Jürgen Klopp today welcomed the news that Liverpool will start work at Melwood again this week as part of phase one of the Premier League’s Return to Training protocol.
The league announced on Monday that all 20 clubs had unanimously voted in favour of returning to small group training this week, while maintaining social distancing.
The Reds voluntarily suspended activity at Melwood on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will begin staggered sessions consisting of a handful of players on Wednesday.
The division described the news as “the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so” in its statement.
Speaking exclusively to Liverpoolfc.com, Klopp detailed what kind of work his players will be doing and how Melwood has been set up to adhere to medical protocols.
Watch what he had to say in full, or scroll down to read a transcript.
Jürgen, training is due to begin at Melwood again this week. What’s your reaction to the news and can you talk us through the plan?
I was over the moon, I would say. I couldn’t wait for a while now, so I am really happy that we are able to do this again – going back to Melwood, having small group training and stuff like this. It will be intense, for the coaches especially because a lot of players in small groups means a lot of sessions, but we’ve had enough time to rest so we will be fine. Can’t wait. We had to do the testing this week – the COVID testing – and we have to still wait for the results. If they are all negative – which would be positive – then we can start with the full group, pretty much. It’s a great day when they finally decided to do so, I always said we don’t want to rush anything, but I don’t think it is rushed. It is for the first step, for this kind of social distancing training and we have five players. Everybody knows how big a football pitch is and there will probably be four players and a goalkeeper, or five players and a goalkeeper in a separate group on different days, that’s possible as well but then you can imagine how much space they have to do what they have to do.
For all the things we do in football, it is just necessary. From a physical point of view, the boys are in a good shape, I think. Then we have to start getting used to the pitch, football boots and balls again; that’s our job, that’s what we do, so we need to get used to that again. For the body that’s a big challenge because these little turns and stuff like this, these football-specific things, they make all the difference. It’s like when you come back from an injury, the boys are fit really early from an endurance point of view – they could run a marathon probably! – but the moment you start playing football, you can see how different it is. That’s what we have to get through and we will get through it, that’s clear. We’ll make it step by step and I am really looking forward to it.
In terms of the initial return, what will these first sessions look like?
Getting used to the ball, the pitch. And boots. That’s how it is. And passing. We always combine with tactical stuff, so with four players that sounds already like a row of four so you can do a little bit of stuff with that, but it’s really about getting used to it. That’s first and foremost the thing. It will be passing, it will be turning, there will be no challenges allowed so we will not do challenges, which is a big part of football but will not happen in that period. We were already creative and we will be creative. Maybe some footage will be shown on LFCTV, I would think – if you are far enough away with the camera then you can film it and people can see it. It will be good fun for the boys, they can’t wait as well. The reaction in the [players’] group was exceptional in the moment when it was clear. It was a long time, it was a long time; it is still ongoing, but the development is going with everything in the right direction and that helps. That football is closer to coming back I think is really a good sign for people as well.
There’s been a lot of focus and discussions around the meetings, of which you’ve been involved in. What’s been the process to get to this point?
There was a meeting where we spoke a little bit and got informed about the medical protocol, so that’s pretty much how it is. Of course, there are different opinions and stuff like this and, again, nobody wants to bring anybody into danger, but I think with all the things we know about, sticking to the social distancing rule – especially in the first part – with testing as often as possible and stuff like this, the players will be safe. Germany showed it already – a couple of players had a positive test during the long period, they trained for five weeks and now they play already, stuff like this and they had altogether 10 or 12 positive tests. That shows we create like a society and a society in which we just really make sure nothing will happen there. It will stay a tough time for the boys because it is still lockdown for the boys. There is a little difference, they will go now to the training ground without changing; we will change at home, go there, train. If it rains, we have a big area where they can change again, but not taking a shower, get back in the car, take your own gear, wash it at home yourself and all that stuff. It’s still lockdown, it is not normal life – it’s just for the business, for our job, we are allowed to get out of the house. For all the rest, we have exactly the same rules like all the other people.
