'You saw the professionalism we have' - LFC's coaching champions: Part two
The 2019-20 season was a campaign like no other, and one that tested every department of Liverpool's football operations.
But the players and staff adapted and made the best of the situation to ensure standards remained fitting for a team on course to win the Premier League.
Read on for part two of our Coaching Champions series, featuring extensive interviews with the Reds' backroom team...
Watch our interviews with the staff members in full for free on LFCTV GO now. You can start a free one-month trial of LFCTV GO now and this can be cancelled at any time.
Heartache, a packed fixture schedule and injuries didn't stop Liverpool delivering the prize they all craved and a club-record points tally of 99 along the way.
Following the mantra of Jürgen Klopp, the squad and its support structure knuckled down as part of a 'no excuses' culture.
Pepijn Lijnders, assistant manager: "Without changes and adaptability, there's no improvement. But not all changes create improvement. It's about creating a balance between our way, the structure, the principles, the rules and always finding the right things in the right moment of the season."
Andreas Kornmayer, head of fitness and conditioning: "The challenging part is that we have a team on the one side but we also have individual players on the other side; we need to make this quite a good set-up to address both of them. That means that we have our individual programmes for all our players gym-wise, but also extra bits that we need to do with them on the pitch. On the pitch, it's about them bringing everything together and making them as strong as possible; not in a muscular way, more in a robustness way."
Mona Nemmer, head of nutrition: "What is really interesting for us, because we are quite well-trained on this quick turnaround – every third or fourth day there is a match and it might just happen on a different continent. Together, with all the other departments like the travel agency and team operations, we were always really well-prepared for that and especially my team – they were never scared to go the extra mile. There is so much passion and so much joy just to make it happen and to always be ready."
Mark Leyland, performance analyst: "One of the biggest challenges is the fixture schedule and the time constraints in which we have to work to. We have to do things to an elite level. Working for one of the biggest clubs in the world, it's important that our work reflects that. We have to do that really quickly and really efficiently – and that's really tough. It means you have to multitask and operate working on one, two, three games at a time. You're looking at three different styles of football and it's really tough."
Jack Robinson, first-team assistant goalkeeping coach: "Certainly in terms of the goalkeeping department, we started off in a busy way. Obviously Alisson had a long season and had the Copa America on top of that, so he joined us in pre-season late. We had Simon [Mignolet] leaving just before the end of the transfer window and Adrian coming in."
John Achterberg, first-team goalkeeping coach: "It's always a challenge but you always try to prepare in that way. You are always looking ahead for anything that can happen to your No.1, No.2 and No.3."
Lee Nobes, head of physiotherapy: "I think in football there's an awful lot of change, you've got to be comfortable in that sort of environment and adapt to it. This team in particular, I think success breeds it because this team sort of just finds a way to win and adapts in certain situations. I think that helps players, that they are so used to working under different pressures, being successful under different pressures and having to adapt to different situations and scenarios."
Lee Radcliffe, kit management co-ordinator: "Obviously travelling to the Club World Cup and then having the game at Aston Villa as well, it was difficult. But luckily enough for me we have a great team at the Academy as well in Brendan [McIlduff] and Luke [Murphy], who are part of the kit team, and they sort of took the responsibility on for that game. I gave them a little bit of advice on how we set up for a first-team game and how we go to a big stadium and how we deal with things on that side. They did the game themselves and did an excellent job."
The Reds' journey towards the top-flight crown was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 106 days separated the team's win over Bournemouth before lockdown and the Merseyside derby for the restart.
Dr Jim Moxon, interim club doctor: "I kind of felt in a good position early on because in January/February time I'd been following what was going on and starting to think of how it would apply to us at the Academy and also the club on a wider basis. So just thinking about how can we protect our players, our parents, our families, our community really, and what does that look like in terms of monitoring people coming in and out of the Academy and what measures can we take to reduce that impact to try to keep people as safe as we could. A lot of that work that I had done at the Academy, I'd actually transferred that over to the first team when I had to step up there. So that was really, really helpful and it meant that I kind of had an idea of what was going on. The problem was everything was just changing and changing all of the time."
Peter Krawietz, assistant manager: "Nobody could be prepared, of course, for a pandemic, a worldwide pandemic, but we had to face this situation and to live with that situation as well and do the right things. It was March 13, I believe, and everybody had to go home and stay there for a while. We thought at first for two weeks and then it got longer and longer."
Leyland: "It was horrible. It sounds silly to say that it's horrible to be away from work but because we're with each other so much and because we've got such a rapport between the staff and players, it felt really alien. We go from spending so much time together to spending no time with each other. The only real way I can explain it is the WhatsApp group that was set up by the manager and had every player and staff member in it. I was receiving 150 messages a day and that's just because everyone missed it. Everyone missed being together."
Kornmayer: "Really challenging. You have to think completely out of the box and make sure that whenever it started again, that the players are like this again. There were a few sleepless nights to make decisions and to think about what we can do, which things we can use, it's about equipment, locations, preparing the mind, preparing other things and not losing our rhythm."
Nobes: "We just needed to give the lads as much help as we could online and giving every player massage guns and things like that. It was interesting times but the lads just got on with it. They got on with their programmes, we sent back all the GPS fitness data to Andreas and his team. And if there were any aches or pains, we were on Zoom calls with the lads and sending out exercises and things like that."
