Pepijn Lijnders believes the work ethic that has underpinned Liverpool’s upward trajectory in recent seasons is continuing as the squad train remotely.
The Reds backroom team are hosting sessions for the players via online video link, with a variety of workouts taking place each day to maintain their fitness and physical conditioning during the suspension of football due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Lijnders took time out of his schedule to speak to Liverpoolfc.com about the current training regimes, as well as a host of other subjects, as work continues for the squad.
Read on for our in-depth chat with the assistant manager…
Checking in before the squad yoga session 👋😁🧘♂️ At the moment, life is different in many ways. Keep in touch and… https://t.co/kN9nqYpDBU— LFC (Liverpool FC) 31st Mar 09:05
Pep, firstly, how are you and how is life at home?
I’m good. It’s strange because even though we sometimes have time off, it’s always time with pressure - our project is quite demanding, as you know. This time, it’s time off without this pressure of performance and I realised it makes me a much better dad and husband!
These are certainly unprecedented times, but there is still plenty of work ongoing for everyone?
Right now, health and world cooperation is what counts, what’s most important. But you can’t deny that we can’t wait to start again when the time is right and it is safe to do so - we want to finish and finish in our style, we want to entertain the people, which is the first and most important task in the world of football. That’s our job. For the last two years, we have fought each day on an incredible level, so this work ethic is continuing even from home.
How impressed have you been with the way in which the backroom staff and players have adjusted and adapted to the situation to enable the work to continue?
It’s all a compliment to our players. For them it is not only stay at home, stay safe but also stay fit. The support from Mona [Nemmer] is super and the passion of our sport science department works accumulatively. Andreas [Kornmayer] and Mona are in control of maintaining the physical level of the players, adding great variety to their programmes. The detail and all the ingredients are in place for keeping our DNA; they are in all of the programmes, demanded by Andreas.
There was a clip released on our social media channels of you and the boys logging in for a yoga session last weekend. It was only a short clip, but it said so much about the togetherness of the squad…
Yes, it’s the way forward in these times, to create some interaction and group work. This is also what I mean with variety. Yoga is such a powerful method where flexibility and strength come together. I didn’t know a lot about it, but the concentration and controlling your breath as a base to work the body was interesting. It was a great moment also because it was the first time we were all together again. Like Jürgen said last week, I also really miss the boys.
Is that togetherness one of the fundamental pillars underpinning this team’s success and why is it a difference-maker?
For each collective sport, togetherness is the first amendment to become successful. When real talent and creativity accepts it’s a team sport, when our front three accept they are responsible to defend five or even six players, you become a team for others to be worried about. Togetherness reflects our way of play; everyone is responsible for everything. I also feel that our off-the-pitch togetherness reflects our day-to-day routines at Melwood. The better you are organised, the better the players feel the attention to detail. They feel the effort of a whole building, it creates professionalism and, more importantly, responsibility. This in combination with a core group of players who set the standard and are a real example of an LFC player, that creates the base for success. It’s the cake - and the icing is the passion and ambition of the boys, their talent, their creativity.
How was it to see some of the lads and staff working out with their families, too? It looked like Jordan had his hands full with the three kids…
[Laughs] Very relatable! The reason why we all can be in our job is because of our families - they understand what you have to give. Without them, there is no chance players, or even staff, can reach and stay on this level.
You used the phrase ‘our identity is intensity’ in a press conference earlier this season. It’s something you now see on the wall in the tunnel at Anfield and even on a banner among the fans. Were you surprised by how much those words resonated with supporters?
I love it, what an honour! We used it on the flipchart in one of our pre-season meetings. I still remember James [Milner] nodding when Jürgen showed and mentioned it. I believe in it: it’s our idea, a vision, a future, it’s our guide, it comes back in each exercise. Everyone thinks intensity is running harder and more, but for me it is the intensity of concentration. A high level of demand of pressing and counter-pressing, a team that is playing always with a maximum concentration. Always!
You always talk about not moving away from the fundamental principles of the team. Do you think this is one of the team’s biggest strengths?
True, you can only be consistent when you ask consistency and that’s only possible by repetition and clearness. We want our players to be spontaneous, use their intuition, we want to be unpredictable not only with the ball. This means they have to anticipate; this allows them to have a little more time to think about details. So, order and continuity in our way of play is massive, it creates freedom.
This summer it’ll be five years since you first made the move to Melwood. It’s fair to say it’s been an eventful journey so far…
That’s true, but the season at the Academy as U16 coach was in my top five seasons in football. I fell in love with that team, so much passion. But now it’s almost five years at Melwood, a training complex with so much history and tradition that I didn’t realise before. Step by step, I got the chance to be more influential inside our structure. I’m proud of each step, the most difficult ones have proven the most valuable ones. The route and the decisions during our Champions League campaign last season I’m so proud of. The way the team developed last season, how strong we became and still are. Also, the FIFA Club World Cup, showing in a different part of the world our hunger, our passion for becoming champions of the world. Fighting for prizes, creating this culture of victory. I love it!
How do you feel you’ve developed, or maybe changed, in that time?
First and most important, I care less what people think about me. I trust myself and my messages more, because of the experiences. I decided a while ago that I will never make any concessions, in terms of playing style or the training process. I’ve always had that but you can lose that when times get more confusing. The one thing that has never changed is my passion, my love for the game, my love for a certain way of play and for development. Luckily, every year this continues with a little bit more collective structure.
What about away from the pitch, has Liverpool - as a club, as a city - become something of a home for you and your young family and why is that?
We came from Porto and my eldest son was born in the week I had to start at the club. My two boys now go to school here. It’s a great time to be part of the city, to be supporting Liverpool FC. I feel at home, that’s the best way to describe it. In football, there are not many times where everything falls into place and so you must cherish those times. My family is what gives my life colour; my lovely wife and my two boys. My wife actually said to me a while back to put things into perspective: when you win our life doesn’t become better but when you lose it becomes much worse. What she meant is when we lose, we have a bad week and when we win the week is ‘normal’ [laughs]. So, we’ve had a stable last two years!
How do you cope with the Scouse accent? Are you comfortable now, or do you need help with translation from time to time?
My eldest has the accent, I love it! He asked yesterday where I hid the chocolate bar [in a Scouse accent]. Brilliant, I was on the floor laughing. I come from a part of Holland with an accent and I will not hide where I came from. It’s part of you, which is why my wife and I try to return there when we can - but it has not been possible for the last year-and-a-half!
In terms of development, is it possible to express how you feel about the journey this team has been on so far?
We will - and we have to - make the next step, never forgetting why we came in this position. Other teams will improve and are improving. The way to keep beating them is training with more passion and ambition then they are doing, each single day, each minute of each session. Beat them in the week not at the weekend. In modern football, it doesn’t happen much anymore that you can keep a group of super pros together, especially after a successful period. Can we keep this passion? Yes! Can we keep this ambition? Yes! Can we keep this hunger for more? Yes! Why? Because of Jürgen.