'Hard-working, talented, together' - LFC's coaching champions: Part one
At every opportunity Jürgen Klopp has stressed how Liverpool's Premier League title success wouldn't have been possible without the tireless efforts of the team behind the team.
Klopp's set of players ended the club's 30-year wait for the English top-flight crown, doing so in record-breaking fashion.
But behind them all throughout that journey has been a collection of professionals to offer the squad world-class support, guidance and help.
Liverpoolfc.com sat down with 14 members of the Melwood set-up for insight into the historic 2019-20 campaign. Read on below for part one of the series…
Watch our interviews with the staff members in full for free on LFCTV GO now. You can start a free one-month trial of LFCTV GO now and this can be cancelled at any time.
The culture of Melwood
It's at Melwood where the foundations of Liverpool's title were built.
Hours and hours of graft and sacrifice are put in at the West Derby complex, but it's a privilege for those involved to call it their place of work.
Pepijn Lijnders, assistant manager: "It's a joy. Melwood is a special place, as everybody knows. It's small for such a big club and there's not one day where the people in the building had not the right feeling or the right vibe after a loss or a win – and that's important."
Peter Krawietz, assistant manager: "Each team is probably like a football family and the family needs a home. You live there, you go there, you work then you rest. You are preparing to go out, leave the door and from there we start to go to the stadium and try to win all of the games. But this is the base, the home base. There you get strong, there you consider, you talk about the real things, the internal things which you feel are important for your development. This is what we created or already was there – the home of Liverpool FC where the team is based. And we use that to develop that in the right way."
Harrison Kingston, head of post-match analysis: "What you see on a Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday or whatever day it is – it's not quite the outcome of everything that happens but Melwood is the place where everything is refined. Whether it's developing a new way of playing or helping another player improve a little step – but it's much more than that. It's the place where everybody is, every day, together. We're really well looked after, in terms of what's provided for us, and that enables you to just concentrate on your job. It's the power of Melwood."
Jack Robinson, first-team assistant goalkeeping coach: "It doesn't feel like you are coming in for a job. It's like you are coming in to meet with some friends and have a really good chat and enjoyable day. Then you go home feeling, 'I've had a good day, I've worked hard, but it's a great place to be.'"
Lee Radcliffe, kit management co-ordinator: "Not just myself but a lot of people at Melwood try to keep it real and try to just deal with the players like we are now. By doing that and everybody doing that, I think it just helps build a really good friendship. So you can talk to, say, Virgil like a mate, you can say things that you would say to a mate and I think that really helps with the atmosphere. I think that's what has really got us to where we are now today."
Ray Haughan, general manager of first-team operations: "Everything that's done at Melwood is the team, it's never just talked about the players and then the rest. It's just a team."
Vitor Matos, elite development coach: "It's the perfect place to be."
The playing squad
Providing them with a support network that allows them to flourish on the pitch, the coaches attest to how special, humble and determined a squad Klopp has assembled.
Lee Nobes, head of physiotherapy: "If you look and go through their careers to see how they've got here, we've got a dressing room full of different nationalities, different characters, and you look at some of the stories about how they've got to become European, world, Premier League champions – it's huge sacrifices. I think you learn more about yourself, your teammates, through those harder times than through the success a lot of the times. There's a great resilience within them, not just the physical resilience but mental resilience as well."
John Achterberg, first-team goalkeeping coach: "A fighting, winning machine. They are also determined and the intensity of what they keep working on, it's unreal. So, for me, what we have done in the last few years – keep winning, keep fighting, keep running and creating – we have to keep this going."
Mona Nemmer, head of nutrition: "We had their buy-in immediately and it's so nice to receive such a massive acceptance from the players and the staff. That creates a really good feeling for you because you want to push it forward, you want to get better and surprise them constantly."
Andreas Kornmayer, head of fitness and conditioning: "Passionate: whatever you ask them for, they go full in it. Commitment: about how they adapt and how they learn out of the situation. Energetic: the energy that you see on the pitch, it's not only during the match – it's outside of the pitch too. It's pure."
Mark Leyland, performance analyst: "Hard-working. Talented. Together."
Dr Jim Moxon, interim club doctor: "You look around the room at the different players and I always kind of think, 'Who else would you have instead of them in your team?' They are great people."
Krawietz: "They are absolutely outstanding football players. They are great and strong characters and they are a real team. This is what they are and this is what makes them so unbelievable, strong to put the team targets above everything else. This is what makes them winners."
Matos: "All of them are real examples. This is not just for saying, they are really unbelievable."
Robinson: "They are successful in everything they do. Whether that's in training, in games or some sort of competition that we've run outside of it, or a singing contest or whatever – they want to win and they are winners."
