Andy Robertson senses a determination within Liverpool’s dressing room to surpass the achievements of an ‘incredible’ 2019 in the new year.
The European and world champions, and commanding leaders of the Premier League, begin 2020 with a game against Sheffield United at Anfield on Thursday.
Last year was, of course, nothing short of glorious for the Reds, with three trophies won and a remarkable tally of 98 points amassed from 37 top-flight matches throughout the 12-month period.
However, Robertson and his teammates have no intention of letting up, with the left-back detailing their intentions for the year ahead during a wide-ranging interview with Liverpoolfc.com.
Unbeaten runs, his fitness and the threat Thursday’s opponents will pose were topics also discussed when we sat down with the Scotland captain at Melwood...
Andy, let’s start by looking back. It’s fair to say 2019 was a special year for everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club. How would you sum it up?
It was incredible. I think it’s one that probably every Liverpool fan will look back on in years to come and one that will always be special but obviously as a player, it was incredible. For me, at the very start I signed a new contract to commit my future here which was important to me and something that was so exciting for me. Then to follow it up with a record tally and numbers in the Premier League - we fell short [there], but obviously to get our hands on the Champions League trophy was massive. The celebrations and stuff after that is something that we’ll never, ever forget and when teams have that success you always wonder ‘can they keep it going in the following season?’. So far, we have done that so 2019 has been a very successful year for Liverpool and for all of us, and let’s hope 2020 has the same in store.
Beginning of End of the decade the decade https://t.co/7mtaHmqdaA— andrewrobertso5 (Andy Robertson) 30th Dec 12:10
As the tweet you put out on Monday showed, the last decade was quite a journey for you personally, too...
Yeah, look I think in the decade I’d be very surprised if many lives have stayed still or whatever, but for me it was something to look back on and to go ‘that’s where I was at the start and this is where I am at the end’. The last 10 years have been about hard work and determination and blood, sweat and tears as such. I put absolutely everything into the game and I’m grateful that I got the rewards. I don’t believe you 'deserve' anything, but I got the rewards that my hard work got me to and I’m just delighted to be here and hopefully that can continue.
Looking ahead, it’s going to be difficult but presumably the plan is to try to make 2020 even better than 2019?
Of course, there’s not much point in us standing still. Look, it’s going to be a tough year to top in terms of winning the Champions League and the tally in the Premier League and stuff like that, but that has to be our aim. We’re going into 2020 and we’ve put ourselves in a good position - we’re obviously in the last 16 of the Champions League and we’re in a good position in the Premier League, so it’s up to us to continue that and to not let 2019 be the only year they talk about with this group of boys. That’s our determination and hopefully I’m sitting here this time next year and we’ll go ‘what a year it’s been again’ and then we’ll move on to 2021. That has to be the aim, that’s the determination for all of the boys and now it’s up to us to fulfil it.
2.65 - Liverpool end 2019 having earned 98 points from 37 Premier League matches; their ratio of 2.65 points per ga… https://t.co/56rcPbkEb4— OptaJoe (OptaJoe) 29th Dec 18:38
The new year begins for Liverpool on Thursday when Sheffield United visit Anfield. A win or a draw would mean you’ll have gone a whole year unbeaten in the Premier League - what would that say about this team?
It would say a lot. I think it says more about our mentality than it maybe does about our skill because to be able to do it when on a lot of occasions it’s been Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, we’ve had a lot of games. And obviously going far in the Champions League last season, we went right to the end, but to still not lose your focus in the Premier League is so important. For us, I think that would say more about our mentality than it does about our skills or how good we are or whatever. It would be massive for us to go a whole calendar year [unbeaten], but I’d rather a whole season than a whole calendar year because I think that would mean we would be champions. So that has to be our aim and hopefully we can get the result that we need on January 2 to do that [go the year unbeaten], but we’ll let other people talk about that and we’ll just move on because we’ve got no time to waste with a massive FA Cup game in the coming days.
Do the last two games sum up what this Liverpool side is about? It was a magnificent performance at Leicester City on Boxing Day and then you dug in deep to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers three days later. You seem to have mastered the art of winning any kind of game…
Leicester was a fantastic performance, I think maybe one of the best this season. Then obviously with the quick turnaround – I didn’t see many Premier League games but I think quite a lot of them would have been very similar to that [the Wolves match]: quite scrappy and a lot of tired legs and people just trying to get the win and that’s what we had to do against Wolves. Wolves have been outstanding this season, it was such a tough game. They’re an incredible team with a very good manager, so to get our noses in front it was just then, when your body is a bit fatigued and you’re tired, it’s about keeping your concentration and not making mistakes and I think we managed to do that. We didn’t control the game as much as we’d have liked, but I think over this time of year when the games do come thick and fast then it’s about the three points and I don’t think anyone inside Anfield would have argued us winning 1-0 that night and just getting out of there with the three points.
