Harvey Elliott gave his first interview as a senior professional this week - and it was Liverpool's assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders who asked the questions of the 17-year-old in an exclusive on this website.
Speaking via video chat, the pair engaged in a lengthy, entertaining and informative discussion as Elliott spoke for the first time since joining the Reds last summer.
The No.67 talked candidly about his aims and goals, both in the short and long term, while representing the club he’s supported since childhood. In addition, he outlined what it’s like to train alongside Mohamed Salah, James Milner, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and more at Melwood each day and the positive leadership they provide.
Elliott also detailed the influence Liverpool’s coaching staff – particularly Jürgen Klopp and Vitor Matos – have had on him so far.
Watch the interview via the YouTube video below, or scroll down to read the full transcript.
Pepijn Lijnders: So, this is a quick interview with our ‘little diamond’ of the team, Harvey Elliott. I am looking forward to it and I will try to get more to know about him and to show what a good kid he is. He is a great player, which everybody sees, but behind that is a great human being – and a great addition to our team and our squad. So, let’s start!
Training at Melwood, was there one moment in this last half-year where you thought, ‘Wow! This goes really quick!’?
Harvey Elliott: I think it was my first training session. Obviously the full squad wasn’t there, but stepping through the doors and seeing all the lockers [in the changing room] was a real moment for me. Then onto the pitch and the tempo of training and the quality of the players… I was like, ‘Wow!’
PL: You speak about your first session. I remember coming back into Melwood and me and Jürgen were sitting and both said, ‘OK… that’s quite impressive for a 16-year-old!’ Normally when we do the counter-press rondo we did that day, you see straight away if a player can handle the speed and decision-making because it’s such a short space you play our game in.
My next question is, if we go back many years when you were really young, did you train, did you play ‘street football’? How do you think you developed your technique in that way and your decision-making at the same time?
HE: To be fair, I did play a bit of street football. It was like a cage thing; it had walls around it, so we’d play off of it. There’d be about 10-12 people in this cage, so it’s quite small and compact and so we had to have quick thinking. I had to make sure every time I got the ball that my touch was good and my passing was good. That helped a lot and also at younger clubs, I was playing up a couple of years, so being around older boys you had to move the ball quickly, to have your next pass in your mind before you got the ball. As the years have gone on, I think that has helped me a lot. Being a kid playing with older boys, you can get smashed around. It hurts, but next time you learn from it – and next time I get the ball, I am going to pass it or I am going to dribble. It helps you a lot.
PL: So basically you’re still the same, except it’s at Melwood, because you’re the youngest one…
HE: Sometimes it’s not nice being the youngest! Always being in the middle of the rondos!
PL: That’s the only bad thing, the only bad thing there is, that you have to go first in the rondos. That’s it, you cannot name anything else as a 16 or 17-year-old being at Melwood with Millie, with Adam, with Jordan…
HE: Yeah, I’m not complaining! But it’s just sometimes, I’m in the middle of the rondos and like, ‘Oh no!’
PL: Was it easy to come into our way of football? Like, the way we want to play, the way we like to be dominant?
HE: I think as the time has gone on here, I think I’ve got used to it and adapted to it more. I think at first coming into the training sessions, I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is what it’s really like!?’ The technique and style of play is a lot different. It was hard to adapt, but I think it’s easy at the same time because it’s simple – it’s how we play, when we play, either speeding up or controlling the game. I think if you get that into your mind and get the technique right, I think you can adapt to it very well.
PL: How important is Vitor [Matos]?
HE: He’s been very important, very important. Every day we have conversations. I think he has been a very big influence on us players even in the small time he’s been here. He’s a very nice guy, on and off the pitch, always checking how we are and having jokes with us, but he’s teaching us a lot of things. To have someone like him to come in and help us out, it’s very good for us. We’re all very thankful he is around.
PL: I said in the press conference, I think it was before Arsenal, that he was our ‘best signing’. But you of course were a good signing as well!
HE: I think he’s better, I think he’s better!
PL: If you could explain our manager in one sentence, how would you explain him?
HE: I just think he is any player’s dream to play under, to be honest. I think many people can say that, just because of who he is. Off the pitch, he can have a joke, he can dish the jokes out, but when it’s serious and we need to focus he brings the best out of everyone.
PL: The first sentence was the best I ever heard!
HE: That’s all I have to say!