I hope that we are now in England on the right side of the thing as well. So that means, it’s all about when – but you need to re-open step by step different parts of life again. And everybody agrees about that, it’s only about when. I think the way how we do it now with the Premier League, it’s now a good moment to do it for the football teams. Then other things, for sure, will follow. Again, it’s not about what is the most important thing, because that’s clear: dealing with the situation, dealing with the virus, making sure all the people are safe, help each other and stay at home as often as possible. Do as much as you can to do the right thing, if you want. But then, from a specific moment on, you have to start with the future again. That’s now a little step, not a big one, but a little step. From a personal point of view I can say it’s a massive boost, a massive boost because I really love being together with Ulla in the house, great, and having time for different things, but I’m a football manager and I want to be together with the boys. Now I can at least have them piece by piece, five pieces by five pieces, so I really can’t wait.
Can you describe how much you’re looking forward to seeing the boys?
I thought I did that actually a second ago! A lot, it’s just nice. But still, it’s different. We will not really get in contact. You should see Melwood; what Ray Haughan organised there, it’s unbelievable. It’s all one-way, so we will not meet. We meet on the training pitch and if you can see maybe somebody from the back or if they turn around you can see his face, but then you have to walk because we have to keep distance. If you are in the wrong point and want to go to the toilet – which is an outdoor space, like in a building area – then it’s a really long way to the toilet because you cannot just turn around and go back, you have to go the whole way. We do whatever we have to do, we do whatever we can do to stay safe, but also have to keep other people safe, and still be able to play football. So I’m really looking forward to seeing the boys but it’s still strange and different because we cannot be really close to each other. But we will see, it’s getting better. It happened a lot in the last two or three weeks in the world, so it will happen a lot in the next two or three weeks. We will see how we can adapt then and all that stuff. But we take it like it is. We are back on track and that’s the good news.
You mentioned the Bundesliga in one of your earlier answers. Obviously and understandably, there was a lot of attention and focus here in the UK on Germany’s return to football at the weekend, not least here in Liverpool. What did you make of the so-called ‘new normal’?
Look, I love it. In this part I’m a strange person; when I watch football – other games, not our games – I watch them most of the time without sound because I don’t want to hear the commentary, I’m just interested in the game. So now for me it’s completely normal to watch other football games. I love the game, I’m interested in what they do and stuff like this. It’s 100 per cent, the perfect package of football is a full, packed Anfield stadium, two really good teams, big fight, super goals and at the end Liverpool win. That’s the perfect matchday. So, a lot of these things are possible but Anfield will not be packed for a while. So that’s what we have to accept, that’s the only thing. I know, football behind closed doors, of course it’s not the same. Why do we have to mention it? We all love it when we have contact, when we get cheered up by the people, when they push us through the yards and all that stuff. We love that but we cannot have it. Why would you think always about something you cannot have in the moment? Use the thing you have in the moment. And it looks like it will be possible – and it is in Germany already possible – to play behind closed doors. And the football games were really good; super goals, real fight, tight games, clear games, clear results, a proper fight. Imagine, the first night is a little bit like, ‘Have a look here and there, how will it work, how does it feel?’ But in Germany so many teams play for pretty much everything – they want to stay in the league – and that’s exactly the same what will happen in England.
When we start, it goes really again for everything. The competition will make the intensity. So it’s not about, ‘Oh, Liverpool have to win two games.’ By the way, we have to win two games when we start – it’s not ‘only two’, it’s two. It’s not less or more. We have to win them, it’s not that we want to win the last two or whatever and come through somehow. We want to play the best possible football, better than other teams fighting for the Champions League, fighting to stay in the league. You will see, that was the first matchday but now the intensity will go even up. And all the physical numbers of the games in Germany were incredibly high, so like 117 or 118km running, without anybody shouting at you that you have to run. Just because you want it, because you do it for your teammates. That’s exactly what we have to do as well. We play for this club, we play for each other, 100 per cent. We will run and fight for each other, 100 per cent.
We have to do it, unfortunately, without the best boost in the world and the best kick in your ass in the right moment in the world, from the Anfield crowd. But that’s how it is. I never understood in life why you always want things you don’t have, you cannot have. In this moment we cannot have that, so let’s take the rest and make the absolute best of it.