Explained'A counter-pressing bible!' - How and why Pep Lijnders wrote his book 'Intensity'
A conviction that 2021-22 represented a 'now or never' season for Liverpool led Pepijn Lijnders to the decision to write his new book 'Intensity'.
The definitive account of an extraordinary campaign, Intensity provides unique and unfiltered insight into how the Reds went within a whisker of winning an unprecedented quadruple.
Assistant manager Lijnders teamed up with LFC’s head of editorial James Carroll to tell the incredible inside story in real time, and in his own words.
Ahead of the book’s general-sale release on August 4, Lijnders sat down with Liverpoolfc.com to discuss all things Intensity, such as how and why it was written, his desire to bring supporters closer to their team than ever before, Jürgen Klopp’s unwavering support of the project, and much more.
The Dutchman also provided a couple of fascinating extracts from the book, on the celebrations following the Emirates FA Cup final victory and the day he joined Klopp in signing a new contract with the club…
Firstly, Pep, can you explain the concept and format of Intensity?
First and foremost, it’s a tribute to our team, the way we work, how we see football and how we see life. Secondly, it’s to inspire all the people who love football. Hopefully it gives them real insight into how special Liverpool FC is, but also how special this period is. If you think you know Liverpool I think you still will be surprised! The format is week by week, game by game through the whole season, telling the story of what happened before, during and after from our perspective, but in real time: the leadership, the vision, the emotion, the fight! As I say in the book, I committed to doing this whatever happened during the season. I could not have predicted the season would turn out the way it did, but I felt something special was coming together.
How did the idea to write a book come about?
I always dreamt about writing a book, something life-lasting. Jürgen said so often, ‘You should write a book.’ In a season so much happens and many things will never be spoken about again, but these are the moments that especially define us – and now it is written down. I’m proud of us, I’m proud of the hard work. The opportunity was right and the timing even better. The diary I did for the official website during the 28-day training camp last summer was the start and then we decided to take it to the next stage by documenting the whole season, regardless of what happened.
And why did you think it was the right time to write it?
We were in Austria last summer and the season before hadn’t gone to plan: injuries, disappointments, the fight to achieve Champions League qualification. We needed a new start. I felt it would become a do-or-die season, in life you have these periods where you feel it’s now or never. Adversity can create a new start and exactly this happened, or at least that’s how we felt during the last pre-season. The media were talking about us not signing anyone except Ibou but I was sure after our pre-season that we would achieve. The 28 days away gave me the belief.
Did you write it in real time, like a diary?
Yes, I wrote every day. After each game I would send a summary of the last three days to James, or we would meet in my office at the AXA Training Centre or on matchdays at the Titanic Hotel. He then added, adjusted, rewrote and made it whole. I would write everywhere: on the plane, at the kitchen table, behind my desk, after the famous team meetings while we travelled on the bus to games, even in the dressing room. To be honest, the process helped me to put everything straight in my mind, it gave me a good overview of everything and I really enjoyed the dedication it took! I realised quickly that it only works when you are really disciplined. Not one moment in our season went unnoticed or untouched and with time the process became easier.
You couldn’t have picked a more interesting season to write about…
Interesting for sure. I’m just so curious how people will read it, they will relive this season from the insight and I truly hope they will be even prouder of LFC after reading it. Look, the tricky thing was that I didn’t know how things would end while I was writing it… but you guys know how it ends, haha! And you know what’s cool? We didn’t change or add anything. So, if you read something stupid it was stupid, and if you read something ‘wow’, it was ‘wow’.
Did you speak to Jürgen and other colleagues before committing to the project?
With Jürgen of course, and he loved the idea. I think there are not many people who can write down his ideas or meetings. First because you have to be there, but second you need to understand everything to put it how it should be, always in the right context. Jürgen trusted James and I with his words and we could not have done it without his blessing. It was also important that only a few people knew we were doing it: Mike [Gordon], Billy [Hogan], Jürgen, James and myself. It was the only way to keep it authentic and real.
Jürgen, Mike and Billy were all very supportive of the idea, then?
It was the only way. Jürgen read the entire book and loved it, Vitor [Matos] read it as well and they are the two people I trust most. I know Jürgen reading it was an important moment for James and I - his support meant a lot to us both. But not only Jürgen, the whole staff were so kind when I told them. It helps that I’m really positive about everyone, haha! For sure there will be some banter in the next few months but I’m fine with that!
What did you enjoy most about writing Intensity?
The idea that people could read what we are all about. The idea that the way we work is documented, once and for all. It became a counter-pressing bible! I enjoyed covering our difficult moments and explaining how we dealt with them and, of course, the emotion of the successful moments and winning the cups we hadn’t won before, the ones we were missing. I enjoyed writing about the banter between players and staff, there were plenty of funny moments! In the end, you just see a passionate group of people from all over the world coming together, thriving in this era of representing this iconic club. Obviously we are quite a good football team, but our consistency and peaks were close to perfect last year. I’m proud I was able to tell the story of this special team in this way - which I don’t believe has ever been done before at LFC - but people make the difference, not words.