Nemmer: "We had really special requirements around the operational process where we needed to face hygienic measurements. They were anyway always really, really good but we needed to adapt them to the coronavirus. On the day when lockdown happened, Melwood closed down. So overnight we had to set up a delivery system. So many hands were needed, like drivers and people familiar with disposable packaging – where could we get nice disposable packaging which is still bio-degradable, just to match the sustainability idea as well. We had to face a complete new scenario of how to provide sports nutrition on wheels."
Radcliffe: "We had to provide training kit that needed to be sent out to all the houses. For us and for me initially, that was the first thing on our minds – to make sure the players had everything they need at home to keep themselves ticking over for the season when we could start again."
Krawietz: "I tried to use that break to summarise a little bit, to think about having more time, being calmer, reflecting about our way of playing football, what did we do and what will come next, what we can improve."
Moxon: "Going through the particular dark times of late March and early April, we acknowledged that, of course, football is not the be all and end all and we know actually how it's affected people is really important and really tragic. We all acknowledged that but we also acknowledged that we had a job to do and we needed to carry that on. The work that went on just to get training off the ground at Melwood, working alongside the Premier League, was huge really and we were part of that."
Ray Haughan, general manager of first-team operations: "I was the first one back into Melwood. We went into phase one with the Premier League, which was individual training sessions. We had the two pitches at Melwood, so the days when we first started were from 8am until 8pm, so we could fit every player in one hour. I had to go in before all that to set up one-way systems, security procedures right down to outdoor urinals. I was responsible for all that set-up so that we could adhere to the Premier League guidelines for phase one. The second part was when we moved to phase two and it became smaller groups. Your day got a bit shorter then and then we moved into phase three. To implement change is difficult to a large group. This is the most mentally-demanding thing I've ever done within this club."
Moxon: "The fact that we've managed to get to this point to be lifting the trophy, a big part underneath that is we've kept people safe and it's meant that we've had the squad together. That's not an accident. That's because we've been brilliant with our hand hygiene, the players have been behaving responsibly and we've been managing to keep our distance where we can in and around training and travel."
Haughan: "Jürgen's directive to me right across from day one was try to keep everything as normal as possible within the new guidelines. Obviously we've had an incredible record-breaking season up to that point, and we wanted to try to jump in and keep that momentum going all the way through by changing as little as possible – right from phase one all the way to game phase, where we tried to keep our day-to-day routine around matches as well. For me, I think you saw the professionalism that we have at Melwood."
Different coaches, different expertise and different personalities – but all the backroom team are on the same page for one cause.
Harrison Kingston, head of post-match analysis: "From our view, it's that real link to the coaching staff and it's really, really open. It's not a one-way system which some analysts have where it's coaches asking them to do this, do that, do that. We can go to Pete [Krawietz], and it's the same with all the coaching staff. They're pretty receptive to what we bring and one of the biggest strengths there is that if we do bring something to them, they will absorb it all, break it down to one or two points that they think the players need to know and then distribute that."
Krawietz: "With these guys on my back, I have the good feeling that we are really covered and they give me the freedom and the time to think about the real decisive things."
Robinson: "We have a running joke most days when Pete comes in and asks if there's any goalkeeping news that's happened. [The coaching staff] are interested and see goalkeepers as part of the team and not apart from it. They want to make sure the goalkeeper is involved in the build-up to play out from the back to play through the opposition, but also how we can help them not have a busy day."
Kornmayer: "It's only possible with good teamwork. We need to include the medical team, too, to see how and when we can push players and when not – to then do the right things at the right moment. That's the most challenging thing, to make decisions where we can set some things up and where we shouldn't. The challenging thing is to make quick decisions on the one hand, but also mid or long-term decisions where we want to go on if you have games in 24 or 36 hours or a lot of travelling. That's challenging but, again, it's only working in a good team. The gaffer mentioned her a lot so I don't want to miss it too, of course, Mona [Nemmer] and her team... there's not really a description for that. They're really important and what Mona is doing in the background, not seen, supporting the players – not only if you talk about supplements and food. It's much more when you are also dealing with data about weights, challenging body fat and all these things. The set-up must be good and I think we have, in this case, a really good set-up with fitness and nutrition."
Nobes: "There's a great bond between us all and we work extremely closely with the sports science lads. Whether it's pre-training or the performance side or on aspects of player rehabilitation or return to injury, it just makes your job so much easier because we have that strong bond between us."
Moxon: "The coaching staff, the quality in there... Pep and [Jürgen], I think they spark off each other really well. Pep has got a real passion for the younger players working with Vitor, the Academy, U23 players and the emerging group. You've got the experience of Andreas Kornmayer, who has been at Bayern Munich and brought in their kind of ideas. The work that Mona Nemmer does behind the scenes – that a lot of people don't see – is tremendous. Across the medical team the quality of the physiotherapists, you've got Dr Lynsey as well who is a fantastic doctor. Across the coaching staff with Peter, John Achterberg and Jack, there's just a really good group and they bounce ideas off each other. The club is in a fantastic place with that."
Enjoy our exclusive Coaching Champions interviews on LFCTV and LFCTV GO - liverpoolfc.com/watch. Use code 1920GOFREE to get LFCTV GO free for one month. Terms and conditions apply.