass the ball to those who he shared an understanding with because he always wanted it back as quickly as possible. He was addicted to the possession of the football. He was so enthusiastic, it was impossible to ever stay angry with him for long if you ever thought he’d done something wrong.
    We won leagues and cups and Xherdan was the central player. It was no surprise when the club found out that Basel wanted to take him there. It was the nearest club and only a 20-minute drive away from Augst but Xherdan was reluctant to go at first because he liked being around his friends. There had already been much upheaval in his life and I don’t think he wanted to go through that process again. After a few training sessions at Basel, though, he had already met new friends.
    He has returned to the club a few times since becoming a professional footballer. He has always tried to help. He has a reputation that associates him with confidence but I always think of him as humble and considerate of other people’s feelings.
  3. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    I was spat on, I saw agony of the slip…but now poignancy of lifting trophy on 96
    By James Pearce Jul 23, 2020[​IMG] 98 [​IMG]
    Things have come full circle.
    October 27, 1990, Liverpool v Chelsea. Seat three, row 14 in the Main Stand, watching the champions of England triumph.
    July 22, 2020, Liverpool v Chelsea. Seat 194, row 60 in the Main Stand, watching the champions of England triumph.
    Thirty years ago, I was a 12-year-old on his first-ever trip to Anfield, gazing in wonder at the sights and sounds of the Kop and being lifted to my feet by the majestic brilliance of John Barnes, who created goals for Ian Rush and Steve Nicol as Kenny Dalglish’s side put the Londoners to the sword.
    The old First Division trophy was sitting proudly behind the glass and, with Liverpool setting the pace once again, the good times looked set to keep on rolling.
    Back then, you could wait around for the players in the old Main Stand car park. Rush was my hero and I got a photo with him while Bruce Grobbelaar, Steve Nicol, Glenn Hysen, Ronnie Rosenthal and David Burrows all signed their autographs in my programme. We stayed so long that I was able to buy a copy of the old pink Echo for 20 pence outside the Shankly Gates that had that afternoon’s match report in it.
    My only complaint on the journey home in my dad’s old rickety white van was that the scarf he had bought me had “18 times champions” on it. “That will be out of date soon,” I told him. It proved to be some wait.
    Three decades later, I was one of the lucky few allowed inside Anfield to witness Liverpool’s coronation on Wednesday night. It was a privilege. A moment in time that I will cherish forever.
    Once again, the Kop was captivating as Jordan Henderson embarked upon his trademark shuffle on the specially-built platform and thrust a gleaming piece of silverware into the night’s sky as the ticker-tape rained down and fireworks burst into colour.
    I’d imagined many different scenarios over the years involving Liverpool and the Premier League trophy. Seeing it lifted in late July in front of empty stands with the presentation party wearing face masks wasn’t among them.

    It was surreal but incredible. It was tinged with sadness and regret over the circumstances but those feelings were trumped by pride, elation and relief.
    Those who argue that the achievement of Jurgen Klopp’s side was somehow tainted or tarnished by the resumption of the season behind closed doors spectacularly miss the point. If anything, the hurdles thrown in their path only serve to magnify what they have done.
    The glory of 2020 certainly won’t ever be forgotten. Look at that table. Look at that gulf between Liverpool and the rest. It wasn’t even a race. It was effectively won long before the lockdown.
    “Prepare for a party when this bullshit virus is over,” was Klopp’s standout quote in the wake of the trophy lift. Supporters won’t need a second invitation.
    Liverpool fans have long since been accused of living in the past. Not any more. Having witnessed their side win the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the Premier League over the past 13 months, there’s no need for nostalgia. The here and now with Klopp at the helm is blissful enough.
    As players and staff came together on the field to sing the club’s iconic anthem late on Wednesday night, my mind wandered to the journey to get here.
    I’ve been a journalist in Liverpool for half of that 30-year drought. If I told you I always believed this night would arrive, I’d be lying.
    I first lived in the city as a student in the mid-to-late-1990s when Liverpool entertained but won precious little. Manchester United and Arsenal had usurped them as the dominant forces. I once sat on the Kop to witness three home defeats in the space of a week to Derby County, Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United. That run marked the end of the doomed concept of Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier acting as joint managers.
    I was there in Dortmund for the 2001 UEFA Cup final when Houllier completed a historic treble. It marked the time for Liverpool to take the next step domestically but Houllier squandered funds on sub-standard talents such as El Hadji Diouf 12 months later and they regressed.
    A new millennium brought new threats in the form of Roman Abramovich’s riches at Chelsea and then Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City.
    I was among the reporters in the trophy room at Anfield in February 2007 when chairman and lifelong fan David Moores handed over control to Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
    I was there to hear the Americans’ lies and false promises about “putting a spade in the ground within 60 days” to build a new stadium in Stanley Park and vowing not to put debt on the club.
    I was there when civil war engulfed Anfield and infighting in the boardroom contributed to the derailing of Rafa Benitez’s reign. The revered Spaniard delivered the Champions League and the FA Cup but he couldn’t follow it up with the Premier League title.
    I was there when the crippling financial crisis took hold in 2010 and an iconic club was taken to the brink of administration before the takeover by current owners Fenway Sports Group (then known as New England Sports Ventures).
    I was sat there listening in dismay when Roy Hodgson talked openly about the prospect of a relegation battle after a disastrous start to the 2010-11 season. I was there in the press room at Goodison when he described a wretched derby defeat to Everton as his side’s finest display of the season. Liverpool were only off the bottom of the table on goal difference.
    I was there when Dalglish returned to his throne and lifted the mood. I was at Wembley for the League Cup triumph of 2012 and the agony of losing the subsequent FA Cup final. I was there when Liverpool limped home eighth in the Premier League and a legend was relieved of his duties.
    Initially, I doubted whether Brendan Rodgers could seriously return Liverpool to the summit given his task of off-loading under-achieving high-earners and investing in young talent.
    Yet we were all carried along by the remarkable momentum generated by the magic of 2013-14 when Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were the most potent double act in Europe. That season ended up cutting deep as Steven Gerrard’s cruel slip against Chelsea proved so costly when Liverpool required seven points from their final three games to be crowned champions.
    I was woken up early the next morning by a phone call from Gerrard, his voice cracking with emotion as he explained that he needed to get away and would no longer be able to collect his Echo Sports Personality of the Year award at the planned ceremony in the city that evening. He was hurting. It was understandable. I was tongue-tied.
    When Suarez left for Barcelona, the Premier League title felt further away than ever. I was there at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke in May 2015 when Liverpool were thrashed 6-1 in Gerrard’s farewell game. It was a cowardly capitulation — the club’s biggest defeat since 1963.
    The torrent of abuse I received on social media that day included one tweet that merely stated: “Pearce, how can you continue after this? Your position is untenable.”
    A couple of months earlier, I’d been sat in the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul watching Liverpool get knocked out of the Europa League on penalties by Besiktas while getting spat on for 120 minutes by maniac supporters from the tier above. A laptop covered in Turkish saliva. Glory felt a long way off.
    When Klopp was appointed as Rodgers’ successor in 2015, the shift was seismic. That first performance at Anfield when he described himself as “the normal one” and vowed to turn “doubters into believers” was masterful. He secured a connection with the fanbase that has only grown stronger since. It’s been a tale of constant progression.
    Five years ago, achieving Champions League qualification was viewed as Liverpool’s major target. Through Klopp’s shrewd recruitment, expert man-management and tactical nous, they are looking down on the rest.

