Q&APep Lijnders on writing 'Intensity', Jürgen Klopp, Anfield pride and more
Liverpool assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders gave a unique insight into the production of his new book 'Intensity' during a special fan Q&A event.
The Dutchman held an exclusive launch event on the eve of the official release of Intensity at Anfield on Wednesday night.
Hosted by The Anfield Wrap’s John Gibbons, Lijnders answered questions on a number of wide-ranging topics.
Read on for a round-up from the Q&A with fans...
Pep, firstly, what was it like writing this book alongside one of the busiest years Liverpool FC have ever had?
The tricky thing is that we didn’t know how it would end. You guys read it and you know how it ends, so OK, we won the League Cup, won the FA Cup [and] played the maximum games in the season possible. We had these amazing memories already together. To play all these games with the fans together... they will forever live with us. When we started writing it, we didn’t know it would be like that, of course. You can’t imagine how pleased I was when we won the first final. I wrote every day about everything. Hopefully it ended up being a nice thing for the fans.
How did you write the book together with James? There must have been constant communication...
I wrote each day. I would always send everything that I’d been writing after the gameday. That’s the hardest thing to do, of course, because you prepare a game, you make so many small plans, you make so many small decisions... ideas about training, ideas about how to approach playing City or Chelsea, playing in a semi-final, changing the whole team in the last match. It’s all these things. You have all these small decisions you make on a daily basis, where nobody speaks about it, and nobody knows and nobody sees.
The season goes so quickly because as a manager it is only about winning the next game. If you don’t win it, it’s done. So our whole life depends on if you won the game, it’s a normal life. If you lose the game, it’s not that nice. So, it’s really cool that all these decisions are noted. After training I would go inside, during meetings I would sit at the back and I would write. After a game I would come home and sit with my ‘believe’ cup from Ted Lasso drinking tea [in a] dark room writing. Then I would send everything to James. Every two days I would send him the stuff I did, and then he made it good!
Jürgen is a very private guy and I’m sure you were mindful of that. Were you a bit nervous about asking him about writing the book? What was his reaction?
No, not at all. He always said I should write a book. Of course, I spoke with him, he was so happy. That moment was really cool, but I think what he means is that you have to put things always in a certain context. First you have to be there, so it’s a privilege I could write about these things. If you read the book there are meetings... these meetings are iconic. They are really, really good. I think he’s happy as well that it’s written down by somebody who understands the context.
He’s written the foreword in the book, so he must like it! It must be great to work alongside someone who believes in you so much...
Long may it continue! It’s an insane moment to be in this club. Everybody sees the relationship we have. It’s really important for a manager that he feels the loyalty of his assistants. There is, of course, a big group behind it, not only me, so many people work together with him in their own way. It says a lot about him that he really wants the people around him to make these steps to evolve, and isn’t that the first and last characteristic of a real leader?
Has writing the book made you a better coach? Sometimes when we write things down, we really think about our processes...
Absolutely. It’s the best thing I ever did in my life from a coaching point of view. I think last year was one of my better seasons as a coach. I had a few good ones, not all were good, but a few good ones... last year was really good and certainly the book helped. It cleared my mind. I wrote down things already before I had to do a meeting with the team, or a training session with the team, so I was really clear with where we were and what we needed in my discussions with Jürgen.
You have spoken recently about your hope that supporters will feel closer to the club because of the book...
The relationship is really important between the fans, the manager and the team. I really believe that only with this kind of leadership from bottom to top, it’s possible to create this. Before the season starts, we always speak about wanting to create memories. We want to create special feelings. We want to do that with the fans. That’s only possible with the fans and you saw that when COVID struck. The moment Anfield wants something, we always feel that we get it.
It’s a privilege to work in this era in the club. It’s a privilege to work with Jürgen. It’s a real special moment between fans and the team. [There’s] so much passion. I think we try to represent the passion of the fans, but I think the fans represent our will to win as well. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, because those special memories were made in the most difficult games.
Did putting the book together allow you to understand what an achievement last season really was?
Definitely. You are writing down everything what happens, so many processes were in place. We grew so much as a team in terms of our consistency, winning, the mentality in the team, all these things. It grew and grew and grew. I’m really proud of that season. I said already if you saw what happened the day after the Champions League final, having so many fans [at the parade] meant the world to us. It definitely says a lot [about] making the fans proud after losing a game.
I think we did something really well. We just have to stay the team who sees the next game as the final... this made us, us. On the pitch and off the pitch, you just focus on the next game. That’s the only final we have to win because the rest you cannot control. Honestly, the training has to be even harder. As long as we do that, and everybody plays with that passion and fight.
You have to accept cookies in order to view this content on our site.
Have you had good feedback from those who have read it so far?
Yeah, those who are close to me read it. So, Jürgen read it before. Vitor Matos read it before. A close friend. My wife, of course. The good thing about the book as well is that nobody knew about it, nobody in the building knew about it - myself, Jürgen, Billy Hogan, James and Mike Gordon. If you want to make it authentic, if you want to make it pure, then it’s the only way to do it. James said, ‘Pep, what if the season doesn’t go to plan?’ because we were not in a good moment if you remember. Last year it was a real fight to reach the Champions League.
So, I said to James, ‘It will.’ Because in the pre-season having Mo Salah and Sadio Mane [and] all these guys for four weeks together 24 hours per day we can train in the morning, train in the afternoon. We could do time and time again our message and our view. The bond they created together [and] the team spirit we had together after the pre-season, I was sure we would have a good season. If the season would not go to plan, I said even more people if they read it will understand who we are because good teams are made in adversity. Good teams are made when things don’t go well. The leadership qualities of Jürgen and the whole club... I truly hope it will inspire a lot of people.
You can find more information on Intensity and purchase a copy here.