You’ve had experience of this situation at Liverpool in 2017 when you defeated Middlesbrough 3-0 on the final day to guarantee a top-four finish. You also took 21 points from your final 30, but on current form you’ve taken 23 from a possible 27 so you are in control of your own destiny. How do you view the job that you’ve done to get into this position, and will you pay attention to what’s going on with Chelsea and Leicester City?
Wow that was a long introduction. I can’t actually remember a season when it didn’t go to the wire, I’ve always had a final or qualification. Europa League, Champions League or Premier League we’ve always had to fight until the last day for something. It was the same at Dortmund and even at Mainz to try and stay in the league.
I’m really used to stress in the last matchday so what did we do? Formed stability, created confidence or got it back, scored goals in the right moments and conceded less which helped as well. It was just what we had to do, honestly all the numbers you’ve mentioned there have nothing to do with Sunday because these games are important and you can have pretty much everything.
It makes sense to know about that before we start the game, nobody should expect the perfect game in the sense of taking an early lead and all these types of things. You have to fight for it, I respect Crystal Palace too much because it’s Roy’s last game as their manager so I’m sure they’ll want to give it absolutely everything and rightly so.
The last few opponents did that as well so it will still be a tough cookie, it’s also an interesting one because obviously we have supporters back and I would love to use this opportunity to welcome them all back. You cannot imagine how much I’m looking forward to seeing you all again or at least 10k of you, but it’s really important with all the excitement that we feel that we don’t lose patience after a minute or something if it’s not going in the right direction.
We need the best support possible, very positive, very encouraging all of these kinds of things, like when we left each other years ago. It will be a really intense game as we fight for the Champions League so it should be intense.
And how much will you be paying attention to what goes on between Leicester and Chelsea?
Because of the situation we are in I don’t think we should pay much attention to it. unless something really strange happens like Leicester go 5 or 6 nil up and we are still at 0-0 then I don’t think we should.
We still have it in our own hands so we will not be involved in that, I will not be involved until something really strange happens and I’m pretty sure somebody will tell me what we have is not enough so we need to go to the next gear or whatever if that’s possible. In my mind we will play an absolutely top game – that’s the plan – we want to be on top of everything so nobody should have to remind us of anything.
No, we will not really look there until something happens which is interesting to us.
You mentioned Roy Hogdson saying goodbye to management, how hopeful are you that Liverpool won’t be saying goodbye to Gini Wijnaldum this weekend, or are you resigned to this potentially being his last game for the club?
At the moment there’s nothing really to say because we have a game to play. We will see about all these things someday, there is nothing else to say. What I can say is that we will be saying goodbye to Graham Carter (Kitman for 35 years+) The best kitman I’ve ever had, father figure, or grandfather figure! We will say goodbye to him in an appropriate way.
Considering how close things are in the chase for UCL football it could come down to goal difference, How important was the win in the reverse fixture which you won 7-0?
It’s not really helpful, from a goal difference point of view it’s very helpful as we won 7-0 but apart from that it’s not really helpful. It was not a 7-0 game that day, if you remember the game Crystal Palace had chances on their own that we thought wow how are they not scoring. It was more of a crazy one, very open with chances here and chances there.
The big difference It think was we took all of ours, we had seven shots on target and seven goals. We’ve had a lot of games with more shots on target and much less goals. This was just one of those lucky days that you don’t have a lot of in life. This game (On Sunday) will not be like this, unfortunately, Crystal Palace will want to make sure these kind of things don’t happen
I can already tell, I’ve seen a game like this only once in my life and I have been in the business a long time. We just have to win the game that’s what we know, and we also know that we will need to fight for it. The result from the first game has no relevance for us, not even just for information. There are moments when you use pictures from the first time you played against someone to show what you did. None of those pictures are in the meeting tomorrow for the boys.
Considering how far back you were and how many teams there were between you and the top four even just ten days ago, did you ever waver in your belief that you would get into the Champions League and how much satisfaction would the achievement give you compared to some of the others you’ve had recently?
I didn’t really think about it to be honest. It’s not like I said in each meeting if you want to go to the last two games. The door opened a little bit for us but when the door opens you still need to step through. The boys have done that so far but it’s not final, there is still another game to go and that’s the thing we need to focus on.