And what were its most challenging aspects?
Well, it’s 480 pages long, haha! The constant pressure of writing it in a way people will like, being fair to the opposition, not giving away too much detail, these were all challenges. But the hardest thing is to keep the discipline up, it’s 2am after a game and you are writing in a dark and lonely living room. That was a challenge.
I think some people may think it gives too much away, that it gives away our secrets, but I can tell you it does not do that in a way that will be damaging to what we do on the pitch going forward. But it does give an insight into this Liverpool FC that we have never given before. Anyone who thinks these things doesn’t understand our style of play, doesn’t understand the role of players and for sure doesn’t understand that it’s been about seven years of repetition.
Anyway, how can you prepare against unpredictability? Yesterday’s Liverpool isn’t tomorrow’s Liverpool. You will read this in the book so enough about that! What I truly hope is that it inspires fans, coaches and players. Because in the end it’s for you guys. And I promise you now: we will hold nothing back trying to make next year even better.
Why should fans read the book? What will it tell them about this team and your way of working?
They will get insight that has never been shared before. I think it’s unique. Last year, in many aspects, was a historical season. One moment you sit with us in Jürgen’s emotional meeting an hour-and-a-half before we play the FA Cup final at Wembley, the next moment you are with me and Jürgen in the car on the drive home while we talk about life. It’s a mixture of events that, from August 4, more people will be part of. We believe we are one, and our supporters deserve this extra insight. We are in the middle of our project and they will read how much we love this club, our fans and our team. They will read about why our team is special and they will learn more about Jürgen and his ways, about why he is one of the best managers in world football. They will learn about how our boys interact, how they train and how they deliver.
Is there a part or chapter you are particularly proud of? Do you have a favourite bit of the book?
I loved reading it again, it’s so authentic. There are just so many insane parts - I forgot a lot of them already! Just brilliant. Also, a big, big compliment to James, it was a pleasure to work with him on this project, he made everything much easier. Maybe it’s better if I give you a small part just after we beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final so you have an idea how the book reads:
When I ran to Ali I waved my arms like a bird, I have absolutely no idea why. As you guys can see, there are so many things I could speak about, but what will really stay with me happened towards the end of the celebrations when I saw Milner. It was the best hug I ever had. I respect him so much, he is so special. Thank you for leading the team with commitment and example; I will be forever grateful that I met you as a player. You gave my understanding of professionalism a new dimension.
Just before that, I was searching for my best and oldest friend in the crowd to give him a wave. We grew up together from a young age and he came to the game at the last minute, flying into London that morning after I’d told him I felt we needed him there to win. While trying to pick him out, someone grabbed my neck. It was Jürgen. We went to our fans together and celebrated with three massive fist-pumps. This was our moment. It meant the world to me. In front of my friend, in front of all the fans together with Jürgen sharing the moment.
Initial feedback has been great from both fans and staff, that must be a great feeling?
Yes, it’s so nice to hear. When the supporters read the book, I hope they will understand how much we love them and how important they really are to what we are doing. You know what? Let’s give you guys another little preview. This extract is from when we signed our new contracts, something we had been secretly working on for a long time. It was in a season-defining part of the season, here you go:
The following day we would sign and announce our new 2026 deals. So, this was only the start… the following morning at AXA, Jonathan [Bamber], Julian [Ward], Jürgen, Pete [Krawietz], Marc [Kosicke] and Vitor were all standing inside the manager’s office. Mike Gordon spoke to us all.
“This project has been the most incredible experience of my life. Thank you for contributing and having this important role.”
“Thank you, Mike, for the trust,” I replied.
Mike continued: “In 2015 I was standing in front of Stevie’s restaurant and said we were going to conquer the world together. I’m not saying that happened but we are not far off. In life, the most precious currency we spend is our time; who we choose to spend that currency with says everything about us as people. I feel so privileged to be able to spend my currency of time with you and our group.”
Everyone clapped, signed and we moved on. Marc and Mike [Jäggle] represent me so well. I’m so happy they are at my side, having the same values and same ambition. I walked straight out to the training pitch to put everything in place. Work goes on, we need to keep building the future. It wasn’t the right moment to celebrate this new deal, I felt; there was too much at stake. I just couldn’t feel it. It’s sad but true. Move forward, we should just never settle.
Are you looking forward to the book finally being published and out there?
It’s exciting and scary at the same time. I hope people will read it with the same enjoyment as I wrote it. I was constantly thinking, ‘Ah they will love this’, but you never know of course. Again, some people may say the book gives too much away, it may harm us on the pitch. It will not. That is not the purpose of the book - the purpose of the book is to provide insight into this special project and team we have. That was the whole driving force behind it. They are a team that deserves to be spoken about. They are special and you will read that.
Finally, have you got any plans to write another book any time soon?
You have to ask James - he’s the boss, haha!
- Intensity is released on August 4 - pre-order your copy here