In fullJürgen Klopp's matchday programme notes
Read Jürgen Klopp's notes for Liverpool's official matchday programme for today's Emirates FA Cup third-round tie with Shrewsbury Town.
Good afternoon and welcome back to Anfield for our FA Cup match against Shrewsbury Town.
I have to address this immediately: this is one of the strangest programme columns I have ever written, because I have no idea if I will be in the stadium with you, leading my team in person – or watching from home.
As you will know by now, I tested positive for COVID in the build-up to the Chelsea match and have been in isolation since, meaning I have been unable to have direct contact with my players or anyone else since.
At the time of writing this I have no idea if I will be in attendance at the game. That will depend on whether I am testing negative in line with the guidance.
What I can say is that I’m doing OK and looking forward to getting back to work. I thank God for the vaccination, because I did feel unwell during this but fortunately only mild illness really, and I’m certain that’s because I’ve been privileged to have my jabs, including the booster.
Being disconnected from the team and staff was a strange experience. It hasn’t happened often in my career and never for a length of time such as a full week.
Not that I needed it, but it did serve as a reminder how blessed I am to have such wonderfully talented staff supporting me and the boys. I didn’t worry for one second that the quality of leadership for the players would be impacted.
Pep Lijnders, Pete Krawietz, Vitor Matos and all the other guys – from fitness coaches, to the medical and physio team, analysts and so on – did such a fantastic job in keeping our work environment to a level where the standards never drop.
I watched the game at Stamford Bridge from my living room and was so proud of our club.
Inside Chelsea: A different look at Stamford Bridge thriller
Pep said it really well during his media duties before and after the game. We went there with so many challenges. I was only one positive case – there were many others in and around that game, from players and staff. It makes such a big impact to your preparations.
This is not an excuse – it is a fact. You prepare a team for what is such an important game and then each day something changes which means you have to change. In our case this included right up until the day of the game itself.
This isn’t unique to us and it’s been with us now for much of December. But it does impact things far beyond inconvenience. So, with all these issues, to have shown the courage and positivity we did at Chelsea made me feel pride.
Of course, the disruption around that match wasn’t the end of our problems and I do want to address the postponement of the first leg of the Carabao Cup tie against Arsenal.
It is not something we sought lightly and anyone who thinks otherwise clearly ignores how we have conducted ourselves as a club during this period. We have always looked to play, if feasible to do so.
For the game that would have been Thursday this week just gone, it was impossible. We asked for the game to be moved because we had no choice. It is the first time we have made such an appeal and we did so because we could not field a team.
On Tuesday the situation escalated from difficult to untenable. Another large number of positive test results were recorded within the group, added to the ones we already had, plus injuries and illness. We had to cancel training and eventually even shut the training ground itself.
We spoke to the local medical experts and this was their advice. Remember our group is fully vaccinated and still we had this.
So moving the game was the right decision and means from this weekend onwards we should now be in a position to put enough names on a teamsheet to fulfil fixtures again, because we have players returning from their isolation, including Academy players who have been impacted.
I mentioned previously the gratitude I felt to my staff and that applies to the players just as much. Again, I emphasise what happens with us is not unique, far from it. Since December it’s actually quite common across football, just as it has been in society. But for the boys it makes preparing for games far more challenging. Their attitude and application has remained at the highest level.
Today is a big test for us. I welcome Steve Cotterill, his players, staff, officials and supporters of Shrewsbury to Anfield for the game.
Earlier I talked about my own experiences with COVID and mercifully for me it was nothing too serious. I have read and listened to Mr Cotterill detailing what he went through after catching this illness and I am so pleased for him and his family he is over the worst of it now, back on his feet and back at work.
He spoke really well and movingly about how he suffered. If you haven’t already I would encourage you to seek out a video or article where Steve details his battle back to health. It’s inspiring actually.
As I say, I was moved by it, but educated also. It is a stark reminder why this awful thing is so serious and why we should all take measures to protect ourselves and each other while this pandemic is still with us.
We haven’t faced each other as managers before, I don’t think, but I know Steve is a highly experienced football leader and a fierce competitor. From the analysis we have done it is clear his teams reflect his own personality: brilliantly organised and drilled, a clear plan, fighters – and belief in themselves and what they do. They are a very good team.
Steve and his players will relish this opportunity. I have no doubt they come here today believing and probably expecting to defeat us. They want that place in round four just as much as us. We have to respect their quality and understand how dangerous they are as an opponent.
What is clear is we must work harder than they will or we will not get the result we desire. That is the most important task. Our level of commitment must surpass theirs. If we do that, I am hopeful we will have a positive afternoon.
Finally – and it’s a return to my feeling of pride in how the club has conducted itself in recent weeks – while we have faced these many challenges, our supporters are, as always, an integral part of that.
How they have backed the team during this period has been something else. The problem when detailing the issues we contend with, as a football team, is that you know even as you say it that in comparison to wider society these are problems of the privileged.
Be it issues around preparing a team or the impact of the schedule, we all know these problems don’t stack up in significance when compared to those faced by the people who make great sacrifices to support us. We talk about football issues because we are a football team, so they are ours and impact us. It is information that is relevant to us.
I am not a silly person, therefore along with my team I know the hardships our fans contend with are far more real. So to see them come to Anfield or travel to away games and give the level of passion and commitment to helping us through matches is humbling. It really is.
I could hear it through the TV when watching the Chelsea game. They gave all their energy to our players. We appreciate it like crazy.
Hopefully today we can give you a performance and result that proves we never take it for granted.