PL: You cannot get bigger compliment as a coach. So, describe Mo Salah in one word…
HE: Just his style of play and who he is, on and off the pitch. For myself, looking at him in my position, I idolise him a lot. To be going up against him in training, I learn a lot of things from him. Even in the gym as well; he is telling me to do a higher weight, he is telling me to push myself even more, so to have him in the club and around us young players, he is a really big influence. It’s a dream come true.
PL: To be honest, this is what we also wanted to create: a situation where we put big talents from the city, from England and from outside of England together in a small squad together with all of these [senior] players. We wanted to create this situation where you can learn constantly from each other as it’s the best way to teach. There is a good saying: a talent doesn’t need criticism, he needs role models. I really believe in that, we really believe in that. If we create a situation where as young as possible you’re with us, it will really accelerate your development, your process and your way of playing.
So, it’s good to hear that because it confirms what we want to create, to feel our way and keep these standards. Everybody knows if you have high standards then the results will follow. So… explain to me your targets.
HE: To win everything with this club. I strive to be like Steven Gerrard, to be as big of a legend here as him. I want to win the Premier League and the Champions League with this amazing club. For me, that’s what I strive towards and I want to help the club in every way possible to accomplish these things.
PL: Explain to me what would be the one thing you want to add to your game. What do you think would take your game to the next level?
HE: I think probably scoring more goals. I think if I added that to my game, it would take me on further. I have a thought in my head to be a team player; I’d rather set my friend in and he has a clear shot on goal than me take a shot on and it gets deflected or the defender comes and tackles me. Sometimes in situations I need to be more selfish, but at the same time I have a thought of my friends around me and whether they have an easier position to score or a better chance.
PL: If you look at our game, we need this aggression in front of goal. If I have a one-v-one, I go; if I have space, I go; if I can shoot, I shoot. But at the same time, we value the assist, the last pass, more than anything in the game. You really have this overview in these tight situations, which makes you different – it really separates you from many other young players. I can imagine, you are so many times in a situation where you can pull the trigger, but you will give the ball to the left or the right, which is a good option. I think you will score more goals and we will keep training you in difficult finishing drills as well!
So, who are the players you see as your role models inside this squad, who do you look differently to? And if you could add one aspect from these players to you game, what would it be?
HE: I look at two people – Millie and Adz. Their work ethic in training, outside of training, in the gym… they’re always bang on it. They are so professional. All of the team is, but those two are always in the gym an hour-and-a-half before training, they’re always doing a bit extra.
PL: Do you think differently about your body now after half a year here? About how you prepare in the gym, about how you prepare at Melwood and in training than you did before, or is it the same? This is the power of role models, this is the power of these senior pros and the ones we have.
HE: I think my body looks a lot different to the way it was last year. Being in and around the pros, seeing what weights they’re doing, I want to try to push towards that weight or get around it. So there is more hunger towards being like them. Even the nutritional side of things, everything all just adds up and helps make us the best players we can possibly be. I think my body now compared to last year has changed a lot.
PL: I always ask Millie, by the way… he talks really highly of you. How important is James for this group of players? Neco spoke about Adam really good recently. What do you think?
HE: I think Millie is a big aspect of the team; not only for just the first-team players, but even for us coming up. When he’s played in the Carabao Cup games, we all turn and look at him and think, ‘Wow, we’re playing alongside him’. To have him around us young players is good because we learn so much off him, he is always giving us tips, he is always wanting us to improve. He is always driving us towards the bare minimum, whether that’s chasing down a ball. He is always motivating us and wanting us to be the best.
PL: If you had to give yourself a number, zero to 10, about how you adapted to our family, what would it be?
HE: There is a lot of adapting to do to come into this squad, to show what you’re about and to be at the levels of all of these players, you have to do a lot and you have to put a lot of work into it to get into the position some of these players are in. Everyone has to work hard, everyone has to adapt in some way.
PL: It is good for the people to see what a super professional you already are, how you are learning and the passion you have for the game, for the ball and for improvement. We value that, you know this, and we are really happy that you’re part of our squad. We trust you and want you to make the next step. As long as you show this hunger day by day, session by session, then you can reach these targets you’ve just explained. Keep going and focus on the small things to be better.
HE: Thank you.
PL: I hope more young players will be inspired by the steps you’ve already made and what you’ve done.