    How home-grown heroes Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, who missed out on the title themselves, would have loved being surrounded by quality like this. What a moment of poignancy it was for the Hillsborough families, with Liverpool lifting the trophy on 96 points.
    There is no better man than Henderson to end that barren run. No one epitomises the characteristics the club holds dear more than him. He’s selfless, fiercely committed; he’s a winner and a role model.
    I was sat next to a lake in Kuala Lumpur in 2015 getting eaten alive by mosquitos as he explained how much it meant to him to be captain.
    A year later, he was in a side room at Melwood baring his soul about how he didn’t feel like Klopp’s skipper due to a debilitating heel injury limiting his game time. He certainly feels like the captain now. He’s Liverpool’s talisman and inspiration.
    The Klopp years have been a joy to cover. Even amid the heartache of Basel and Kyiv, there was hope in abundance. Even amid the agony of 97 points not being enough last May, there was a real belief that Liverpool would come again.
    I think about the hand-holding in front of the Kop, the gritted teeth, the fist pumps, the broken glasses at Norwich, Sadio Mane riding on Klopp’s back at Arsenal, the fine incurred for hugging Alisson in the centre circle following Divock Origi’s dramatic late derby winner and the greatest fightback in Anfield history against Barcelona.
    The Champions League final triumph over Tottenham was what truly took Klopp’s Liverpool to the next level. It gave them a taste and they wanted more. They haven’t looked back since.
    The Champions Wall at Melwood is about to get upgraded. The 18 will become 19, with the artwork for the trophies changed to combine both the old First Division and the Premier League trophies.
    For some, the focus will swiftly shift to next season. What about reinforcements in the transfer market? Can Liverpool do it again? Will this be a golden era?
    Before all that, just take a step back. Think about the past 11 months. Study those iconic images from the night when Liverpool’s players and staff danced in the Kop.
    Forget about the future and live in the present. Soak it in. Savour every second.
    Thirty years ago, I thought that success for Liverpool was a formality. Winning the league was no big deal in 1990. Normal service had been resumed.
    In 2020, it’s huge. Two years ago, Manchester City looked destined to dominate English football for years to come. Klopp had other ideas. What a journey it’s been.
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  4. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Jordan Henderson: ‘I try to lead by example. Never give up. Always keep going’
    Oliver Kay Jul 24, 2020[​IMG] 56 [​IMG]
    There were times, not so long ago, when the criticism threatened to overwhelm Jordan Henderson.
    Self-belief made him a Premier League footballer at Sunderland at 18, an England international at 20 and a Liverpool player at 21, but then self-doubt set in.
    He was daunted by the size of the Anfield stage and the fierce intensity of the spotlight at a big club that was in the midst of a long and painful transition. Harsh words — whether from a team-mate, a supporter or a social-media troll — would get under his skin and into his head. It became a vicious circle. The more he struggled, the more he was criticised. The more he was criticised, the more he struggled.
    In the summer of 2012, Brendan Rodgers was ready to let him join Fulham in part-exchange for Clint Dempsey. Henderson cried when he was told that. He cried some more when he told his father and his agent that Liverpool wanted to move him on. And then he dug his heels in and said he was going to stay and fight for his place. Rodgers appreciated the sentiment. The kid had guts.
    Henderson survived. And then he thrived. And then he became captain when Steven Gerrard moved on. And then he survived another cull under Jurgen Klopp. And then he thrived some more. And he grew into the captain’s armband which, like the Liverpool shirt, had at first felt like such a burden. And he kept growing, developing into a leader of men, leading Liverpool to a Champions League final in 2018, to Champions League glory last year and now to the Premier League title.
    Oh, and now he has the Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Footballer of the Year award to add to his roll of honour.
    Inevitably, the announcement on Friday met with scorn on social media — not just because that’s what social media is like but because Henderson is an acquired taste. Rather than an obvious match-winner such as Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne or indeed Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, he is a cog in a title-winning machine. But without that cog, the machine simply wouldn’t work in the same way.
    Henderson’s stats are not outstanding. In 30 Premier League appearances this season (26 starts, four as a substitute) he has scored four goals and registered five assists. He completes 84.5 per cent of his passes, which is less than Georginio Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, Fabinho and James Milner, and he can’t match Fabinho when it comes to tackles, interceptions or defensive actions. Anyone judging him purely on the statistics would say he was much better under Rodgers in 2014-15, when he scored six league goals and registered nine assists.
    In a low-scoring sport like football, though, so much comes down to things that aren’t quantifiable. It comes down to mentality, attitude, resilience and belief. These traits, the ones that Liverpool lacked for so many years in pursuit of that long-elusive league title, are the ones that have underpinned their successes with Klopp in charge. And the player that epitomises that relentless spirit, more than any other, is Henderson.
    “His resilience made him the player he is now,” Klopp said on Friday. “The question for footballers is, ‘What makes you the player you are? Is it the talent? Or is the attitude?’ The answer is a mix. And Hendo is the perfect answer for that. Yes, other players played an exceptional season, 100 per cent, but if you want to have a guy that really fought his way through to the point where he is now and (what he) became, it is just absolutely deserved, one of the best players in the league.”
    On Friday, Henderson spoke on a Zoom call with a small group of journalists. He said it was an “incredible honour” to follow in the footsteps of names as diverse as Sir Stanley Matthews, Bobby Moore, George Best, Kevin Keegan, Thierry Henry, Gerrard, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raheem Sterling, but he went on to say that “it would be wrong to sit here and accept this award just for me personally, because I look at the team and what they have achieved over the past year and I think you could pick anyone in that dressing room who would deserve it. For me, it’s about receiving this on behalf of them because without them, this isn’t possible, and like I said, any of that dressing room could have received this, so to accept on behalf of the team means a lot to me personally.”
    To talk of accepting such an award “on behalf of the team” is an appealing sentiment. It is also a misplaced one. This is not a captain accepting an award on behalf of the team, as he did with the Premier League trophy at Anfield on Wednesday. It was an individual award in recognition of his performance and his contribution. The fact that he saw it differently seemed to speak volumes.
    The FWA award has never been “just” about rewarding the best player. The voting criteria state that it is about honouring someone who “by precept and example is considered by a ballot of members to be the footballer of the year”. That can be interpreted in so many different ways. It is a straightforward ballot — one member, one vote — and every member is entitled to vote with his or her own criteria in mind.
    It is safe to suggest that the “precept and example” clause helped sway a few votes Henderson’s way, given his involvement as the driving force behind the Players Together movement that saw Premier League players reach a collective agreement to donate a portion of their wages to support the NHS. De Bruyne, runner-up in the FWA ballot, was also prominent in those discussions. Marcus Rashford, who came third, was won widespread praise for his role in persuading the government to extend its commitment to issuing free school-meal vouchers to around 1.3 million underprivileged children in England during the summer holidays.
    “That has been a real positive over the last few months when we’ve been in a bad situation,” Henderson said of the Players Together initiative. “A lot of the captains and representatives have come together to do something good for the people who needed it the most. It’s something we’re all very proud of. It’s a huge thing for us. To put all the rivalry aside and do something for the greater good of the country. Come together and send a powerful message to everyone that we are all in together, we are all supporting each other, supporting those that need support through this tough time.”
    Will it continue? “I hope so,” he said. “It was was quite a lot of money. It was millions of pounds raised for the people that needed it most. But it wasn’t only the financial side. It’s also about the support and the emotional side towards the NHS staff and the volunteers. When I spoke to Ellie (Orton), who is the CEO of NHS Charities Together, she mentioned how much that had a huge impact on the mentality and psychological part of the NHS staff and what it meant to them. A lot of people in this country love football, so to see their heroes — no matter what club you’re at — come together to support them and what they are going through, I think that was the biggest thing and that really helped over the last few months, and if you speak to them, they will say the same thing.”
    At the same time, the case for Henderson goes far beyond his involvement in Players Together. “We had exceptional performances over the whole year,” Klopp said of his Liverpool team. “But Hendo’s package of leadership, attitude and consistency was really special this year. I’m really happy for him. I’m not happy with everything you (the media) write, but obviously, you have a similar view on things in a few departments at least. He would have been my choice as well this year.”
    The Athletic asked Henderson about leadership. It was supposed to be a lost art in English football; how many times over recent years have we heard managers and youth coaches decry the loss of leadership qualities and resilience among the younger generation of players? Henderson is not an old-fashioned English captain in the Tony Adams, Stuart Pearce or John Terry mould, but his leadership qualities are said to be integral to Liverpool’s success. How does he regard a captain’s role?
    “Well, it’s a huge responsibility,” the midfielder said. “I knew when I took on the role, when I first got it from Brendan, how big a role and responsibility it was. It’s such a huge club, it’s massive, but at the same time you’ve been given it for a reason. So for me, it was about doing everything I’d done up to that point, but also growing and improving, learning and becoming a better player, a better person to help my team-mates.
    “Everything I’ve done is to try and help them perform to the best of their ability and make an environment where they feel comfortable to express themselves, to perform at a high level. And I’ve got the responsibility as captain to continue to do that, whether that’s young players coming into the squad or players that were signed. The dressing room is a massive part — and it’s not only me. There’s so many leaders within the Liverpool dressing room that show that. It would be wrong to say it’s all down to me. It’s certainly not. It starts with the manager, and then we’ve got so many leaders in the group for the young players to follow. That’s so important in football.”
    James Milner, the vice-captain, says something similar about Henderson’s influence over the squad. “On the pitch, it’s like I’m the good cop and Hendo is the bad cop,” Milner said in his book, Ask A Footballer. “He’ll give people an earful — whether it’s his team-mates or the referee — whereas I’ll be a bit more encouraging. Off the pitch, our roles are reversed and I’m the bad cop. I’ll be moaning that things aren’t right and Hendo will be the one trying to compromise.
    “Being captain isn’t an easy job. I’m sure that for a manager, if you’ve got a good captain, like Hendo, it must be a huge benefit. The manager has enough to worry about. If he knows he can rely on the dressing room — that the team spirit is there, standards are high and the players are committed to doing the things he wants to put in place — then that’s a huge weight off his mind.”
    It is one thing to create a positive and highly professional environment at the training ground. It is another to show leadership on the pitch. That is where Henderson has excelled.
    Perhaps it is the mind playing tricks, but a personal opinion would be that Henderson’s contribution this season was at its greatest on those afternoons and evenings over the winter months when Liverpool’s mettle was being tested to the limit in the type of games — away to Tottenham Hotspur, at home to Manchester United, away to Wolverhampton Wanderers — where they fell narrowly short the previous year.
    How does Henderson regard his responsibility as captain on days like that? “I try and lead the team by example,” he said. “It’s not only through good times but tough times, when you’re really called upon to make sure the lads stay positive, give everything we can, no matter what stage the game may be at, whether you’re winning, losing or drawing, whether the momentum’s with us or not. It’s about always having the same mentality, to give absolutely everything until the referee blows that final whistle. And that’s something the gaffer has brought since we first came in: never to give up, always to keep going.
    “For me as a captain, it’s to make sure that mentality stays within the team and on the football pitch. Again, because we’ve got so many leaders, that’s a lot easier to do. But it will still be a challenge going forward. You’ve always got to improve, you’ve got to give everything. The minute that changes, it will be a very difficult situation.”
    That is the challenge for Liverpool.
    Frank Lampard made the point in fairly blunt terms on the touchline at Anfield on Wednesday night, pointing out to Klopp’s assistant Pep Lijnders that winning one Premier League title is not a cause to become arrogant. Lampard won three Premier League titles with Chelsea, but he also saw the other side of the equation, when belief and focus ebbed away during a title defence. Since Manchester United’s three consecutive Premier League titles between 2006-07 and 2008-09, only one team has successfully defended the Premier League title; Manchester City’s back-to-back successes in 2017-18 and 2018-19 have been followed this season by a familiar regression.
    How, as captain, does Henderson plan for Liverpool to buck that trend? “I’ve got full confidence in the dressing room that we can carry on this mentality,” he said. “We’ve proved that over the last year, two years. We just need to continue on that path, to give absolutely everything and continue to work hard and improve. If we do that, we’ll have more chances to be successful.”
    Friday brought confirmation — finally — that the 2020-21 Premier League season will start on September 12.
    After the three-month interruption to this season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be an unusually short off-season. There will be little time for Liverpool’s players to dwell on their success.
    “I’m ready now,” Henderson said, ignoring the small matter of a knee injury that has caused him to miss the final weeks of the season. “The day I woke up after lifting the trophy, it was about the next challenge. I’ve listened to people who have won in the past and they say it is hard to win the Premier League trophy once and even harder to retain it, so the challenge starts now.
    “It will be a huge challenge, but it’s the one that I and the team are ready for. I love what the gaffer (Klopp) said. He said we won’t defend the trophy, we will attack it. That is the perfect way for our football team. That is the mentality we have shown over the past year: Improve, give everything on the football pitch and in training. Give everything.”
    That is the mentality that has brought such an enormous improvement — individual and collective — since Klopp took over in October 2015. Coaching is one part of that, but so, too, crucially is a culture of self-improvement. As much as you can pick out the improvement in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s or Andy Robertson’s crossing, or Joe Gomez’s decision-making, or Fabinho’s familiarity with the speed and intensity of English football, the greatest change at Liverpool has been one of mentality. Individually, they feel like winners. Collectively, there have been times over the past two years when they have felt invincible.
    It is all a far cry from the somewhat dysfunctional Liverpool that Henderson walked into in the summer of 2011. He was one of many new signings who initially felt inhibited rather than inspired by wearing the red shirt. “You understand criticism is part and parcel of football,” he said. “But when you’re a young player, it’s harder to deal with when you are not used to it, especially at a big club like Liverpool where the expectation level can affect you. It’s about learning and dealing with it as best you can. I have found ways to deal with it through experience. Now I look more at criticism as fuel to drive me forward.”
    What about this sudden rush to venerate him? “I’m not really bothered if people want to praise us,” he said. “That’s not important to us. Criticism, praise, it’s not about that. The most important thing for me is the team, the players, the manager. They’re the most important people for me. I don’t do it to receive praise. I do it to improve. I do it to help my team become successful. And if I’m doing everything I can and everybody is doing everything they can to become more successful, then we’ll have a better chance of doing that.
    “First and foremost, you want to improve as a player. That’s all I’ve ever done since I was a kid. I’ve always tried to improve, I’ve always wanted to get better, and that will never stop. That’s just something I’ll always do until I finish playing football. That will never stop. Since I was at Liverpool, I feel I’ve grown. I’ve been so lucky to play with so many great players. Of course (in such circumstances), you’re going to grow and learn and get better. I’m so grateful to have played with so many great players and worked with great managers. I want to continue on that path and keep learning.
    “That’s a big part of life, really. You’re going to have setbacks, you’re going to have criticism, but it’s how you react to them situations. Use it as energy, use it as fuel to motivate you to come back stronger and improve. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do.”
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  5. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    ‘How can you thank someone who doesn’t know how important he was for you?’
    By James Pearce 3h ago[​IMG] 3 [​IMG]
    Adam Lallana wasn’t at St James’ Park as the curtain came down on a historic season for Liverpool with the champions finishing on a club-record haul of 99 points.
    The England international had already cleared out his locker and said his emotional goodbyes at Melwood ahead of completing a free transfer to Brighton & Hove Albion.
    Jurgen Klopp had gathered players and staff prior to Friday’s training session to pay a glowing tribute to a man who has served the club with distinction over the past six years. There was a warm embrace as the manager presented Lallana with a framed collage of images depicting the highlights of his time on Merseyside (below).
    Among the cherished mementos the 32-year-old took away with him was a special banner created by supporters’ group Spion Kop 1906 (below). It had been positioned on the Kop close to the stage where the Premier League trophy presentation took place in the iconic stand on Wednesday night.
    Lallana was informed it was a farewell gift from the fans and proudly packed it in his bag along with his Premier League winners’ medal, thanking the creators and telling them he would be “forever grateful”.
    Earlier that evening, Lallana had planted a kiss on the trophy and wept as he draped his arms around head of fitness and conditioning Andreas Kornmayer and masseur Paul Small for the stirring rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. More tears followed as he sat in his spot in the home dressing room for the final time and again at Melwood on Friday. “It’s never nice to say goodbye is it, really?” he told LFCTV.
    Not everyone gets a send-off like this. Fellow free agent Nathaniel Clyne saw out the final days of his contract in June training at the academy after spending his fifth and final season with Liverpool recovering from an ACL injury.
    But few have been as universally revered inside the club as Lallana, who agreed a short extension on heavily reduced terms for July after Klopp made it clear he wanted him to stick around for the title celebrations.
    Some on the outside looking in will question exactly what Liverpool are losing given that Lallana only started nine Premier League matches across his last three seasons at the club, scoring one league goal and providing one assist. He was hampered by injuries and slipped down the pecking order. He didn’t feature in the Champions League final win or the Super Cup one and only made a cameo in the final of the Club World Cup.
    But those stats don’t do justice to the contribution he has made both on and off the field for Klopp and the legacy he’s leaving behind.
    “How can you thank someone who doesn’t know how important he was for you? How can you explain to someone how crucial he was for the journey?” assistant boss Pep Lijnders tells The Athletic.
    “The importance with Adam lies in the standards he set, the team player he is, the smile I got in each spontaneous technical moment. I know that he will be very good next season. We will see and watch him with pride. He is, and stays, one of us. You need to change to improve they say. Let’s hope that’s the case.
    “If he’s himself from the first minute in training and in games, that will make the team already 15 per cent better because of his passion, commitment and drive to make the best out of each single moment. His technique, his overview, his will to attack — that’s where he is different than most other players in the Premier League. The capacity he has to find solutions in small spaces in combination with a heart of pressing.
    “These boys have so much desire and Adam has put oil on that fire each day. He gave everyone around him energy. That’s a characteristic that’s not easy to find but it’s one of the most important ones to have in a successful dressing room.
    “I’m going to miss him also because he did 50 per cent of the coaching! I wish him all the best. It was a joy and a privilege to work with him.”
    Lallana, who scored 22 times in 178 appearances for Liverpool, was conducting an interview with the written media in an upstairs meeting room at Melwood shortly before the Europa League final in May 2016 when Klopp appeared outside the balcony door, gesturing to be allowed in.
    “Ask him if he knows when Spurs start pre-season training?” Klopp joked, in a reference to the speculation at the time linking Lallana with a move to Tottenham.
    “I asked him and he said, ‘July 1’,” Klopp said, before descending into laughter.
    “I thought you were being serious,” Lallana replied.
    “Are you crazy!?” Klopp added before heading back out the door.
    It provided a snapshot of the warm relationship between Klopp and one of his most trusted senior players. There was no chance that Lallana was going anywhere.
    Klopp had ignited Lallana’s Anfield career after he initially struggled under the weight of expectation when Brendan Rodgers signed him from Southampton for £25 million in the summer of 2014. They were next-door neighbours in Formby before Lallana moved to Cheshire.
    Technically gifted and with a tireless work ethic, Lallana epitomised the energy, dedication and never-say-die spirit which Klopp demanded as he sought to transform the club’s fortunes.
    There was the dramatic late winner at Carrow Road which ended up with Lallana in Klopp’s arms and the manager’s glasses getting smashed in the pile-on that followed. The team’s mentality had changed.
    Liverpool's season in numbers
    Top scorerSalah19
    Most assistsAlexander-Arnold13
    Most minutesVan Dijk3,420
    Biggest winv Palace, Southampton, Leicester4-0
    Biggest defeatv Man City4-0
    Klopp will always feel indebted to the role Lallana played in leading Liverpool back into the Champions League in 2016-17. That was his best season for the club – no shortage of Cruyff turns but also plenty of end product with eight goals and seven assists in 31 league outings.
    Sadly, he was robbed of the chance to kick on. A troublesome thigh injury was followed by hamstring issues during 2017-18 and then groin problems last season. When he was fit, he wasn’t a regular starter any longer. Yet the manner in which he handled those agonising setbacks endeared him to team-mates and staff alike. He put personal heartache aside to pass on his wealth of experience.
    He remained a vocal presence in the dressing room — an energy giver rather than an energy taker. He was a pillar of support for captain Jordan Henderson, the best friend he frequently travelled to training with.
    Last summer, Klopp added another string to Lallana’s bow as he taught him the holding midfield role. Typically, Lallana embraced the challenge but he was always more effective shutting down space and operating in tight spaces in the attacking third.
    This season he stayed fit for the most part but just couldn’t force his way in. There was no disgrace in that. He was surrounded by world-class performers. Named in the match-day squad on 38 occasions before the lockdown, he started just eight times in all competitions.
    Still, he was able to make his mark. There was the late equaliser to salvage a point against Manchester United after coming off the bench at Old Trafford and the assist for Sadio Mane’s winner at home to Wolves.
    Just as valuable during his long goodbye this season has been the manner in which he has taken youngsters such as Neco Williams, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott under his wing. They all speak glowingly about the words of wisdom he has given them – from the work they do in the gym to how they lead their lives away from Melwood.
    “Adam is someone who has always put the club first,” says Klopp. “He is one of the most influential players on the training quality I’ve ever had in my life.”
    Lallana didn’t always win universal approval among the supporters but behind the scenes his value to Liverpool was never questioned.
    The time is, undoubtedly, right to move on. Brighton will give him the playing minutes he craves and he’s guaranteed the warmest of receptions when he returns to Anfield with them in the future.
    Some go out with a bang, others with a whimper. Despite not playing since the last pre-lockdown Premier League game, against Bournemouth, Lallana got the farewell his sterling service deserved.
    He won’t be around when pre-season begins on August 15. He will be missed, but the advice he provided to others and the standards he set on a daily basis will still form the bedrock of Klopp’s Liverpool.
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    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Liverpool’s season: Klopp’s Friends quote, weight lifted, who’s coming through?
    By James Pearce Jul 27, 2020[​IMG] 34 [​IMG]
    James Pearce relives Liverpool’s remarkable 2019-20 season that saw them lift the UEFA Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the Premier League trophy.
    A painful 30-year wait for domestic glory was ended in record-breaking fashion as Jurgen Klopp’s side blew their rivals away.