I’m really far away from making any kind of resume or whatever to think about where have we been, it’s just not the time for that. We played last Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday and then way play again on Sunday so that is the toughest period you can imagine so we just need to make sure that we can recover properly. We have one session to prepare the game and then we try to be at our best against Crystal Palace.
We will see after the game what it leads us to,. It was a strange season and nothing will change that, it was an intense season and nothing will change that, but we now have it in our hands to make a top, top finish to the season but it’s not done yet. We have an opponent and it’s football so anything can happen. We are not even close to any kind of celebration or whatever. We are just focused on the 95 minutes that we have to play.
You just mentioned there about it being the toughest period, Andy Robertson spoke after the Burnley game about how the players thrive under the pressure of putting themselves in a position of where they want to be. How much does that take out of them mentally and do you thrive under the pressure?
Yeah it’s intense but it was also intense last year. It was slightly different and the season ended a little bit earlier although I can’t remember how many matches before the end of the season we were champions. I’ve said it a couple of times, usually, a season is like this and the majority of the season is creating a base for the finish.
This year we created it a little bit longer and we needed more time. It’s always like this if you want to qualify for the Champions League in England you have to go until the final matchday unless you are lucky enough to have enough points. That’s really intense for everyone, the whole year was intense for the whole world so we all can’t wait to get some normality back so we can go inside or outside and have some lunch or dinner.
It’s really intense and we are not used to the constant restrictions in all parts of private life and that has also influenced our professional lives. It’s the same for you as it is for us. It would be great if we can do it but it’s also not done yet,
It was intense but who cares? We have one game to go and we are full of optimism and positivity or whatever you want. If we had to play that game if we had no chance of anything then it would just be intense, but it’s also really exciting and that’s how we see it.
Yes the boys were tired after the game for sure, they will also be tired after the season and some of them have the European Championships coming up or the Copa America or whatever. That will also be intense but it’s all good for now. Today and Tomorrow we will prepare and recover, make sure we know everything that we have to know about Crystal Palace.
We will go with all we have plus 10k positive crazy people in the stadium and I can’t wait.
All your focus will be on this final game but after that it’s still going to be a busy summer with the various Championships that you talked about there. Obviously you want your players to do very well but it’s also a nervous time for a manager because you want them to come back fit and healthy for an important pre-season.
Yeah that is the crux of my life. Yes I want them to do well, but I said the last time that if one or two go out at the group stages then I won’t be too sad. Of course I wish them all the best and some have a really good chance to become European Champions.
The most important thing is that they come back healthy, the minimum holiday time they will have this year is three weeks. We’ve tried to squeeze out every single day for them to make sure that it’s possible,
Next season is waiting but we can adjust the intensity in the preseason because if it’s only three weeks they may not lose a lot. That means they may not need to have the hardest training in the world. We do need to get used to each other again after the Euro’s and the Copa where they all play for different teams, so it’s important to get used to each other again.
The life of a professional top-class football player is an intense one. They know that, they are used to it and they love it, but we know that from time to time we do need to give them a rest, and that will be after they go out of the tournaments.
You’ve mentioned that there are going to be 10k fans at the game this weekend, how much motivation will that give you and the players. Is it possible to quantify how much their absence has affected you?
Yeah 100% that’s easy. It’s easy to quantify that because nothing was the same. We needed to get used to it and we did, but it should not be like this. I’ve said a million times.
I love this game, but in the village where I was born and raised, the first team of the village played last weekend 300/400 people turned up when there are only 1200 living there. It was a great atmosphere and I’ve loved that since the first day of my life. It makes all the difference and we all need support through life.
Even if it’s positive criticism or a boost or a gee-up then we all need that, but especially in football. It’s a game that’s based on a lot of things but emotion as well and we were alone We knew the fans were there but we were alone. Getting 10k back is the best news that I can imagine.
You don’t want to talk about Wijnaldum, but for a player to get to the end of their contract is far from ideal for the club as it suggests it’s only going one way – is that fair to assume?
It’s not the first time we’ve had situations like that The boys are incredible characters and they are used to being in negotiations and stuff like this.
Gini’s character is out of the question, he’s a sensational guy and he’s completely committed to the club for the last day. We will see.