It’s no secret that Liverpool rely on the brilliance of Alisson as the foundation of the team, but there’s more to his game than great saves and quick throws.
Long hours on the training pitch, repetition of moves and an understanding of the game all go into making the Brazilian No. 1 arguably the best goalkeeper in the world today.
But even beyond his natural athletic ability and his constant training at shot-stopping is his rock-solid mindset and the mentality to stay cool amid the “chaos” in his penalty area.
That’s according to one of the men who should know best: Liverpool’s assistant goalkeeper coach, Jack Robinson, who walked LiverpoolFC.com through the training drills which mimic match-day encounters and explained why Ali is the perfect fit for Jurgen Klopp‘s team.
Robinson explained the match-ups that the team make in training, between practicing true-to-life in-game scenarios and Alisson‘s mental strength to ensure he gets the same outcome when the whistle goes.
That allows ‘keepers to make “natural decisions” when facing strikers, whether it’s in one-on-one situations or claiming crosses in a crowded box.
Ali is renowned for being just as good with his feet as he is with his hands, too, with his clever footwork and accurate passing often being catalysts for Liverpool attacks or retaining possession.
“He’s like Pirlo or someone like that [in five-a-side]!” Robinson said.
“He’s really comfortable on the ball and wants to receive it under pressure. Like you see in the games, that nerve strength, that calmness, he’s able to play when there’s chaos all around him.”
Over and over in explaining different goalkeeping characteristics and training practices—shot-stopping, playing out from the back, staying alert when the team is dominating—Robinson continually refers back to an over-arching theme: Alisson is the best because of his mindset.
Alisson‘s ability to read the game is indispensable, while his communication with the defence and understanding of how a move will play out make him a formidable barrier even before the opposing team can think about getting a shot away.
“[It] comes down to the character of the goalkeeper. A lot of the work that we do as a team is about being in the right position and to get the focus on that.
“Being in the right position then allows you to make the right decision if the ball is played over the top. Having that concentration is down to your character.”
The Brazilian has constantly proven his ability over the last couple of years with the Reds, with only injury depriving him of even more clean sheets and appearances this season.
Even so, he’s sure to end 2019/20 with a Premier League winner’s medal and is once more in the running for the Golden Gloves award, despite playing fewer games.
Alisson didn’t take long at all to join a growing list at Liverpool: an expensive signing who was an absolute bargain.
Former Reds duo Craig Bellamy and Jamie Carragher gave some behind-the-scenes insight into their Liverpool days, reminiscing about room sharing—the good and the bad!
Centre-back Carragher was a one-club career man at Anfield, while Bellamy enjoyed two spells on Merseyside.
His first came under Rafa Benitez in 2006/07, before rejoining under Kenny Dalglish for 2011/12.
The duo spoke with Sky Sports about their away-day room sharing partners, revealing a few key points about habits and hierarchy within the squad—and even how to guess the team lineup.
Carragher revealed he mainly had two team-mates he roomed with: Michael Owen earlier in his career up to the striker’s 2004 departure to Real Madrid, and Steven Gerrard thereafter.
While Owen was perhaps a bigger name than our No. 23 thanks to his goalscoring exploits, Carragher didn’t see it that way at the time: having broken through to the first team earlier, it was ‘his’ room that Michael shared, with a big contrast after the room switch.
“When I roomed with Stevie he was the captain and the best player in the team by a mile,” Carragher said.
“So I always felt Michael Owen was rooming with me, whereas I was rooming with Stevie Gerrard!”
Gerrard had previously roomed with Danny Murphy, who left the same summer as Owen.
There weren’t too many stories about either of those big-name England internationals, though, with Carragher summing it up as “what happens on tour stays on tour—it’s like that with your room-mate!”
That said, Carragher did reveal that Owen’s phone call to move to Real Madrid happened while they were together in a hotel room in pre-season, allowing them to discuss the transfer for a time.
The ever-loyal defender didn’t want Owen to make the switch, noting the presence of Ronaldo, Raul and Fernando Morientes at the Bernabeu club, but he says Owen had confidence in his own game that he could make the grade in Spain.
“He was just convinced he would still play and be involved, he said ‘when I came through at Liverpool there was Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore and that didn’t bother me’—he such self-belief.”
As for Bellamy, he recounted the grinding of teeth by Lee Bowyer at Newcastle, John Harton’s late-night eating habits with Wales…and a curious switch at Liverpool under Rafa Benitez.
Rather than have constant room-mates which remained the same, the Spanish manager changed up the pairings to encourage more familiarity throughout the squad.
However, the players quickly cottoned on that they could guess the lineup judging by being paired with certain individuals.
“You got a good reflection of the team. If you were rooming with Dirk Kuyt, you had a good chance of starting!
“If it was someone else, you knew you were gonna be on the bench.
“So he used to give a bit of his team away the night before.”
Regardless of that, the one away trip for which Bellamy will always be associated with is the trip to Barcelona, involving arguments, golf clubs and crucial—if ironic—goals for himself and John Arne Riise!