    Best goal they scored
    So many special ones to pick from. Curtis Jones’ stunning winner against Everton in the FA Cup, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s unstoppable free kicks, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with the outside of his right boot away to Genk and Mohamed Salah from a seemingly impossible angle in Salzburg.
    But the finest for me was a beautifully worked team goal that ripped Manchester City to shreds at Anfield back in November. It showcased the pace, the precision and the finishing quality in this team. Alexander-Arnold intelligently switched play to send Andy Robertson scampering away down the left flank. The Scottish full-back had a touch to control and then delivered a pin-point cross into the penalty box. Salah didn’t even need to break stride as he emphatically nodded past Claudio Bravo.
    Worst goal they conceded
    Anfield was rocking in March. Roberto Firmino had just ended his goal drought on home turf early in extra time to put Liverpool on the brink of a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the expense of Atletico Madrid. Then disaster struck. There was no sign of danger as Alexander-Arnold played the ball back to stand-in keeper Adrian. Inexplicably, the Spaniard decided to clear it first-time and scuffed the ball straight to Joao Felix. He teed up Marcos Llorente, whose low strike evaded Adrian and nestled in the bottom corner. Anfield was silenced and Liverpool wilted after that blunder. Hopes of retaining their European crown were dashed.
    Funniest moment
    It would have to be Pep Guardiola’s touchline tantrum at Anfield last November. “Twice!” he raged at fourth official Mike Dean, holding up two fingers after City had a second penalty appeal turned down. One of the memes of the season was born. Liverpool fans lapped it up. Guardiola had lost his rag and his team had lost their grip on the Premier League crown.
    Most interesting person I spoke to
    I was fortunate enough to have 45 minutes with Jurgen Klopp in his Melwood office back in November. Time like that is a real privilege. No cameras, just a voice recorder on the table in front of us as he sat down on the sofa with a large bowl of fruit and yogurt for his breakfast. I decided to focus the interview on the psychology of management, the environment he has created and how he gets the best out of both players and staff. The insight he provided about that side of the job was fascinating. He’s an inspirational figure. I loved writing it up.
    Moment you won’t forget
    This is an easy one. The torrent of emotion unleashed inside Anfield when Salah ran half the length of the field to beat David de Gea and wrap up victory over Manchester United in January. Until that point, nobody wanted to tempt fate. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. But as Salah whipped his shirt off and Alisson won the footrace with his team-mates to mob the goal scorer, the jubilant Kop delivered a booming rendition of “Now you’re gonna believe us, we’re gonna win the league”. It was spine-tingling. Liverpool were 16 points clear.

    Strangest quote
    “Maybe I’m a bit smarter than the Joey role, but my talk with girls was never as good as his. ‘How are you doin?’ It wasn’t so easy in my life.”
    Klopp revealing that he initially learned to speak English by watching the TV show Friends.
    Biggest controversy
    The main issues came off the field rather than on it. Liverpool tried and failed with a bid to trademark the city’s name, prompting an angry backlash. There was also fierce criticism in April when they took the decision to furlough around 200 staff during the COVID-19 lockdown. The reaction led to a swift U-turn. Liverpool had to condemn scenes at the Pier Head and outside Anfield as thousands of fans ignored pleas not to congregate as they celebrated the title triumph.
    Player who should get more credit than he does
    Georginio Wijnaldum. The Dutch midfielder has been absolutely key to what Liverpool have achieved this season. He’s a selfless team man. He links play intelligently, he shuts down space relentlessly and so much of his best work goes under the radar. His versatility is a huge asset. There aren’t many players who can say they have played centre-back away to Brighton and centre-forward away to Barcelona. He’s a class act.
    Biggest question answered this season
    There’s been a lot of discussion over the years about whether Liverpool’s great history can be a burden at times. Ending the title drought became not so much a target but an obsession. There’s no doubt that nerves and anxiety played a part in the minor wobble that saw the seven-point lead Klopp’s men enjoyed going into the new year last season disappear. Ludicrously, considering they ended up with 97 points, some labelled them “bottlers”. Such talk has been silenced emphatically. The drought is over. History isn’t a burden when you write your own glorious chapters. Liverpool are no longer the nearly men.
    Biggest question to answer next season
    Can Klopp ensure Liverpool maintain these blistering high standards without a show of force in the transfer market this summer? The impact of COVID-19 on revenues means it’s likely to be a relatively quiet window. Klopp has talked about promoting from within and handing more opportunities to youngsters like Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Neco Williams. Their rivals will gamble and splash the cash to a much greater degree to try to bridge the gap. Those who criticised Liverpool’s inactivity in the market a year ago were made to look foolish as they ran away with the title. The big question will be whether their stance is vindicated once again.
    Who can break through next season?
    I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Elliott. The teenage winger is such an exciting talent and he will certainly have a bigger role to play. There are also some gems coming through from the academy. Keep an eye out for Layton Stewart and Billy Koumetio. This might sound strange considering it will be his third season at Liverpool but I’m excited about the potential of Naby Keita. So far we’ve only seen flashes of his brilliance. His Anfield career has been so stop-start. If Keita stays fit, I expect him to light up the Premier League in 2020-21.
    Who needs to leave the club?
    Some loyal servants are moving on, with Dejan Lovren set to follow free agents Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne out of the exit door. There are likely to be a couple of other squad players off-loaded. Loris Karius needs to leave. His loan at Besiktas didn’t materialise into a permanent move but there’s no way back for him at Anfield. Xherdan Shaqiri is also expected to pursue a new challenge if a suitable offer is tabled. The Swiss attacker only made three starts in all competitions during an injury-plagued campaign.
    What’s most exciting about next season?
    I’m looking forward to a season starting without the annual chat about whether this will finally be Liverpool’s year. No talk of droughts and barren runs. They no longer have that weight of history on their shoulders. They are winners rather than challengers. What’s most exciting for me is that this team hasn’t peaked yet. That hunger still burns bright. There’s so much more to come. Still room for development with the best manager in the world at the helm.
    Liverpool have continually evolved tactically under Klopp, adding new strings to their bow and I want to see where he takes them from here. I can’t wait for the day when supporters are finally allowed back into Anfield and you can feel that buzz around the place as the Premier League champions go about their business. As the banner on the Kop reads: “Football without fans is nothing.”
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  7. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Klopp wants Evian camp, throw-in coach contract talks, plans for women’s pitches
    By James Pearce Jul 29, 2020[​IMG] 39 [​IMG]
    The Liverpool squad will have been back in pre-season training for a week by the time the Champions League final finally brings the curtain down on a season like no other.
    The crazy nature of the rearranged football calendar is highlighted by the fact that just six days separate European football’s showpiece occasion in Lisbon on August 23 with the Community Shield at Wembley. A year ago those two fixtures took place nine weeks apart.
    With two rounds of international matches being played in the week just before the start of the 2020-21 Premier League campaign on September 12, it’s a logistical nightmare for top-flight managers.
    Liverpool’s Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid at Anfield in March cut deep at the time. The wounds were self-inflicted on a night when Jurgen Klopp’s perfect record in two-legged continental ties with the club bit the dust.
    But the European champions’ absence from proceedings when the competition resumes next Friday has had positive implications in terms of planning for next season and the challenge of defending their Premier League crown.
    Klopp, who has repeatedly voiced concerns about the demands placed on his players by the intense schedule, told his squad to rest completely for two weeks following last Sunday’s final day win over Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
    They will then have individual fitness programmes to follow for a further week before they report back to Melwood on Saturday, August 15. The initial plan was for Liverpool to move to their new £50 million training complex in Kirkby for the start of pre-season. However, due to the hold up in construction work as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, the facility has yet to be fully completed.
    When Liverpool sold Melwood for housing, they retained the option to stay put for a further year, so the delay at Kirkby hasn’t created an issue. They will decide over the coming weeks whether to make the switch in one of the international breaks in October or November or wait until 2021.
    Each Liverpool player has had to submit his chosen holiday destination for club officials to approve. Klopp’s men have also been told to keep a close eye on changing quarantine rules as Liverpool want to avoid a situation where pre-season is disrupted by players having to self-isolate on their return to the UK.
    Co-ordinating Liverpool’s response to the pandemic and then overseeing Project Restart was a stressful period for the club’s medical staff especially, but Jim Moxon has been rewarded for his outstanding work by being appointed Liverpool’s new head of medical services.
    The academy doctor stepped up to first-team duties on an interim basis after Andy Massey left to join FIFA at the start of March. Arsenal’s Gary O’Driscoll had initially looked set to take over from Massey but he ultimately decided to stay at the Emirates. Instead, Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards has decided to promote from within. Moxon, who previously worked for Sheffield Wednesday, Chesterfield and Sheffield United, first joined the Liverpool academy in 2016.
    One man who is leaving Arsenal to join Liverpool’s medical department this summer is Chris Morgan. He will return to the club as the first-team physiotherapist, four years after his departure. Morgan, who was credited by Steven Gerrard for saving his career, replaces Christopher Rohrbeck, who is heading home to his native Germany for family reasons.
    Specialist throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark’s contract with Liverpool expired at the end of the season and The Athletic understands that discussions are ongoing with the club over an extension. The former Danish athlete, who holds the world record for the longest throw-in at 51.33m, has been working for Liverpool on a part-time basis for the past two years.
    Klopp will have two weeks to prepare his squad for the Community Shield against either Arsenal or Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday, August 29. He will then lose many of his star names to international duty, with England playing Iceland in the Nations League on September 5 and Denmark three days later. The Premier League season starts on September 12.
    There will be no pre-season tour or lucrative friendlies played overseas but a couple of warm-up games are in the process of being organised. Klopp intends to take his players to a training camp in Evian in south-eastern France as long as no new travel restrictions are introduced in the coming weeks.
    It will be the third successive summer Liverpool have spent time there. There will be no player appearances to satisfy sponsors, no open training sessions, no press conferences — just how the manager likes it.
    They will have a five-star base offering stunning panoramic views of Lake Geneva but there will be little time for relaxation with three sessions a day in sweltering heat. The players can expect to cycle to and from training.
    “There’s nothing else to do here apart from football — this is my week,” was how Klopp referred to their time in Evian last summer. Klopp believes Liverpool’s superior fitness levels were key in accumulating a club record 99 points and finishing 18 points clear of City.
    As Klopp and his players take a holiday, Liverpool are preparing to reopen their academy, which has been shut since March. The under-18 and under-23 squads will start pre-season training at Kirkby early next week. Both have new managers at the helm, with Barry Lewtas promoted to the under-23s following Neil Critchley’s departure to Blackpool. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson steps up to the under-18s from the under-16s. The younger age groups are unlikely to return to training until the schools reopen in September.
    Among those teenagers desperate to impress will be Paul Glatzel, who is now fully fit after missing the entire 2019-20 season after surgery on a ruptured ACL. The 19-year-old is highly rated by Klopp, who insisted he did his rehab at Melwood rather than Kirkby. Glatzel was also given a new long-term contract during his spell on the sidelines.
    Liverpool FC Women are already deep into their pre-season preparations under boss Vicky Jepson as they plot a return to the WSL. Last season’s relegation asked some serious questions about the club’s support for their women’s team but Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon, who has been in direct contact with Jepson over the summer, has vowed to address those issues.
    A working party has been set up, with Gordon among those looking at ways in which Jepson’s team can be integrated into the club to a greater extent.
    Liverpool are appointing a new full-time groundsman to look after the women’s training pitches they lease from Tranmere Rovers at the Solar Campus in Wirral. One major criticism last season was the state of the pitch they had to play on at Prenton Park, which led to them having to cancel matches and ultimately move to Chester. However, a new state-of-the-art Desso surface has since been laid by Tranmere, so similar problems are not expected for 2020-21. The Championship season for Liverpool FC Women is due to start on September 5.
    Jepson’s players have also benefited from the input and advice of Klopp and Gerrard via Zoom. Klopp spoke to them about how he had endured relegation himself with Mainz but had bounced back strongly and backed them to do the same. Gerrard talked to them about how he dealt with adversity in his playing career.
    All club employees have been invited to book in a slot to have their photo taken with the silverware on show at Anfield. Klopp posed for dozens of pics with delighted staff members late last week as they lined up the UEFA Super Cup, the Champions League, the Premier League and the Club World Cup trophies — the spoils from an unforgettable 13 months for Liverpool.
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  8. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Harvey Elliott interview: Weights with Salah, saying no to Ramos and a haircut vow
    James Pearce 4h ago[​IMG] 17 [​IMG]
    Harvey Elliott has only suffered one bout of nerves since signing for Liverpool.
    The prospect of performing in front of a capacity crowd at Anfield never held any fears for the talented teenage winger but being centre stage in the intimate surroundings of Hotel Royal in Evian-les-Bains in front of a much smaller audience was a different matter.
    “When it’s football-related, there are no nerves at all for me. There’s nothing to be nervous about when you are doing what you love, playing for the club you love,” he tells The Athletic. “I only get anxious about silly stuff like having to get up and sing in front of all the lads and the staff for my initiation at the training camp in Evian last pre-season. Now that was pressure!
    “I did Let Me Love You by Mario. To be fair, I thought it went all right but the lads didn’t seem to agree. Judging by their feedback, I don’t think I’ll have a singing career. I’ve stuck to football since then.”
    To mark the launch of Liverpool’s new kit deal with Nike, Elliott sat down with The Athletic for his first major interview to look back on an historic debut season for him at Anfield following his move from Fulham and to discuss his hopes for the future.
    The 17-year-old England youth international, who signed a three-year professional contract last month, made eight senior appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s side in 2019-20. He was part of the jubilant celebrations that followed the end of Liverpool’s 30-year wait for the title.
    His Premier League winners’ medal is in his bedroom at home alongside the ones he collected from the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup triumphs.
    “They are hanging up above my bed. I always have a look at them before I go to sleep,” he smiles. “It’s hard to put into words what this season has been like. There were so many different emotions, with the uncertainty over the virus and then the boys coming back to wrap up the title. The best part was being on that stage in the Kop when Hendo (Jordan Henderson) lifted the Premier League trophy. That feeling was amazing.
    “It’s been an unbelievable first year for me. To top it off with three trophies and for me to be a part of that has been a dream come true — not only for me but for my family too.
    “To be around the boys, just to see how much work and effort they put into training sessions to make sure they get the wins, just to be around the gaffer…. Every time I’ve seen him over the past year, I’ve just thought: ‘This is actually happening. Jurgen Klopp really is my manager’.”
    Elliott was on a family holiday in Portugal following his GCSE exams in June 2019 when he first learned about Liverpool’s interest. The following day, he travelled with his dad Scott to Merseyside. Sporting director Michael Edwards gave them a tour of Melwood and Anfield.
    He recalls: “I remember coming down for breakfast one morning and my dad saying, ‘Harvey, you better sit down’. He goes, ‘Liverpool are interested in you’.
    “I started laughing to be honest. I didn’t believe him. I said ‘You’re lying’. He goes, ‘No. Honestly, I’m not. We’ve got to get on a plane tomorrow’.
    “I still didn’t really believe it until I was actually in Liverpool and we walked into Melwood. From the first moment there, I just thought, ‘This is the place I want to be’.
    “Seeing all the quotes on the walls from legends and all the photos and all that history; my mind was made up. I wanted to add to that great history. This is the club I’ve supported all my life.”
    Elliott has the photos to prove it. He was just three years old when he sat on the Kop for the first time. His dad took him to the Champions League qualifier against Maccabi Haifa in August 2006 when Mark Gonzalez came off the bench to score a dramatic late winner.