It’s now 50 Premier League home games unbeaten, with 17 wins in a row, and you didn’t lose a game in any competition at Anfield in 2019. Those are incredible stats, but what are the reasons behind them?
I think there’s a lot of reasons. The team is very good but I think we also use the Anfield crowd. I think the people who come into Anfield are now seeing a team that they are proud of and a team that they can relate to, and I think that’s why the support has been so good and why the supporters can get right behind us. The fans have been incredible, in 2019 they’ve been incredible. The stuff we’ve won unfortunately means they’ve had to travel a bit further and dip into their pockets and pay a lot on tickets and flights and things like that, but I’m sure it’s all been worth it for them. We can’t thank them enough for their support and hopefully it continues into 2020 because we don’t want that run to end. Anfield’s been a tough place to come - nobody likes coming to Anfield and that’s proven by the results, but it’s now up to us to not rest on that and think people will come and fear it as it is. No, we need to keep putting performances in that people are scared of and we need the crowd as loud as they can to make it intimidating because every Premier League ground we go to, every Champions League ground we go to, they try to do the exact same to us. So the fact we’ve got Anfield behind us always gives us that slight advantage.
It was obviously a very busy, and very successful, December. How are you feeling fitness-wise after such a demanding month?
I think if you asked any Premier League player if they are tired at this time of year, then yeah, we are. Of course we are, the Premier League put on a hectic schedule with a lot of games and they’re all crammed in, so I would very much doubt that anyone’s feeling fresh but we look after ourselves and that’s why we have so many staff in Melwood looking after us. They’re top in everything that they do and our recovery is so important. It’s all about looking after yourself and luckily we’ve all done that so for me, fitness-wise and mentally-wise, I’m feeling strong and feeling fit. [Against] Wolves I was pretty tired I think, but tiredness starts in your head and I was just trying to knock that out and I think a lot of the lads were trying to do that. Luckily we managed to get through it but I feel as good as I can be and that’s the most important thing for me.
Sheffield United have had a brilliant first half of the season, and it was a real battle at Bramall Lane back in September. What is it that makes them such tough opponents?
They’re so hard to play against. You know you are coming up against a team with 11 lads who are drilled very well and they buy in to everything that their manager does. That’s the key to it for me, I know a couple of the lads through Scotland and they all love playing their football. It’s maybe a similar feeling to here, we love coming in to train every day, we love playing games, and I think that’s what Sheffield United have this season. They’re in the top half of the table when at the start of the season they’d probably have been a lot of people’s favourites to go down, and they’ve proved everyone wrong. Fantastic team, fantastic manager, and like you said, the Bramall Lane game was one of our toughest this season. It probably had 0-0 written all over it until their ‘keeper made a fortunate mistake for us, unfortunate for them, but there was nothing between us. We know that we have to be better than we were that day because they are a better team than they were then and they have more experience as a Premier League team. We know what we’re coming up against but I’m sure they do as well and if we’re at our best then we believe we can win the game.
Their defeat at Manchester City on Sunday was their first away loss in the Premier League this season. That just underlines what a difficult game it will be on Thursday, doesn’t it?
Yeah, [it’s] incredible for a newly promoted team to have that stat going into December of not getting beat away from home. I’ve been in a newly promoted team and you usually rely on your home form because that’s where you’re comfortable, but for them to go away from home and pick up points here and there and beat some big teams, it’s incredible and that’s what we need to be wary of. Man City have got the better of them but they only won 2-0 and I think Pep Guardiola said after the game ‘why criticise City, why not give Sheffield United praise?’. They’ve been unbeaten away from home and I think it might only be us that have a similar record. Most teams have been beaten away from home so that shows you how good they are. They’re not scared about going to the Etihad, they’re not scared of coming to Anfield. They’ve been to Goodison and won, they’ve been to places and won so they’ll come to Anfield and I’m sure they won’t fear us, but it’s up to us to put in a performance that [means] they hopefully don’t go away with anything.