Last Updated: 16/05/20 11:02am5:03 Liverpool and Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum explains to Tubes his choice of players' attributes that would make up the perfect midfielder Liverpool and Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum explains to Tubes his choice of players' attributes that would make up the perfect midfielder
The passing ability and skills of which players would Georginio Wijnaldum pick for his perfect midfielder? He reveals all to Soccer AM's Tubes...
The Liverpool midfielder was given the task of picking one player for each skill that makes up a talented midfielder, but the person he chose could not be repeated.
Read on to see who Wijnaldum picked or click play above to watch...Passing ability of… Steven Gerrard
What a player he was. I think he had everything, which is why he was one of the best midfielders who ever played in the game. He played for Liverpool so that's why I choose him.Strength of… Clarence Seedorf
What a monster he was and still is now. There was a picture on social media where you saw how fit he still was. I think it was on the beach that picture and you could see how fit and strong he is even after his career, hopefully I will have that also.
May 23, 2020, 10:00am
Live onEngine of… James Milner
His engine is unbelievable. I see it in the games and in training, the way he plays and how fit he is. I hope I can reach that level too. He's non-stop, I have to say when you play against him, it's really tough because Milner is the type of player who will never stop giving everything so you always have to be 100 per cent concentrated and have to give every time 100 per cent otherwise you will lose from him. He's a really tough competitor.Football brain of… Xavi
He was unbelievable. I think him and [Andres] Iniesta were the two who, when they were together, were unbelievable. He was a good player and the brain of Barcelona.Skill of… Andrea Pirlo
What a player. You can play him every ball in big spaces, tiny spaces, he always had the solution for that situation. His first touch was unreal, that's why I chose him.Leadership of… Jordan Henderson
I've played with a few players who have great leadership, I have to say Kevin Strootman and Jordan Henderson were, I think, above the other ones. Mark Van Bommel was also a good leader and a good captain, but out of the three of them, I have to chose Henderson.
It can be annoying [when he is motivating players on the pitch], but if you think about why he's doing it, it's only to help you as a person and the team so if you think about it in that way, you always appreciate it so we are really happy with the way Henderson is.Goalscoring of… Frank Lampard
The goalscoring should be Lampard because I don't know how many goals he scored, but he's up there with the top scorers of the Premier League. It was easy for him, he was also a really good player and a really good finisher. If we talk about scoring goals for a midfielder, I have to choose Lampard. I don't know another midfielder that scored more goals than him.
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Watch every Premier League goal Liverpool scored in the 2004-05 season in our latest YouTube compilation.
Rafa Benitez's first campaign in charge featured 52 top-flight goals - take a look at all of them back to back below...
Robbie Fowler remembers the 'incredible' feeling of lifting the UEFA Cup after scoring in an unforgettable final victory on this day in 2001.
Liverpool defeated Alaves 5-4 with a dramatic Golden Goal winner in Dortmund on May 16, 2001.
Doing so meant Gerard Houllier's Reds completed an unprecedented treble of League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup - and Fowler, who came off the bench to put Liverpool 4-3 up late on in normal time, recalls the day fondly.
"When you think of UEFA Cup finals and Champions League finals, I think Liverpool are synonymous with having the best games, obviously the AC Milan one and Alaves," he told friend and former teammate Steve McManaman in an interview for BT Sport.
"I remember the three sides of the ground were just full of Liverpool fans. I was devastated not to start in the FA Cup final and was disappointed again not to start in the UEFA Cup final, but I came on and wanted to do well.
"I managed to get a goal which should have been the winner, but Jordi Cruyff scored in injury time to make it 4-4 and take it into extra-time."
Gary McAllister's 116th-minute free-kick was inadvertently glanced past his own goalkeeper by Alaves' Delfi Geli to ensure Liverpool won on the Golden Goal rule.
Fowler admitted, though, that the players weren't entirely sure they had won the game.
"I just remember people were a bit puzzled and it was like: 'What happens now?'
"I think everyone realised the significance in terms of the goal put us ahead but I don't think people realised the significance of we'd won it because of that moment.
"But, from a selfish point of view, for me getting the chance to pick up another trophy [as captain alongside Sami Hyypia] was incredible. It was a real surreal week actually and it was probably one of my best weeks in football.
"I was disappointed not to start in the FA Cup final on the Saturday, we played Alaves on the Wednesday and then we were back home because we had a game away at Charlton Athletic that we needed to win to qualify for the Champions League.
"So that week of football was just incredible."
On the 19th anniversary of Liverpool's dramatic UEFA Cup final victory over Alaves, test your knowledge of the 5-4 thriller in our quiz.
On May 16, 2001, Gerard Houllier's team completed a remarkable cup treble by overcoming the Spanish side with an extra-time Golden Goal.
How much can you remember about that topsy-turvy night?
Tackle our 10 questions about the final below...
More Liverpoolfc.com quizzes
Enjoy highlights from four more classic Liverpool matches with Retro Reds: The Golden Hour on LFCTV tonight.