    Elliott in front of his father, Scott, in Kiev before the 2018 Champions League final (Photo credit: the Elliott family)
    They travelled across the UK and Europe to follow Liverpool in the years that followed when the youngster’s own playing commitments allowed. They were in Kiev for the 2018 Champions League final when Klopp’s men were beaten by Real Madrid.
    “As a little kid, I just remember the buzz of walking up the steps inside the stand at Anfield, seeing the lights and the players warming up — what a sight,” he says.
    “My heroes were Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez. I loved watching them. My dad was a big fan of Fernando Torres and we had a big poster of him in the house.
    “Me and my dad always tried to do as many away games as possible. We had to tell a few lies to the school and my mum along the way! ‘Make sure you get a nice hotel,’ she would say. The place where we stayed in Kiev in this rundown block of flats was horrendous.
    “But that’s part of the fun of being a football fan: following your team wherever they go and the experiences you share with your friends and family. The result wasn’t great but the trip itself to Kiev was brilliant.”
    Elliott became the youngest player in Premier League history when he came off the bench for Fulham against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the age of 16 years and 30 days in May 2019.
    By then, his eye-catching performances at academy level ensured that a host of top clubs across Europe, including Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, were trying to secure his services.
    The Athletic revealed earlier this year how Elliott and his family had been given a tour of the Bernabeu as Real sought to convince him to move to the Spanish capital. They asked if he would like them to arrange for him to meet long-serving Real captain Sergio Ramos.
    Elliott politely declined, explaining he wasn’t a fan of Ramos after he cynically took Mohamed Salah out of the 2018 Champions League final by dumping him on his shoulder. “Yeah, that’s true,” he laughs. “I turned it down because of what he did to Mo.”
    As well as the emotional pull of Liverpool, there was a firm belief that Klopp’s willingness to put his faith in youth made Melwood the best possible place for him to continue his development.
    His first training session with the squad at Melwood last July left a lasting impression on the senior professionals. Assistant manager Pep Lijnders told Klopp they had “a little diamond” on their hands.
    “It was a bit surreal,” Elliott says. “A month or two earlier, I’d been sat watching these players on TV, cheering them on in the Champions League final against Tottenham. Suddenly, they are my team-mates. I was just staring around in amazement that I was actually there rather than really thinking about the session itself.
    “We did a shooting drill and then a two-v-two — the quality was top-tier. It really opened my eyes to what I was coming into. Ever since that day, I’ve put in extra work to try to improve my fitness and guard against picking up injuries. I’ve had to adapt a lot.”
    With the clubs unable to reach a compromise, a tribunal will soon decide on a fee for Elliott, with Fulham seeking around £7 million. Born in the town of Chertsey in Surrey, he will always feel a debt of gratitude to the London club for how they launched his career.
    He was playing in Fulham’s under-18s at the age of 14 and gracing a Carabao Cup tie against Millwall aged 15 years and 174 days.
    “They always tried to push me through the age groups and tried to get me to the furthest possible point,” he says. “Initially, I used to get smashed about everywhere by kids three or four years older than me. But stuff like that toughens you up. You learn how to protect the ball better, you learn when to dribble with it and when to pass. Your decision-making improves.
    “I got used to playing against bigger opponents and that certainly helped me going into senior football. Going from Fulham to Liverpool was a big change. I had to get used to a different style of football and a higher level. I had to up my game a lot just to get close to these boys’ levels.”
    He certainly isn’t short of positive role models at Melwood. James Milner, a teenage prodigy himself in the early 2000s, has taken him under his wing. The Liverpool vice-captain first played Premier League football for Leeds United at the age of 16 — five months before Elliott was even born.
    “Millie has helped me a lot throughout the season. He’s someone I want to be like. I want to have a long career like him,” he says. “All us youngsters can learn so much from the likes of Millie and Hendo (Jordan Henderson); two experienced pros who always give 100 per cent every single day. They don’t drink and they’re always professional with how they lead their lives. You can see that in the great shape they’re in.
    “They don’t just want to be the best they possibly can be themselves but they also want to get the best out of everyone around them. Every day, I learn something new.
    “Adam Lallana helped me a lot and it was a shame to see him go. I’m usually in the gym at the same time as Sadio (Mane) and Mo, and they give me a lot of advice.
    “If I’m doing a particular weight and it’s looking too easy, then Sadio or Mo will be over to push me with a different weight to make it harder. If I’m doing exercises with the band, they’ll be over to make sure my body is in the right position.”
    Like Salah, Elliott loves to operate wide on the right and cut inside on to his favoured left foot. In training the day before games, he’s often tasked with trying to stop the flying Egyptian.
    “Yeah, I play left-back against him,” he says. “The day before a match, we do play-outs from the back at Melwood. We analyse the way the opposition play and then us players who aren’t starting are asked to play out in the same way so the first team can get a feel of what it’s going to be like in the match the next day.
    “I’m normally left-back for that. To be up against Mo and to see what he does, how he moves, the way in which he changes his speed; he’s world-class and so tricky to deal with. If I can keep up with Mo, then I know I’m doing OK! I look up to him a lot.”
    Aged 16 years and 174 days, he became the second-youngest player in Liverpool’s history when Klopp handed him his debut away to MK Dons in the Carabao Cup last September.
    The following month, he was walking out at Anfield for the first time in the next round against Arsenal. In early January, he took his Premier League bow for the club against Sheffield United and then helped a youthful line-up knock Everton out of the FA Cup.
    When he dropped down to the under-23s to get game time, he scored with a stunning bicycle kick from a corner against Wolves in the Premier League International Cup.
    “There have been so many highlights but I’d say my Anfield debut and the Merseyside derby were the best,” he says. “That was a crazy game against Arsenal, drawing 5-5 and then winning on penalties. To walk out to You’ll Never Walk Alone was a really big moment for me. The atmosphere was special.
    “I got a lot of stick off the Everton fans in the derby but that made winning the game even sweeter. Stuff like that just drives me on to play better.
    “I’ve kept the shirts from my different debuts and the Black Lives Matter one against Everton. But the rest I tend to give away as I want to give back to the fans in recognition of all the support they have shown me.”

    Elliott, Jones and Williams, Liverpool’s next generation, pose with the Premier League trophy (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    Elliott has grown close to fellow teenagers Curtis Jones and Neco Williams, who also established themselves in the senior ranks in 2019-20. The trio are ably supported by Vitor Matos, the club’s elite development coach. He arrived from Porto last October and is the key link between the academy and Melwood.
    “I don’t think Vitor gets enough praise for the work he’s done because he’s been a brilliant addition to the staff,” Elliott says. “He’s our go-to person when we are up there with the first team. If we have any problems or concerns, we can talk to him. When we drop down to the under-23s, he’s always on hand to help.
    “He’s always putting on extra drills for us. Whether it’s shooting with my right foot or working my crossing, his input has been unbelievable.
    “It’s great to share this journey with Curtis and Neco. In training and in the games, they have shown what they can do and what kind of people they are. They are both top young players, who have earned the trust of the gaffer with their performances. I’m delighted for them.
    “We support each other. It’s nice to have boys around who are of a similar age. It helps in terms of confidence.”
    What undoubtedly helped Elliott settle into life on Merseyside was the fact that his entire family moved up from Surrey. He lives in south Liverpool with dad Scott, mum Janine, sister Daniella and brother Harrison, who all attended the Premier League trophy presentation at Anfield.
    Much of his spare time is spent with his French bulldog puppy Paisley, who is named after the legendary Liverpool manager.
    “Having my family around has been massive,” he says. “They have sacrificed so much to get me to where I am today. What I achieve on the field is about giving something back to them. It’s one way of saying ‘thank you’ to them. They have put a lot into this.
    “My little brother is a big Liverpool fan too and sometimes, he gets even more excited than me when he sees the players and goes to the games.
    “When it was first announced that I was joining Liverpool, the profile went through the roof. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is the world I’m coming into’. I had a taste of it with Fulham with all the talk around making my debut for them at such a young age but it’s different level at Liverpool.
    “When I’m not playing football, I’m happiest just chilling at home or taking Paisley for a walk, or playing FIFA or watching Netflix.
    “I still go out into the back garden with a ball with my little brother when I get back from training to work on things. I’m always trying to improve. But I know I have to be careful not to push myself too much as I’m still growing.”
    It says much about Elliott’s mentality that he has decided to only take two of the three weeks off Klopp has granted his players. He intends to spend the final week training with the under-23s at Kirkby to ensure he’s in the best possible shape for when the senior squad reconvene at Melwood on August 15.
    A record-breaking 2019-20 season gave him a taste of the big time and he can’t wait to continue his education under the guidance of the LMA manager of the year.
    “Any player in the world would love to play for Jurgen Klopp, so I consider myself very fortunate,” he says. “It’s not just what he’s like on the field in terms of tactics but also what he’s like off the pitch with his man-management. He’s a lovely guy and a guy you want to play for.
    “He’s always motivating you and challenging you to be the best you can be but you can also have a laugh and a joke with him. When it needs to be serious, he’s strict and bang on it.
    “Jurgen and Pep are always telling me to play with freedom. There’s a tactical structure but they also want me to express myself when I’ve got the ball. Jurgen is such a positive coach. He’s not one who puts the blame on players. If you mess up, he just wants you to learn from what happened and he explains what you should do next time to avoid finding yourself in that situation.
    “Of course, if you aren’t doing it, if you aren’t putting in the effort, he will have a word but he’s not one for bollocking players just for the sake of it.
    “The hunger and desire in this squad is incredible. You only had to look at the disappointment on the faces after the defeat to Arsenal after the title was already won. There’s a winning culture here that helps everyone to realise their full potential.”
    With revenues having taken a major hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a relatively quiet summer transfer window is expected at Anfield. Klopp has spoken about handing more opportunities to his young guns in 2020-21 and that’s music to the ears of Elliott.
    “It gives us huge motivation,” he adds. “All of us youngsters want to prove to the gaffer and the coaching staff that we are good enough to play in this team. The challenge is massive as it’s a squad full of world-class players but you need to aim high.
    “Winning the Premier League title; emotionally, it got to me. Seeing all the messages come through about what it means to people, it really makes you want to go and do it again and again.
    “I know I need to keep developing and add more goals to my game if I’m going to achieve my target of being a legend at this club.”
    The only thing that Klopp isn’t convinced about when it comes to Elliott is his hairstyle. When he scores his first senior goal for Liverpool, the youngster has vowed to ditch the man-bun.
    “I’ve had it for about two years,” he says. “Whenever I tried to put it up at school, I got told off by the teachers. I couldn’t fight against the rules!
    “It’s not a popular haircut. Some people think, ‘Why’s he got it like that?’ but I like it.
    “I don’t think Jurgen’s a big fan. Sometimes I’ve come in with it tied up in a bit of a new style and he has just looked at it and started laughing.
    “I’ve promised the lads that when I score my first professional goal, it’s coming off. Initially, I was going to change it for the new year but then I decided that if I was going to change it, I wanted it to be for something more memorable.
    “Hopefully, I won’t have too long to wait. I can’t wait for next season to start.”
  9. rurikbird