Moments of pride
Selflessness and modesty are common traits for those within Melwood.
But some members of staff have allowed themselves a brief period of reflection to assess their contribution towards the momentous achievement.
Lijnders: "I tried to make each day and each session a masterpiece. That's what I tried to do."
Kingston: "We went to Qatar for the Club World Cup – to a country I'd never been to before. All your friends who don't know the industry said, 'What was it like? Where have you been? What's there to do?' I stayed in a hotel for seven or eight days and it was myself, Greg, James and Mark (who came over after Aston Villa). That was unique because it was right in the middle of the season, we had to learn about three or four opponents in the space of less than one week and get that information across to coaches and players. The biggest part for me – going on to be successful in a mini-tournament was really interesting – was actually flying home. Everyone was knackered – as you are from these trips – and we had Leicester 72 hours later.
"So, a long trip back from Qatar, everyone is tired and suddenly an idea popped into my head: what can we do to help get everybody's minds back on the Premier League? We'd concentrated on this mini- tournament – wow, we've won it, the elation of doing that and being the first Liverpool team to ever do it – to then coming back and being like we need to really be back on the Premier League title run. We do a lot of work day-to-day – which is what people would expect in terms of helping the team improve tactically and technically – but one of the biggest things with Jürgen is the human factor. I went to him the morning we were back in, with a video I had done on the plane journey home. I was falling asleep because I was doing it, but that's part of what we do. He just got up, gave me a big hug and said, 'This is what I need and this is definitely what the players need.'
"It was just a small video that we played to the players, all about the real small things in football (particularly with Jürgen's style, identity and personality) which made us what we were. After three minutes in the game at Leicester – sometimes it's a coincidence and it's nice – I think we'd had about three or four chances and I thought, 'Right, from my point of view, I know I have helped to make sure that everybody is back on track.'
"It went on to be one of the performances of the season – in and amongst 100 other ones that we've done this year. That, for me, was a period of the season that was really different."
Krawietz: "My philosophy of teamwork doesn't allow me to talk about my contribution. I'm really proud of what we did all together. But giving an answer to your question, I believe for everybody and for us it is really, really important to manage yourself. So, to get through each period and long periods of the season your self-management is quite decisive and I learned about myself in the last years a lot. I'm pretty happy that I rewarded situations when it got too stressful, so when you can't sleep anymore. Even with this full schedule, I managed myself pretty well. So, I still feel good even after 14 months! This is something I think, 'OK, well done Pete, keep that for the future.'"
Radcliffe: "There's certain things the players like to take individually – Jordan Henderson likes a particular pair of white socks. So for us, it's just remembering them little things. Because the coaches do their job during the day and during the week, and for us then to forget something on a matchday just makes those plans go out of the window. So it's really important that we just make sure we have everything there. When we do, that's what makes us happy and we've done our job."
Leyland: "There's not really one moment that stands out where you say, 'This was the pivotal moment for me during the season or the bit that I enjoyed the most.' It's a culmination of them all: all the little things that you put into it, every time that a player asks a question and you give them an answer or you try to lean them in the way you want Jürgen to think. When a coach asks you a question about the way a team are performing or the way one of our players performed and you give them an answer, they take that information, absorb it and feed it back to players or use it to formulate their training or match plan. It's all the small things across the season, it's every small impact that you have. You see the small cogs creating the bigger wheel and making it turn. All those moments are really enjoyable."
Christopher Rohrbeck, first-team physiotherapist: "For me, when I see that no-one is getting injured – even if you're playing that many games at that intensity."
Matos: "The best feeling as a coach is seeing a young player come to make his debut in the first team, for sure. It's also seeing that at the end of a training session, end of an exercise, at the end of the day that you really helped that player improve something or to develop something. The feeling that you help a player to become a better man, a better human being, a better player is the best feeling for a coach."
Achterberg: "I'm happy that we win, I'm happy that the goalie plays well. That's all you want really."
Nemmer: "I'm actually very proud being part of that team, but I'm even more proud of my team. I think it's just unique what we have created, where we're able to contribute and I think it's such an amazing achievement for the club, for the LFC family, for the fans and for the whole city. I have goosebumps when I speak about that."
Nobes: "I suppose the club employed me because I have certain sports medicine physiotherapy skills and experience. But I like to think I probably bring a little bit more in terms of personality and character around the place. Working with these players, no matter how good they are, sometimes they need to be told that we need to do something this way – but they might not want to do it that way. I sometimes like to think I just bring a little bit extra in terms of personality around the place within the backroom staff and to help support the players as well."
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