    rurikbird Part of the Furniture Honorary Member

    Aug 24, 2006
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    New York, NY
    Wow, that's absolutely brilliant. Had no idea he and his family were such big fans and that bit about rejecting Real Madrid because of what Sergio Ramos did to Mo in Kyiv – let's hope they come to regret it. Amazing attitude and seems so mature every time when I've seen him play.
  10. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Liverpool value Jamal Lewis at £10m – Norwich will ‘pick up the phone’ at £20m
    By James Pearce, Michael Bailey and more 1h ago[​IMG] 47 [​IMG]
    Other contributor: Simon Hughes
    If you want to sign a talented player from Norwich City this summer, those with the decision-making power at Carrow Road will sit you down, pull out a picture of James Maddison and tell you: ‘Don’t even pick up the phone unless you’re starting at £20 million.’
    Maddison was an eye-catching Championship talent sold, without any Premier League experience, to Leicester City for an initial £21 million, potentially rising to £24 million, in the summer of 2018. It was Norwich’s record sale and it has become their benchmark for future departures.
    Liverpool have heeded the warning so far.
    Despite the champions’ interest in making Norwich’s Northern Ireland international left-back Jamal Lewis their first signing of the summer, sporting director Michael Edwards has yet to call opposite number Stuart Webber to open discussions.
    That will have saved Liverpool the initial rejection for any bid below £20 million, not including add-ons for potential performance. Unlike Maddison, 22-year-old Lewis has 28 Premier League appearances under his belt as well as a contract tying him to Norwich until summer 2023. That deal was signed in October 2018, when Lewis first signed with PLG — the same agency that represents Liverpool full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
    Cover for Robertson is viewed as a priority by Jurgen Klopp during this transfer window. The Scotland international has only missed four league games in total over the past two seasons and, with no natural deputy in the squad, giving him a breather when he’s been carrying knocks has proved difficult.
    James Milner has filled in admirably at left-back but, for all his defensive solidity, the 34-year-old midfielder can’t offer the same kind of attacking thrust.
    The Athletic understands Norwich would have to reduce their demands significantly if Lewis is going to seal a move to Liverpool. Edwards values him at around £10 million and is prepared to offer £8 million up front, with a further £2 million to potentially follow in add-ons.
    That is a significant gap to bridge, but Edwards has a reputation for sticking to his valuations. When he signed Alisson from Roma in 2018, Liverpool were quoted £90 million but only paid £65 million. They have walked away from potential deals they did not consider to be value for money.
    But that bar set by the Maddison move is important to Norwich. If Lewis is sold for a fee which lowers it, the knock-on effect for the anticipated future sales of Ben Godfrey, Todd Cantwell, Emi Buendia and Max Aarons could cost them far more than the £10 million between their valuation for Lewis and Liverpool’s.
    Lewis’ 100th senior appearance came in Norwich’s final day thrashing at Manchester City and although he has struggled to be as consistent as Aarons on the opposite flank, his best performances have arguably shone the brighter — including when he scored the winning goal at home to Leicester, a February victory that proved to be Norwich’s last in the league all season.
    Predominantly a left-back, Lewis has often switched mid-game to play on the left side of a back three. His one-v-one defending has impressed, as well as his pace and ball-carrying. He was one of only 10 Premier League goalscorers for Norwich this past season, although he did not register any assists.
    There is a bigger game at play for Norwich too. They have long anticipated losing three of their highly-rated young stars but with long-term contracts and no financial pressure, are in a strong position.
    Norwich have not yet received a serious call for any of their players — the club’s emphatic relegation back to the Championship was far from a reputation enhancer — and The Athletic has spoken to sources outside the club who believe their stance could shift. They may yet opt to cash in on Lewis, even if their full valuation is not met over the coming weeks.
    They already have a replacement on the books — 19-year-old left-back Sam McCallum, a £2.5 million January signing from League One champions Coventry City. That makes talk of them being keen to take Liverpool’s 19-year-old left-back Yasser Larouci as a makeweight in any deal for Lewis unlikely.
    Liverpool are open to off-loading Larouci in a player-plus-cash arrangement though, after he rejected their offer of a new contract.
    Larouci, who has attracted interest from Championship winners Leeds United and the second-tier’s play-off final losers Brentford in recent weeks, has entered the final year of his deal and is set to leave this summer after his representative informed Edwards he wants regular first-team football after making just two appearances in 2019-20.
    Although Lewis fits the profile Liverpool are looking for, they do have other options. Since he would be coming in as a back-up, there is little sense of urgency at the champions’ end and they are prepared to bide their time.
    Liverpool were involved in talks to sign left-back Lloyd Kelly a year ago, but he ultimately went from Bristol City to Bournemouth in a £13 million deal.
    There’s no chance of the club reviving their interest in Kelly despite Bournemouth also going down as Edwards was angered by how the player’s agency conducted itself last summer.
    One potential alternative to Lewis is Olympiakos’ Kostas Tsimikas. The 24-year-old Greece international has been scouted extensively.
  11. Hyena

    Hyena Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2012
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    20 million for Jamal Lewis??

    We'll drop our interest and rightly so.
  12. King Binny

    King Binny Part of the Furniture Honorary Member

    Sep 2, 2006
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    The only advantages Jamal Lewis have over someone like Konstantinos Tsimikas are his apparently willingness to start off as a backup player + his age? Don't think the latter (only 2 yrs younger than Robertson though) will cost as much.
  13. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Graeme Souness and Liverpool. Will a lost love ever be rekindled?
    By Simon Hughes 4h ago[​IMG] 31 [​IMG]
    Among all of the former players asked to consider the scale of the achievement when Liverpool clinched the league title for the first time in 30 years, some of the most fascinating reaction came from Graeme Souness.
    While Kenny Dalglish started to well up as he wore a red scarf for his TV interviews and Phil Thompson invited some of his family members to join the party in front of the cameras, Souness spoke about the club he once captained and managed like it was a relative he still cares about deeply even though he knows the relationship isn’t what it once was.
    Quietly, Souness appeared chuffed to bits – the most satisfied of them all. Apparently, he stayed up until the small hours once his TV commitments had finished, celebrating with wife Karen in the garden of their home in Poole, Dorset – somewhat typically over a bottle or two of champagne.
    When he became a European Cup-winning captain in 1984 by delivering a gladiatorial performance against Roma in their own stadium, one of his best friends in the team was Michael Robinson, the Blackpool-raised centre-forward turned Spanish television legend.
    Souness’ feelings after Chelsea beat Manchester City to confirm Liverpool as champions intensified when he thought about what Robinson would think of it, remembering that his last game in a commentary box before his death from cancer in late April had been at his beloved Anfield. Robinson, a huge Liverpool supporter, would have taken great pleasure from witnessing them secure their 19th league title.
    Souness had been one of the first to speak about his friend when he passed away eight weeks earlier, and by the end of one interview was unable to find any more words after mentioning the impact Robinson’s loss would have on his family.
    It would be understandable if a very personal sense of relief washed over Souness across those early hours of June 26 as well, because he knows that despite his contribution towards Liverpool’s greatness during the 1970s and 1980s, he is the person most associated with their subsequent decline.
    There will still be conversations about where it went wrong for a club who were the most dominant in England before he succeeded Dalglish in April 1991 but an end to that story means the frequency of those exchanges will probably reduce now.
    Souness’ trajectory acts as a warning to those wonderful players who believe they can go back to where they are loved and become wonderful managers as well. Steven Gerrard is conscious of falling down a similar hole should he decide to follow the same path. Like Souness, he is a legendary Liverpool captain who has taken his first senior managerial steps at Rangers, a club who have suffered from years of drastic underachievement.
    It sits uncomfortably with Gerrard that across his last 13 years in the game, he has won just one trophy – the League Cup in 2012. By comparison, Souness’ career from the point he joined Liverpool as a player in 1978 to the point he returned as their manager 13 years later was a period of almost unbroken personal success.
    Gerrard should also realise that Souness’ experiences did not prepare him suitably for the challenges that lay ahead when he took the job. Perhaps his aura and sense of invincibility ended up undermining him. Quickly, his legacy as a Liverpool player would mean very little to so many.

    On reflection, it was quite a thing for a Catholic boy to be left in front of the TV watching a review of the Scottish Premier Division’s 1989-90 season. The videotape box had Souness’ moustache plastered on the front and it had been a campaign in which Rangers won their third title under him in four years, finishing a whopping 17 points (at a time when it was still only two points for a win) ahead of Celtic, who were way down in a miserable fifth position.
    My father had been a season ticket holder at Anfield and Souness was his hero – ahead of even Dalglish. When Souness became Liverpool manager, I was seven years old and trusted my dad when he told me the club was in safe hands.
    Even after everything that happened, meeting him for the first time was exciting and daunting. Souness was sitting alone in a darkened corner, legs crossed, when I walked into the Sky Sports studio at Anfield ahead of what would be a win over Manchester United in September 2008.
    There was a feeling of incarceration in that working space because presenter Richard Keys and lead pundit Andy Gray were babbling away and Souness gave me the impression he’d rather be elsewhere, so he could talk properly about his feelings. A shard of light cut across his face and I ended up comparing him to a prisoner of war in a movie. Even with his determination not to be the centre of attention, a natural magnetism pulled you in his direction.
    He was a formidable-looking figure, though smaller than you imagine considering his presence on the pitch and on screen. A bit of a contradiction. Robinson had once told me Souness was “to this day, still trying very hard not to be this lovely, cuddly person when, really, he is”.
    Souness spoke gently, with that smooth Edinburgh accent of his. He was respectful, persuasive and regretful. He admitted to me that returning to Anfield as an opposition manager, as he did with Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United, didn’t bother him because he was in combat mode.
  14. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Any other capacity, however, was different. He was left out by the club when reunions were organised. Team-mates who used to be friends had stopped keeping in touch. He didn’t always feel welcome, but that was ultimately his fault he concluded, wishing he could turn the clock back and put it right.
    Yet he was also smart enough to realise if he thought about that too much, it would eat him up. He’d never be able to lead a balanced life.

    It was past 10pm when my phone started vibrating, five or six years later.
    I was nervous about answering because of the name on the screen: SOUNESS.
    I’d interviewed him again for a book I was writing about Liverpool during the 1990s, this time from an airport departure lounge in Edinburgh. I’d established by then he certainly wasn’t a nervous type because everything he said that afternoon was delivered with confidence.
    Yet I think he was worried about the way some of it might look if his words got presented in a way with which they were not meant.
    We had talked about everything that went wrong at Liverpool, starting with recruitment. That led on to the breakdown of his relationships with many of the senior players, the majority of whom had once been team-mates.
    It was towards the end when we arrived at his decision to grant The Sun an interview about his triple heart bypass operation, one published on the third anniversary of Hillsborough. As the same newspaper had printed lies about the role of Liverpool supporters in the disaster, his reputation was shattered. Yet somehow, he clung on to his job for another 21 months.
    “I’d just like to thank you for giving me an even crack,” he said.
    This was not a conversation I expected to happen.
    “Oh, er…” I replied, not really knowing what to say, wondering whether I had gone too easy on him.
    The conclusion of the chapter about him went something along the lines of Liverpudlians probably being able to forgive him in time for failing as a manager but his association with The Sun gave that paper credibility at a time when grieving families were fighting to clear the names of lost loved ones.
    Just typing out that sentence now makes me angry.
    How could an intelligent man with an acute understanding of place make such a craven decision?
    “I deserve all the criticism in the world, and you’ve done that,” he continued.
    “But you’ve also been fair.”

    There is a great line at the end of another passage of writing about Souness’ time as Liverpool manager in Brian Reade’s 2008 book, 43 Years With The Same Bird. Reade’s relationship with Souness represented many supporters from the city: revered as a player – one of the best that has ever been. But as a manager? He couldn’t wait for him to leave.
    Reade had worked at the Liverpool Echo and wrote numerous columns about Souness’ suitability after what happened with The Sun. They would meet a few years later at an event, when Souness sidled up behind Reade and told him that he was the person who got him the sack. Reade replied straight away with something along the lines of, “No, Graeme. You did that all by yourself…”
    Where did it all go wrong?
    My dad was not alone in thinking he was the dream appointment. In Souness’ words, however, “I was blinded by my feelings for Liverpool”, despite having it good in Glasgow, where the pressure and expectation on him was rising but tempered because he knew he had the support of the chairman, David Murray, whom he socialised with most nights of the week in Edinburgh.
    This prompted him to reject the chance to manage Liverpool twice before he finally relented, even though Murray attempted to keep him at Ibrox by offering him a blank contract where he could fill in the details himself. Murray warned him taking the Liverpool job would be a huge mistake. “I have to admit, he was right,” Souness told me.
    He returned to Merseyside with further warnings from club secretary Peter Robinson and long-time youth development officer Tom Saunders about the scale of the rebuilding project waiting for him. He was inheriting an ageing squad and Robinson thought the only player capable of remaining in the team long term was a then 27-year-old John Barnes.
    Souness was furious early in his reign when Chelsea’s Vinnie Jones desecrated the famous This is Anfield sign in the stadium tunnel by scribbling “Bothered” on it and, rather than seek retribution, some Liverpool players laughed it off. He quickly concluded that some had “lost their passion” for the club because of their demands in contract negotiations. Several knew the next deal under Souness might be their last and they also could see that wages were increasing at other clubs who were ploughing millions of pounds of new money from the advent of the Premier League into their squads.
    Robinson used to lead such discussions and while there are some claims Souness insisted on taking that responsibility away from him because he wanted to control everything, he told me Robinson was happy to pass it on because he felt uncomfortable dealing with the spiralling sums of money.
    For almost a quarter of a century, indeed, negotiation had been an outstanding feature of Robinson’s leadership. There had been a routine at Liverpool – a club notoriously tight with wages – where he would low-ball his offer before the manager would enter the room and promise to get Robinson to make a raise towards a figure where Liverpool’s administrator actually valued the player. This would make the player feel like he was winning and automatically increase his respect for his new boss. That routine was now broken and instead, players often left the room harbouring resentment towards Souness because he rarely, if ever, budged.
    He called it his “first big mistake”, and he wishes he could have been more diplomatic but instead, he sold a raft of established players and suddenly was buying under pressure and needing new signings to fit in straight away. Though he admitted, “I should have been far cuter”, it was clear he also felt the young players brought in from other clubs by predecessor Dalglish were not good enough.
    In so many ways, the decline at Liverpool had already started but nobody realised because the results were still encouraging. Yet Souness’ own record in the transfer market was poor. He considered Mark Wright, Michael Thomas, Rob Jones and David James to be good signings. Neil Ruddock, he thought, would have been in that category had he looked after himself.
    Yet too many clearly did not work.
    Jan Molby could tell Julian Dicks wasn’t a Liverpool player from the first training session, when he kept knocking long balls down the touchline for Barnes to chase. Paul Stewart and Nigel Clough never justified their big fees. In the foreign market, Souness bought Torben Piechnik and Istvan Kozma but passed on the opportunity to sign Peter Schmeichel, who had written a letter to him asking for a trial. When Michel Platini recommended he sign Eric Cantona and Souness did his research, he concluded he did not need another challenging personality in the dressing room because he was already fighting fires with Bruce Grobbelaar.
    Away from the negotiating table, there was more resistance when Souness tried to change coaching methods, and this intensified when there was an injury crisis. Having played in Italy, he had seen the way football was going. This meant new diets and daily patterns. At Rangers, the players listened when he encouraged them to eat better and drink less. When a crate of low per cent alcohol was heaved onto the Liverpool bus for an away game in London, it was left at the next service station.
    There had been a longstanding tradition at Liverpool where the players got changed at Anfield before travelling a couple of miles to Melwood by bus for training. This, Bill Shankly believed, helped foster camaraderie but Souness wanted a slicker operation more in keeping with the 21st century. For Liverpool to be competitive, Anfield – like Old Trafford – needed to capitalise on its history and potential profile as a tourist destination. “We couldn’t have buses going in and out of Anfield every day while fans milled about,” he concluded. Souness was also accused of ordering the destruction of the famous Boot Room, but he denied that. England was gearing up to stage Euro 96 and with Anfield hosting some of the tournament’s games, extra space was needed for media delegations from European countries.
    The one decision Souness did regret “forever” was his deal with The Sun. “I don’t have a defence.”
    There had been a history of heart problems in his family and he denies the stresses of the job triggered the need for a life-saving operation at the age of just 38. He was determined to push himself and get back to work but when he collapsed, he ended up spending 28 days in hospital rather than 10. It was during this period that he agreed to sell the story of his hospital ordeal to Mike Ellis, The Sun’s Merseyside reporter. Souness had seen Liverpool legends Ian Rush and Tommy Smith give interviews to that newspaper since Hillsborough without any fallout, while Ellis was a respected figure on the local patch amongst other players, who spoke to him regularly. Souness also argued that he had been in Glasgow and “wrapped up in Rangers” when Hillsborough happened and so did not appreciate the scale of the resentment in the city towards The Sun, though admitted “ignorance is no excuse”.
    The story was due to be printed a week before the disaster’s anniversary but got pushed back. In the meantime, Ellis went on holiday and “would have advised the paper not to print it that day, there’s no doubt about it”, Souness said. Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final replay against Portsmouth going to extra time on April 13 meant the story got pushed back again by 24 hours, from April 14 to April 15. “It looked terrible, me smiling and confident of a recovery on the same day a lot of people were still mourning.” The corny front-page headline accompanied by a picture of him kissing then-girlfriend Karen made it even worse: “Loverpool.”
    Souness says he gave all of the proceeds from the interview to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital but “what I really should have done is resigned”. At the time, he was desperate to put right what he had got so dreadfully wrong, but this was made more challenging, he claimed, by the culture of reporting on Merseyside where journalists worked as a pack. This resulted in a collective anger at being left out of an exclusive story.
    There were very few sympathetic voices in the column inches when the public tide turned against him. Souness did not look well as he sat looking on passively as his team beat Sunderland 2-0 at Wembley to win the FA Cup just under a month later – a bright spot in a horrid league season which did not improve the following year, when Liverpool were just three points above the relegation places in March.
    Some supporters refused to attend matches again until Souness was gone but he remained until January 1994. He felt “ashamed” when he heard opposite number Russell Osman’s team talk in an adjoining room at the Moat House hotel before an FA Cup replay against second-tier Bristol City at Anfield. Osman called Liverpool “weak as piss” and sounded like he genuinely believed his team could cause an upset.
    A few hours later, Brian Tinnion’s goal sent the visitors through.
    Souness resigned before the weekend.

    Another Souness feud involved Phil Thompson. Though privately, the latter especially has stressed the relationship will never truly heal, there have been small signs of improvement.
    The pair were not in the same room but the thought of them appearing on the same television show and roughly appear on similar pages in any discussion would have been unimaginable up until a few years ago. Yet that is what happened on Sky after Liverpool clinched the title in June.
    Meanwhile, the dynamic with the players Souness fell out with so dramatically has changed for the better. There is always a caveat when any of them mention him but it does seem that his willingness to admit mistakes has led some to open up about their own shortcomings.
    There is recognition now that Souness had some of the right ideas, considering the way football has gone, but there is agreement that he went about it totally the wrong way. “He was an everything-at-once sort of fella, Graeme,” Steve McMahon told The Athletic in June. “If only he’d slowed down a bit…”
    The most significant challenge around the theme of reconciliation, however, is with the Liverpool fans. It would be understandable if some found it impossible to forgive, especially when you consider court cases about Hillsborough are still happening 31 years after the disaster.
    Last month, though, Souness was invited to talk for 20 minutes at an end of season meeting of the Merseyside branch of Liverpool’s supporters’ club, held on Zoom. He consistently referred to the club he used to represent with distinction as a player and less so as a manager as “we”, and the conversation flowed nicely, before finally arriving where it always does when Souness and Liverpool are concerned.
    “If there’s one thing you could change about what you did as manager, Graeme…”
    That was when he stuttered a bit, rephrasing his answer. “I should never have taken the job,” he replied straight away – reasoning that other opportunities to take over at Anfield would surely have come his way, given the sustained culture of success he’d helped create at Rangers. “I wish I’d said no to Liverpool in 1991.”
    He could not bring himself to name the newspaper and the interview that shifted perceptions of him. “I made some mistakes,” he admitted. “One obvious one, a big one… I wish I could turn the clock back.”
    Tom Keegan, one of the organisers of an event which involved more than 50 members, called Souness the greatest midfielder the club has ever had, “better even than Steven Gerrard.”
    Souness laughed away at that description, but did not correct him.
    That was when he promised the group he’d be delighted to speak again some time.
    He reminded Keegan: “You’ve got my email…”
    Frogfish, Richey and Grjt2 like this.
  15. rurikbird

    rurikbird Part of the Furniture Honorary Member

    Aug 24, 2006
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    New York, NY
    I think the main advantage is not needing to adapt to a new league and country. Particularly important for defenders for whom so much is based on communication with teammates, knowledge of refereeing standards and opponents and so much more.
  16. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Moore, Hogan and the ever-evolving role of Liverpool CEO
    By Simon Hughes and James Pearce Aug 8, 2020[​IMG] 33 [​IMG]
    The Camp & Furnace sits in the heart of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, an old warehouse transformed into a trendy bar, restaurant and music venue. It has also been used as a bingo hall.
    It is where Peter Moore introduced himself to Liverpool’s staff after he started work as the club’s new chief executive in the summer of 2017.
    Moore gave a presentation on the big screen about his vision for Liverpool. He talked about the mantra of needing to operate with “a local heart but a global pulse”.
    He wanted to strengthen links and give back to the Merseyside community, while also looking further afield to the club’s army of supporters across the world. Engagement was at the heart of his plan to enhance and grow the business – making people feel part of something special whether they lived in Speke or Sydney.
    “Peter was a breath of fresh air,” one staff member based in the club’s Chapel Street offices in the city tells The Athletic. “The atmosphere changed in a positive way. From the start, he was very approachable. He asked why we were wearing a shirt and tie to work? He said: ‘We’re a sports organisation, wear what you feel most comfortable in’.
    “Internal communications improved a lot. You started to get told a lot more about what was happening inside the club and there was a big investment in technology across the board. He didn’t have a seat at the desk in his office overlooking the Liver Building. He explained that he preferred to stand as he felt he got more done and was more productive that way.”
    The attraction for owners Fenway Sports Group was two-fold. Moore had enjoyed a highly successful business career in America in senior roles for gaming giants SEGA, Microsoft and EA Sports. He was tech-savvy.
    He was also Liverpool born and bred and a lifelong fan of the club. His dad Terry was a freight worker at the docks who later ran a pub in the Garston area of the city. His mum Marilyn was a nurse at Alder Hey Hospital.
    Having been taken to Anfield for the first time in 1959, Moore had graduated from the boys’ pen to the paddock and was then a regular on the standing Kop.
    After a stint as a PE teacher in North Wales, he moved to the States in the early 1980s where he initially worked in the sportswear industry for Patrick and then Reebok. He had no plans to return to Merseyside until FSG came calling some 36 years after he had emigrated.
    Moore walked into a club which had qualified for the Champions League for only the second time in the space of eight seasons courtesy of a nervy final day win over Middlesbrough.
    Three years on, he’s preparing to stand down at the end of August with Jurgen Klopp’s side having won the Champions League and the Premier League, as well as lifting the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup.
    “I’m not sure there’s ever a great time (to leave) but if there was a great time it’s now,” Moore told LFCTV. “We’re the champions of everything and everywhere. The world, Europe and the one we really wanted after 30 years of waiting, champions of England. They are memories I will cherish forever.”
    Moore’s three-year contract expired at the start of June. A short extension was agreed until the end of August in order for the 65-year-old to help guide the Premier League champions through the ongoing issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Prior to the official announcement in late July, he had long since known that his time at Liverpool was coming to an end with his plush house on the Wirral peninsula already up for sale.
    August represents a month-long transition period with Moore working alongside his successor Billy Hogan, who has been promoted by FSG from the role of managing director and chief commercial officer. The date for the formal handover of duties is September 1.
    While the offer of a new long-term deal wasn’t forthcoming from the owners, the parting of the ways is amicable. Moore still represented Liverpool alongside chairman Tom Werner at Thursday’s Premier League AGM.
    “There’s no anger or bad feeling on either side,” one senior Anfield source tells The Athletic. “In the end it was a mutual decision in that all parties agreed what was best for the club going forward. There’s been a succession plan in place with Billy for a while and Peter knew that.
    “Peter and his wife Debbie have six children between them back in the States who they rarely get to see, especially with the pandemic. The time is right for them to move back there and spend more time with them.”
    Moore’s legacy won’t be the trophies Liverpool won during his tenure. After all, football operations have been taken care of by the trinity of FSG president Mike Gordon, sporting director Michael Edwards and Klopp.
    Unlike Ayre before him, Moore wasn’t involved in the recruitment or the retention of players. But he was responsible for the day-to-day running of a business which employs some 800 people and had thrived with record revenues before COVID-19 struck.
    There were some controversies and mistakes along the way but where Moore undoubtedly triumphed was in reconnecting Liverpool with its local community. From the off, he was a passionate supporter of the work of the LFC Foundation, the club’s official charity, and the Red Neighbours initiative, which helps those battling social deprivation in the Anfield area.
    He didn’t just talk a good game, he got his hands dirty. He got involved in the walking football sessions and attended breakfast clubs for local kids. His wife Debbie gave up her time to teach yoga to the over-50s.
    Before every game at Anfield, Moore would turn up laden with Tesco bags to make his own personal donation to the foodbanks.
    Member of Parliament for Liverpool West Derby and lifelong LFC fan Ian Byrne co-founded Fans Supporting Foodbanks. They were given a new collection van by the Peter Moore Foundation. “We will always be eternally grateful for the support and advice Peter afforded us over the years in helping us build our initiative,” Byrne says.
    Two treatment rooms at Alder Hey in the name of his mum and a new classroom at Anfield Sports and Community Centre in memory of his dad were paid for.
  17. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    The work of James’ Place, Liverpool’s only male suicide prevention centre, the LFC Foundation’s mental health initiative for those struggling with COVID-19, a teenage facility at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and a children’s programme at Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra were all funded either directly by Moore himself or via his foundation. “I’m a Scouser and it’s important to remember your roots,” he says.
    Moore forged and strengthened relationships between the club and key figures such as Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, the region’s Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and Merseyside Police chief constable Andy Cooke. He commissioned an economic impact report which showed that nearly £500 million per year flows into the city as a result of Liverpool FC.
    He has always been a vocal supporter of LGBT rights and marched through the city during Liverpool Pride. “Equality, diversity and inclusion is what we’re all about,” Moore told the media.
    He’s a rarity – a football executive on Twitter, joking that he “learned words that I didn’t know existed but the value of what I get out of being engaged on social media far outweighs the negativity of the name-calling, the trolling and the keyboard warriors that come out”.
    When he travels across the world, he always pays a visit to at least one of Liverpool’s global network of 300-plus official supporters’ clubs. From Cape Town to Shanghai, Bangkok to Los Angeles, he has given presentations to fans and stayed around to have a beer with them and share stories.
    At times his sheer passion for Liverpool and his willingness to chat and engage has led to him arguably saying too much.
    Eyebrows were raised both at Melwood and in Boston when he talked at the World Football Summit in Madrid about Liverpool being “back on our perch” in the wake of winning the Champions League final in 2019. It was 12 months premature.
    His comments about Liverpool being “a socialist club” and how when it comes to business decisions they always ask themselves “what would Bill Shankly do?” seemed at odds with the rampant capitalism of the Premier League.
    For example, it’s unthinkable that Shankly would have approved of Liverpool’s support for a £5 million “golden handshake” from the 20 top-flight clubs for outgoing Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore in 2018.
    Those words were duly thrown back in his direction in April when Liverpool announced plans to furlough around 200 staff.
    The furious backlash at the prospect of a club valued at around £2 billion and with annual revenues in excess of £530 million using government funds led to a dramatic U-turn 48 hours later.
    It was Moore who penned an open letter to supporters to inform them the club was “truly sorry” for coming to the “wrong conclusion” and that they would find “alternative means” to cover wages.
    From a business perspective, Moore, Hogan and Gordon had initially been in agreement that using the furlough scheme was crucial to help ease cash-flow issues and safeguard jobs. They pointed to the fact that bigger companies than Liverpool had turned to the government for help but they had misjudged the mood.
    Negative headlines were also generated by the club’s attempts to trademark the word “Liverpool” for goods and services, which was rejected by the Intellectual Property Office last September. Moore had pursued it vigorously, insisting Liverpool FC were “under attack” from the large scale manufacturing of counterfeit goods, costing the club millions of pounds each season in lost revenue.
    Despite trying to reassure local traders and non-League clubs such as City of Liverpool and AFC Liverpool that they wouldn’t be affected, concerns remained with supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly welcoming the decision not to allow the word to become the club’s property. No appeal was ever lodged.
    Moore’s tenure as chairman of Liverpool FC Women was a tale of contrasts.
    He was the driving force behind Vicky Jepson’s squad being incorporated into the men’s pre-season tour for the first time last summer when they headed for America. He also ensured that Anfield hosted its first WSL game last November when more than 23,000 fans watched them in action against Everton. He sorted out new city-centre accommodation for the players and pushed the merits of the women’s game more than any other senior figure at Liverpool.
    Yet criticism abounded last season — from the size of the budget of the women’s team to the state of the pitch they had to play on at Tranmere Rovers — as they suffered the ignominy of relegation.
    Issues have since been addressed with Moore championing the need for the club to provide greater assistance in terms of facilities and resources.
    On the night that Jordan Henderson lifted the Premier League trophy to the heavens, Moore stood in the Anfield directors’ box watching the celebrations unfold. At one stage he was flanked by icons Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush as the trio sipped Champagne.
    It wasn’t a bad way to sign off. Come the autumn, he will move back to the San Francisco Bay area on the west coast of America.
    Back to setting his alarm for 4am to watch Liverpool’s lunchtime kick-offs. Back to being a fan rather than a chief executive. Back to spending more time with his family.
    He intends to take stock and see what other opportunities arise before deciding whether, at the age of 65, retirement beckons.
    Moore didn’t always get everything right at Liverpool but his heart was always in the right place. From the outset his mission was to ensure that he left the club in better shape than when he first walked in and on that front he certainly succeeded.

    From the highest floors of the city’s second Four Seasons Hotel, the views stretched across the Charles River and in the middle-distance small yachts bobbed about in the bay’s gentle waters. Little over a year ago, Billy Hogan was on territory he knew well. Yet in the space of a 40-minute interview with The Athletic, he described Boston as well as Liverpool as “home”.
    Home, because Boston is where he made his first steps with Fenway Sports Management just before the Red Sox clinched their first World Series in something like a gazillion years. Home, because Liverpool is where his responsibilities and profile have gradually increased since transferring his absolute focus to what was happening on Merseyside in 2012.
    In late July, it was announced that Hogan, who was born and raised in Cleveland, will become Liverpool’s new chief executive in September after eight years as chief commercial officer. In three of those years, he has also acted as managing director.
    Across that period, he has helped triple commercial revenues at Anfield. From the suite at the top of the Four Seasons, he explained that his team had identified that Liverpool’s reach was actually much further than anyone imagined with surveys revealing the club has as many as 700 million followers across the planet. This meant digital and social media “created an incredible opportunity for us to engage with fans, regardless of where they are”. Numbers generated from those platforms have proven a major selling point when it comes to discussions with potential partners.
    Hogan was instrumental in establishing club offices in London in 2014, which helped accelerate commercial growth because, quite simply, it became logistically a lot easier to hold meetings.
    He has since renegotiated a shirt-sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered which runs until 2023 and is understood to be worth around £40 million a year, alongside lucrative agreements with Western Union as a shirt sleeve sponsor as well as training kit deals with BetVictor and then AXA. There have also been partnerships with companies like Levi’s, Nivea Men and Quorn.
    The deal with Western Union, which was worth around £5 million per year, expired this summer and The Athletic can reveal that Liverpool are currently in talks with a number of interested parties to replace them.
    “As Premier League champions the club is in a strong position to be discussing options in the market,” insists a senior Anfield source. “We won’t rush the process and we may even start the new season without a sleeve partner.”
    Mike Gordon oversees the running of Liverpool from his home in Brookline and he was impressed by the way Hogan handled negotiations with Nike, who officially became Liverpool’s kit manufacturer at the start of August after New Balance lost a legal battle to retain the contract.
    Hogan negotiated the terms of a five-year deal which sees Liverpool bank a lower flat fee that they got from New Balance — £30 million per season compared to £40 million.
    However, Liverpool will receive royalties of 20 per cent on all net sales of merchandise. There is also a £4 million bonus for winning the Champions League, £2 million for being Champions League runners-up and £2 million for clinching the Premier League title.
    The Athletic understands that under Liverpool’s projections, based on ambitious global sales and continued on-field progress, that would bank a windfall of between £60 million and £70 million per year.
    Nike’s more extensive global distribution network and their commitment to use their sporting icons to market Liverpool was a major appeal for Hogan.
    The benefits of switching suppliers was highlighted this week when NBA superstar LeBron James was pictured wearing Liverpool’s new home jersey when he reported for the LA Lakers’ game against Oklahoma City Thunder.
    James has a two per cent minority stake in Liverpool which he received after a tie-up between his marketing firm, LRMR, and Fenway Sports Management, the sponsorship arm of Fenway Sports Group. Discussions are ongoing over further collaborations with James’ management team.
    Quietly, Hogan was able to prepare for his own promotion by hiring Matt Scammell as a new commercial director. He replaces Olly Dale, who left Liverpool last year.
    Scammell’s arrival after nine years at Manchester United where he worked as the head of global sponsorship sales did not get a mention on the club’s website but Hogan has since saluted his “vast experience and expertise”.
    Back in 2004, John W Henry, Tom Werner and Gordon were looking at ways of driving revenues outside of the Red Sox’s standard streams of income. Hogan was the first person hired in a new commercial department, ahead of Sam Kennedy who is now the Red Sox CEO. By the summer of 2019, as he eased back into a leather chair at the Four Seasons, Hogan was able to explain the key differences between the commercial operations at baseball franchises and football clubs and it was clear that because of greater freedoms, the possibilities in the latter excited him more.
    “The commercial side of the Red Sox is principally local in nature. Anything outside of New England is outside of the Red Sox control. A sponsorship with a major drinks company, for example, could only appear in New England. They couldn’t advertise it in New York. The principal commercial strands in baseball are through sponsorship and ticketing. With 162 games a season, with 81 at home, we’ve got a lot of tickets to sell. This means tickets are a huge part of revenue in baseball. Then there’s league revenues that come in like merchandising which is controlled by MLB. When you buy a Red Sox cap, that revenue goes back into central baseball and it gets split 30 ways. Even though the Red Sox might sell more caps than another club they’re getting an equal share of the revenue. It’s another way of effectively levelling the field. The same happens with media output.
    “Compare that to Liverpool… we control our markets outside of the live rights that are sold for the Premier League collectively. We have the ability to retail our product on a global basis. In sponsorship, we can go outside of our markets in the UK. Outside of the live rights we also control our media and monetise that content on a global basis…”
    By 2019, Liverpool had the highest viewing figures of any Premier League team on NBC. Meanwhile, the highest number of hits on the club’s website from a country other than the UK was in the US. This meant his homeland was viewed as a “critical market”.
    “When I was growing up it was very difficult to watch live football unless it was the World Cup, you had to search hard,” he said. “Now it’s on every weekend, Saturday and Sunday morning and it’s a terrific time because nothing else is on other than cartoons. NBC have spoken about a new daypart that’s been created.
    “Kids didn’t wear Premier League kits but now they do,” he continued. “The access to the content and the video game side of it has absolutely helped. My son plays FIFA constantly and he knows every player at every club through that. It helps that the content is incredibly compelling and available all of the time. In that 25-and-under age group, people are legitimately fans of clubs because they’ve grown up watching the teams whereas that just wasn’t the case 25 years ago.”
    His job at Liverpool in his own words as a commercial executive was to simply “drive as much revenue as we possibly can to then drive that back into the club so that Jurgen and Michael can reinvest that back into the football club”.
    As chief executive, his duties will be broader than that but clearly his creative understanding of how to make money in the midst of a pandemic will surely be crucial at a football club that exists in a real economic world.

    Before 1998 there was no chief executive at Liverpool. The responsibilities of that role fell with the secretary. Peter Robinson was a respected figure and on at least two occasions the FA tried to poach him. His Lancashire roots meant he preferred rugby and cricket to football but that did not mean he knew the job any less. Bill Shankly’s campaigning to remove decision-making processes from directors ended at Robinson’s door, someone he wanted to take with him to Sunderland on one of the many occasions when he threatened to leave if he didn’t get what he wanted.
    It has been claimed that the Liverpool board failed to capitalise on the team’s success and comparisons are made with the operation at Manchester United many years later. Context is often lost in this discussion because the environments in which each club’s glory years fell was very different. A commercial department did not exist at Liverpool because football did not have the exposure it gained in the 1990s through enormously profitable television deals.
    It was viewed as controversial when Robinson brokered the English top flight’s first ever shirt-sponsorship deal with Hitachi in 1979. This was worth £100,000 to Liverpool across two years, though the terms of the agreement fell in line with branding restrictions and this meant the Japanese conglomerate only had their logos on shirts for league games that were not televised.
    Robinson tried to increase revenues by ensuring Liverpool became the first club to sell replica shirts but this innovation came at the start of the 1980s, a decade which hit Liverpool, as a city, hard economically. While few match-goers possessed the finance to splash out on what was then considered a luxury item, there was also very little will. This was a period where the casual culture infiltrated the terraces of English football grounds and even supporters of other clubs sometimes recognise the phenomenon started in Liverpool.
    It would be understandable if Robinson was frustrated by the terrain he was operating on. The new Kop grandstand was built in 1994 with Sky money while other clubs spent on players. This meant he needed to find ways of increasing revenues and one of those solutions was leasing part of the stand to McDonald’s. This move was met with a similar resistance and the relationship between Liverpool and the fast-food giant lasted only a few seasons.
    Today, Liverpool’s business operation is away from Anfield, with a headquarters at Chapel Street in the city centre as well as the office in London. Under Robinson, the entire club was run from two small rooms beneath the stadium’s main stand. One was the manager’s office. The other door led into Robinson’s workplace. Separating them was a hallway with two plastic orange chairs where visitors used to wait. If Liverpool was the best-run corner shop in the country, it was nevertheless a corner shop. Robinson tasked Geoff Twentyman, the chief scout, with the job of banking profits made from gate receipts in a vault in Bootle and Twentyman would drive across town in his hand-me-down Ford Corsair without any security.
    Robinson prided himself on day-to-day priorities like logistics and he took charge of arrangements for European away trips. This included the hiring of buses as well as the booking of flights and hotels along with meal planning. By the mid to late 1990s, Robinson was in his sixties and Rick Parry, 30 or so years his junior, was a Chester-born accountant who had worked on Manchester’s bid for the Olympics in 1996. This led to a role with the Premier League when it launched in 1992 where he became the organisation’s first chief executive. When he was approached by a Premier League club to become CEO he realised that the only club he really wanted to work for was Liverpool. So he called Robinson and in his own flat way told him, “Peter, I’d quite like your job”.
  18. Hass

    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Privately, Robinson had decided to retire in 2000. Parry arrived three years earlier, initially in a shadow role that involved individual projects like the building of the academy in Kirkby. When Robinson walked out unexpectedly in 1999, Parry stepped up and for the next 10 years he was in charge. As a supporter of the club, he later admitted to feeling “an enormous sense of responsibility”, especially when the team didn’t meet expectations and supporters went looking for reasons. Football’s finances changed dramatically in the 1990s, but it accelerated faster than ever before in the following decade. It was during this period that Liverpool were attempting to catch up with its rivals off the pitch while somehow remain competitive on it.
    In 1999, Parry estimated that Liverpool needed to qualify for the Champions League for three seasons in every five in order to have the financial power and relevance to challenge United, Arsenal and latterly Chelsea. Liverpool could afford one season out of European football and another in what was then the UEFA Cup. Though he was supported by staff, all of the big meetings and decisions were on him. Parry reported to David Moores, the chairman and owner. Moores left the running of the club to Parry, who like Robinson was central to match planning arrangements but also had what potentially would have been the biggest move ever made by the club on his agenda. Parry believed a new stadium would shape the club’s future for at least the next 25 years. On reflection, he wishes he would have delegated more on the smaller issues.
    Though Liverpool won almost everything there is to win during Parry’s tenure, he was heavily criticised especially for his prominence in Moores’ decision to sell the club to Tom Hicks and George Gillett. This led to a civil war paralysing the club and Parry’s time came to an end after Hicks lambasted him in a TV interview held in the billionaire’s front room in Texas.
    “On the odd occasion you’d come across people you hadn’t seen since school. They’d inevitably say, ‘Blimey, you’ve got the best job in the world’.” Parry later reflected. “You’d pause for a minute and only then would it dawn. ‘I suppose I have actually. Thanks for reminding me! It didn’t always feel like that’.”
    His replacement in 2009 was Christian Purslow, who was given a different title as managing director but assumed more or less the same duties. Purslow’s priority was the task of renegotiating a £350 million loan with Royal Bank of Scotland. Though he was successful in securing a four-year shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered, he proved to be an even more unpopular figure than Parry after it became clear that he had not only assumed transfer responsibilities but imposed his will on new manager Roy Hodgson as to who should be bought and who should be sold.
    Purslow lasted 15 months. Though he favoured New England Sports Ventures in a bidding process as the club lurched towards financial meltdown, one of the first things the new owners did was get rid of him. Replacement Ian Ayre had also been involved in the sale and it was decided by Fenway Sports Group, as they became, that it would be wise to have a Merseyside native in charge. Ayre replaced Purslow as managing director in early 2011 before earning promotion to chief executive level three years later.
    Ayre was another divisive figure. His legacy project proved to be the new £110 million Main Stand at Anfield – a significant development in Liverpool’s modern history given the way it has helped improve the club’s revenue streams. Yet locally, his reputation took a hit when he featured on the Being: Liverpool documentary in 2012 where he rode through the streets of the city on a Harley Davidson. Like Parry and Purslow before him, he was criticised for his transfer record — particularly for the number of deals that he failed to get over the line. Meanwhile club insiders felt like Ayre was always looking over his shoulder and this meant many of those working for him felt the same way. Culturally, Liverpool remained damaged from the civil war of 2007-09, which Ayre was a part of having been hired by Hicks as a finance officer.
    Ayre bragged about driving up the club revenues through shirt sales of bad signings like Mario Balotelli and made himself unpopular amongst contemporaries from lower-ranking Premier League clubs when he suggested that elite brands like Liverpool should be able to broker their own television rights deals abroad.
    Though he suggested to FSG in 2016 that Liverpool’s supporters would react badly to a new ticket price structure for the Main Stand, he did not argue his case forcefully enough and ended up doing an interview which implied that he was in total agreement with the move. His warning that fans should be “careful what they wish for” came across like a threat and the next day, more than 10,000 supporters walked out of Anfield in the 77th minute of a game against Sunderland. The planned ticket price increases were ditched.
    Within a fortnight, it was announced that Ayre would be leaving Liverpool — albeit via a long farewell that lasted 15 months. This transition period allowed FSG to consider their options. It had always been their intention to restructure the club into different departments led by specialists, but the key was finding the right person to act as sporting director. Edwards had already assumed several key responsibilities from Ayre by the time of the walk-out and within six months, he was given the role that had lay vacant since Damien Comolli’s departure in 2012.
    Hogan was considered as Ayre’s obvious replacement but the role of CEO was changing. With Edwards in place, no longer did the incumbent need to worry about transfer dealings. FSG recognised Liverpool needed a friendlier face at the front desk. Hogan was doing well as chief commercial officer and finding ways of exploiting the possibilities created by the Main Stand development as well as through the achievements of Klopp’s team. This combination led the owners towards Moore. Now they believe the time is right for Hogan to step up.
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    Hass Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2006
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    Sensible Transfers: White fits the bill at centre-back as Tsimikas nears move
    By James Pearce and Alex Stewart Aug 9, 2020[​IMG] 89 [​IMG]
    Jurgen Klopp had to change his summer transfer plans. The coronavirus pandemic decimated Liverpool’s revenue streams and the new Premier League champions had to cut their cloth accordingly. For a club who have to live within their means under the ownership of Fenway Sports Group, less cash coming in means less available to invest in the playing squad.
    The first sign of that was the decision not to pursue a deal for RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner after Klopp held positive discussions with the Germany international. Liverpool felt they simply couldn’t justify the outlay of £54 million, plus huge wages, for a player who would have been brought in initially as back-up to their established front three.
    “It’s not that we think we cannot improve with transfers, we do what is right for us and what we are able to do, that’s all,” says Klopp. “The club cannot buy just because other teams buy and (because) everyone wants us to. We buy if we have the money for it and the need for it. If one of these things is not there we will not buy, and we will go again. And we will not use it as an excuse.”
    Klopp has talked about needing to be “creative” in the transfer market and “finding solutions internally”, rather than spending big this summer. He believes the likes of Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino are destined to play bigger roles next season and he’s also excited about the potential of youngsters such as Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Neco Williams.
    But there will be modest additions to the squad this summer as Klopp seeks greater depth as Liverpool embark on the challenge of trying to retain the Premier League title and reclaim the European crown they won just over a year ago.
    Signing cover for left-back Andy Robertson has been the overriding priority and Liverpool are close to completing a £11.75 million deal for Olympiakos’ Kostas Tsimikas. Sporting director Michael Edwards switched his attention to the 24-year-old Greece international after failing to agree a fee with relegated Norwich City for Jamal Lewis.
    Liverpool had a £10 million bid rejected for the Northern Ireland international last week, with Norwich refusing to budge from their £20 million valuation. It represents a major disappointment for Lewis, who had his heart set on moving to Anfield and continuing his development under the guidance of Klopp.
    Tsimikas, who is scheduled to fly to Merseyside this week for a medical, has impressed Liverpool with his performances in the Champions Legaue and Europa League. His final game for Olympiakos was Thursday’s last-16 defeat at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
    Liverpool’s list of alternatives which was drawn up in anticipation of Norwich standing firm on Lewis also featured Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon, who has been on loan at Sevilla. He would have cost around £18 million with Tsimikas deemed the better option.
    Signing a centre-back is also a necessity this summer following the £10.9 million sale of Dejan Lovren to Zenit St Petersburg. The Croatia international enjoyed a rollercoaster six years at Anfield after arriving from Southampton. Brendan Rodgers backed him to become the commanding defensive leader Liverpool had lacked since Jamie Carragher’s retirement. Lovren couldn’t live up to that billing but he was a useful squad player whose popularity inside Melwood always exceeded his status with the club’s fanbase.
    Klopp promised Lovren, who had slipped to fourth-choice centre-back, he wouldn’t stand in his way for a second successive summer after Liverpool turned down interest from both Roma and AC Milan in 2019.
    Liverpool have high hopes for young defenders Sepp van den Berg and Ki-Jana Hoever but at the age of 18 they aren’t yet ready for the demands of Premier League football. Nat Phillips, 23, is another option following his return from a loan spell helping Stuttgart win promotion to the Bundesliga but he’s also unproven at the highest level.
    Joe Gomez’s partnership with Virgil van Dijk flourished in the second half of the season and the 23-year-old England international could be a mainstay of the team for the next decade. But the need for another senior centre-back is enhanced by the fact both Gomez and Joel Matip have had injury problems. Matip featured in just nine league games last season and missed the run-in due to a foot problem.
    Liverpool have extensively scouted Brighton & Hove Albion’s Ben White (above), who spent last season on loan at Championship title winners Leeds United. The 22-year-old fits the club’s target profile and is highly regarded by Klopp, who believes there is a dearth of top-class centre-backs available. However, Brighton are reluctant to sell and have already rejected a bid of £22 million from Leeds.
    Financial constraints mean that Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Diego Carlos of Sevilla are out of the question. Real Betis’s Aissa Mandi would be a cheaper, and more realistic, option.
    Despite ongoing speculation linking the club with Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara, Liverpool have yet to make a move for the Spanish midfielder. Senior Anfield sources have played down talk of pursuing a deal for Thiago and insist Klopp is satisfied with his options in midfield. It would certainly be out of keeping with the club’s transfer model, given that he’s 29 years old, has had injury problems in recent years and would command a huge salary.
    However, Klopp has made no secret of his admiration for Thiago previously and, having entered the final year of his contract, he’s available for around £30 million.
    “You could still get a very good three or four years out of him,” says former Liverpool midfielder and Sky Germany pundit Didi Hamann. “Thiago isn’t someone who relies on his pace. He’s smart. He uses the ball well. Teams come to Anfield and just try to frustrate them and that’s likely to get worse next season. Thiago has huge quality in terms of unlocking defences. He could be very useful. I think if there’s one area of this team that Liverpool can improve, it’s probably the midfield.”
    Having walked away from Werner, securing high-calibre cover for the front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino still has to be addressed. Watford’s Ismaila Sarr is on the radar after their relegation to the Championship. Klopp was impressed by his all-round performance when he scored twice to end his title-bound side’s unbeaten start to the league season in February. Mane also speaks highly of him both as a player and as a person, following the time they have spent together on international duty with Senegal.
    Incomings this summer will also be influenced by outgoings and how much cash can be generated by sales.
    Liverpool have already taken more than £200,000 off their weekly wage bill with the departures of free agents Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne and Lovren’s transfer. They are hoping to recoup around £6 million by selling goalkeeper Loris Karius, who has no future at Anfield after spending the past two seasons on loan at Besiktas in Turkey.
    The futures of Harry Wilson, Marko Grujic and Xherdan Shaqiri depend to a large extent on what offers are forthcoming. Liverpool have no intention of loaning out Wilson or Grujic again after their time at Bournemouth and Hertha Berlin respectively last season. Both are valued at around £20 million with Wilson already attracting interest from Newcastle United, Southampton and promoted Leeds. Liverpool won’t sell either player for less than that figure and if suitable bids aren’t tabled then Klopp intends to keep them as squad players.
    There is also a decision to be made about midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, who has entered the final year of his contract.
    Sporting director Michael Edwards and Klopp share the belief that the club are in a strong position. There is little pressure on them to either buy or sell.
    They retain great confidence in the talent already at Klopp’s disposal and the potential for further growth as they seek to build on the success of the past two seasons.
    Tifo’s suggested: Pervis Estupinan (Watford)

    Kostas Tsimikas appears to be the front-runner to provide cover for Andy Robertson, but Tifo’s suggestion is a left-back at a relegated Premier League club — albeit one who is yet to play for them, despite being on their books for four years.
    Pervis Estupinan spent last season on loan from Watford to Osasuna (following previous loans in Spain at Granada, Almeria and Mallorca) and was arguably the best all-round left-back in La Liga. At only 22, and having garnered a lot of justified, positive attention, he’s unlikely to want to stay at his parent club now they are in the Championship.
    Estupinan managed five assists and one goal last season, and his 7.3 progressive passes and three passes to the final third per 90 (according to StatsBomb) indicate someone who can get the ball forwards. The Ecuador international is probably not as dynamic as Robertson, but then few are; he is defensively solid, though, with almost two interceptions and 1.7 tackles won per 90. He’s athletic, wants to be involved in games and make things happen, and looks at home in top-flight football already.
    Importantly, Osasuna were also La Liga’s second busiest team for successful pressures, after Getafe, and also play fairly direct football, so the stylistic shift to Liverpool would be possibly less taxing than going to a more passive or possession-based team.
    An alternative, who might be easier to convince to take a back-up role, would be Jonathan Silva of a Leganes side just relegated from La Liga.
    Leganes were fifth in the Spanish top flight for successful pressures, though considerably less direct in style than Liverpool. Silva is less talented than Estupinan but still shows up well in La Liga’s left-back statistics, with two assists and one goal, and 7.2 progressive passes and 1.2 passes to the penalty area per 90 minutes, according to StatsBomb. The 26-year-old Argentina international is a poorer defender than Estupinan, though, and managed to get booked 13 times and sent off once in 33 league appearances last season, which is a concern.
    He would, however, be less expensive and, let’s face it, any player Liverpool sign for this position is only going to be a back-up.
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    Hass Well-Known Member

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    Why does everyone want to sign Ben White?
    By Alex Stewart Aug 12, 2020[​IMG] 183 [​IMG]
    Ben White was one of the Championship’s outstanding defenders last season. Integral to Leeds’ improved defensive performance, the on-loan Brighton defender was described with good reason by The Athletic’s Phil Hay as “Bielsa’s perfect centre-back”.
    Versatile too, White has appeared as a defensive midfielder for Leeds, and played in both full-back positions for Newport County while on loan there in 2017-18. His admirers extend beyond Marcelo Bielsa though, with Liverpool and Chelsea credited with interest in a defender Brighton themselves have so far appeared determined to keep hold of.
    So why is this 22-year-old emerging as one of England’s most wanted players?
    Defensively, White’s greatest strength is probably anticipation. He reads the danger well, constantly scanning the pitch to assess where threats may materialise. He’s not only quick to spot this, though — he’s quick to react and clearly had licence within Leeds’ defensive shape to leave the line and move into wide areas to halt opposition attacks. In this sequence, as Derby attack down the left-hand side, White has already anticipated the danger of a ball down the flank and sprints over to shut it down.
    He checks his run once he realises that he can’t get to the ball first, using his body shape to shepherd the Derby runner towards the line and prevent an inside pass towards the area.
    This gives Leeds time to regain a defensive shape, with two players aligning in the centre-back positions within the box and every other Derby player marked.
    White’s ability to read and react to the situation and his willingness to leave the line and trust his colleagues to fill in prevents an easy ball into the box.
    White’s positioning in this regard is important — whether in a back three or back four, he is regularly the deeper player, which allows him to sweep behind and move wide. While he’s not extremely quick, his acceleration is sufficient to react to balls in behind or in the channels, and his reading of the game means he’s often setting off towards the danger area before the pass has arrived there. His deeper position also means he’s the organiser and, despite his age, his team-mates clearly listen to him.
    This anticipation also helps with his duels and interceptions. According to stats from Opta, White is fourth in the Championship for interceptions per 90 among players with over 800 minutes played, with 2.57. He also won 5.89 duels per 90; 57.4 per cent of his total. And although he’s not the biggest defender, he’s shown against the Championship’s most physical attackers that he can hold his own.
    This sequence perfectly shows White’s defending style — he stands off slightly as the throw-in is about to be taken, ensuring he’s not too close to his man.
    Once he can see that the player he’s marking is the intended recipient, he uses his strength and body position to get around the player and win the ball, which breaks to a Leeds team-mate who is immediately able to turn and run into space.
    Not only has White won the ball, but he’s done so in such a way as to spring an attack from a relatively high position on the pitch.
    While White’s defending is intelligent and proactive, it’s his work with the ball that marks him out as an outstanding prospect. White is ninth of all players in the Championship for successful passes in his own half per 90 minutes, with 37.1 — by overall volume, he was second behind Fulham’s Tim Ream. Importantly, White is bold with his passing choices, he’s not afraid to go long, especially into the channels, but he also often chooses the progressive, rather than the easy, option.
    This sequence shows White being pressed in possession against Charlton. They have marked most passing lanes well and the simple option as White is closed down is a pass to the nearest player, Pascal Struijk. Luke Ayling, though, is aware that there is a more progressive pass on to Jack Harrison and is pointing to the player.
    While many centre-backs being pressed with no cover behind them would take the short pass to Struijk, who could then steer it back to the goalkeeper to begin again, White finds Harrison and within one further pass, Leeds have bypassed two lines of the Charlton defence. It’s not that the pass to Harrison is that difficult, but White’s ability to assess his options and not pick the high-percentage, low-reward one is important.
    He’s also an excellent ball-carrier. As this sequence shows, White has picked up the ball short. While he has space, Charlton are not badly set up to cover.
    As he advances, White spots that the Charlton player ahead of him is either going to press Struijk or move across to hold him up, and so he accelerates towards the gap.
    Which he glides through.
    He then hits a lovely pass with the outside of his right foot on to the run of Stuart Dallas, taking a number of Charlton defenders out of the game.
    This kind of assertive ball-carrying is rare from a centre-back, as is the technical ability and acumen to execute the final pass.
    And, as these stats from Opta show, White is consistently high in three important metrics for ball-carrying centre-backs: progressive carries from goal kicks, progressive carries into the opposition half, and shot-ending sequences started. Progressive carries are ones that move the ball more than five metres towards opponent’s goal. Ream is the only other centre-back to appear in the top five or six for those metrics, and no other players appear more than once.
    Top Championship centre-backs

    Mads Andersem

    Tim Ream

    Ben White
    Leeds United414031

    Yoann Barbet

    Tom Lockyer
    Charlton Athletic387022

    Tim Ream

    Ben White
    Leeds United414088

    Matthew Clarke
    Derby County302074

    Jake Cooper

    Matty Pearson
    Luton Town366672

    Ethan Pinnock

    Ben White
    Leeds United414029

    Tim Ream

    Jordy de Wijs
    Hull City303027

    Kyle Bartley

    Semi Ajayi

    Julian Borner
    Sheffield Wednesday306922
    This is what marks out White as a special talent, and it’s why clubs are circling the player.
    So how might White fit in at his current club, Brighton, where he’s yet to play, or two of the clubs most closely linked, Chelsea and Liverpool? It’s worth saying that basing this on the team’s current style presents an issue: it could be that they adapt if White joins, because his abilities allow them to do something they currently cannot. Looking, though, at how these teams played last season it’s possible to infer some things.
    Graham Potter is a very flexible coach and it’s likely that he would see White, as well as Lewis Dunk, as the foundations of the team whether they play three- or four-man back lines.
    Currently, goalkeeper Mat Ryan tends to look for the full-backs when distributing, or to hit the central midfield area. There’s little in the way of passing connection by volume between the centre-backs and the midfield, although more on the right as Adam Webster looks to play it forwards to Yves Bissouma.
    This could suit White, and he could also drop off, offering a shorter option to Ryan to invite the press while Brighton’s midfield and wide defenders push up. It’s harder to see a clear fit here, but with Potter in charge, Brighton will likely be able to adapt to get the benefits of playing White.
    Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have been disappointing defensively, lacking a coherent shape. Switching often between a back three and four, Chelsea consistently leave spaces ahead of the backline. Here White’s proactivity could be of real use, ushering Chelsea forwards to squeeze up towards the midfield, while also offering cover behind.
    Kepa Arrizabalaga’s distribution does see a lot of passes up to 25 yards to centre-backs or a dropping defensive midfielder, so White would have opportunities here to take the ball and carry it into space. He’d also offer a deeper line of good progressive passing — currently Chelsea’s defenders mostly try to push the ball wide rather than bypass the opposition lines.
    Liverpool are the only team linked with White to play a back four consistently, and here he would compete with Joe Gomez to line up in the right-sided slot alongside Virgil van Dijk. Alisson hits both centre-backs regularly with passes, but the progressive distribution from centre-back is left largely to Van Dijk.
    The right centre-back does push the ball forwards to Trent Alexander-Arnold but otherwise often plays it across to Van Dijk. White’s addition would give Liverpool a second excellent passer in this position, while it’s also possible to envisage White’s ball-carrying working well, with Jordan Henderson either pushing forwards to make space, or dropping to cover and leaving room for White to go forwards.
    As we’ve said, it’s difficult to know how a player would fit into a new side, and more so with central defenders than any other position. The simplest option for White would be a return to Elland Road — he knows the system, the other players, and he’s clearly a huge asset to the team.
    But with Brighton keen to hold on to their most promising player, and clubs with more financial clout keeping a close eye on proceedings, it’s entirely possible that White will find himself in a new defensive set-up next season.
    What’s clear, though, is he has the skills to succeed almost anywhere.

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