With Premier League football currently suspended, each weekend we are delving into the archives to bring you action from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s you may not have seen before.
So settle in and enjoy a quartet of memorable First Division fixtures from 10.30pm BST this evening.
Here’s a flavour of this week’s show…
Arsenal (H) - April 18, 1964
A significant day in the club's history as the Reds rout the Gunners to seal their first top-flight title under Bill Shankly.
Manchester United (H) - November 8, 1975
An Anfield classic between Liverpool and their arch-rivals, which ended with the home side on top.
Everton (A) - November 6, 1982
An unforgettable Merseyside derby win at Goodison Park that is still sung about on the Kop to this day.
Notts County (H) - December 17, 1983
The Reds surged to the top of the First Division with a resounding victory at Anfield.
The sight of Jürgen Klopp and his players celebrating in Madrid after winning the European Cup last June brought back poignant memories for Phil Thompson.
Thompson lifted the same trophy himself as Liverpool captain in 1981, and 20 years later he was assistant manager when the club achieved a cup treble under Gerard Houllier.
Before the miracle of Istanbul and the iconic scenes inside the Ataturk Stadium in 2005, the Reds were victorious in another of the most dramatic European finals of all time.
On May 16, 2001, at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion, Houllier's men eventually defeated Spanish side Alaves 5-4 to hoist aloft the UEFA Cup.
It represented a remarkable third piece of silverware that season, Liverpool having already picked up the League Cup and, four days earlier, the FA Cup.
"It was quite astonishing," Thompson said of the campaign during a conversation with Liverpoolfc.com.
"The way the season set out, you always know you've got the League Cup first, which is the end of February or beginning of March, and it's nice if you can get a trophy in the bag.
"I can remember Gerard Houllier in his team meetings and he kept saying, 'Crack this first trophy and things will be a lot easier.'
"We were playing in two-legged European games as well and the journey was moving on.
"We had these great cup games and we beat Birmingham City to win the League Cup and we still had Champions League football to play for."
After qualifying for the FA Cup final, the Reds' form was patchy in the Premier League. A 1-1 draw away at Ipswich Town was followed by a 2-1 Anfield defeat against Leeds United during which Steven Gerrard was sent off.
Without their inspirational Scouse youngster, Houllier's side headed to Goodison Park for the Merseyside derby; and a classic encounter was settled by a stroke of genius from Gary McAllister.
Thompson credits the dramatic 3-2 win across Stanley Park for shifting momentum back in Liverpool's favour as the run-in picked up pace.
"It was massive and nobody will forget Gary's free-kick," he said.
"I was actually in Madrid when we won our sixth European Cup and I was watching the team train the night before the game. All of a sudden a guy comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder in the stand and he said, 'You don't remember me, do you?'
"I said, 'I certainly do, Gregory Vignal!' I told him, 'You know what you are most famous for? Winning us the free-kick that led to Gary Mac's winner!'
"I said, 'You went marauding forward about 40 yards from goal, you were brought down and then what Gary did, the rest is history!' That was 40 yards out and Gary took the ball at least five yards forward before he put it in!
"That was sensational and it gave us a lift. We were down to 10 men and we thought everything was going against us and that moment flipped it the other way."
McAllister was at it again in the following game as his penalty ensured Liverpool reached the final of the UEFA Cup with a 1-0 win over Barcelona at Anfield.
After the defeat by Leeds, the Reds went on to win nine of their remaining 10 games that season, a 2-2 home draw with Chelsea the only slight blip.
Michael Owen's heroics against Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium clinched the FA Cup, and it was then off to Dortmund and a meeting with Spanish underdogs Alaves.
"[There was] a generation of Liverpool fans who had never been to a European final and only heard the stories from their dads and grandads, so it was quite an unbelievable occasion," Thompson recalled.
The Reds started well, going 2-0 up inside the opening 16 minutes.
"The game was quite unique," he continued. "We knew they would play three at the back or five at the back, if you like, and we took advantage of that.
"We started off like a train and it looked like we were going to score with every attack.
"When we went 2-0 up, fair play to their manager, he changed it to a back four and it seemed to turn the tide and made them a lot more solid and they pulled a goal back.
"Gary McAllister netted a penalty to put us 3-1 up. I didn't have too many of these games during my time with Gerard, when no matter what we did or what we discussed, we didn't know which way this game was going to go.
"It was the most fascinating but nerve-wracking game sitting in that dugout and it was going end to end.
"We did a get bit complacent, which allowed them back in it, and then Robbie Fowler came on to make it 4-3 before they scored right at the end."
The name Delfi Geli is etched into the memories of Kopites. It was his unfortunate Golden Goal that handed Liverpool the UEFA Cup and, ultimately, the treble.
Thompson explained there was confusion on and off the field as players and coaches did not actually realise the game was over.
"It didn't last long the Golden Goal, did it? But it's been quite unique in our history," he said.
"That was the first time it had been used and I remember somebody had said leading up to this game that it was going to be the biggest boring final you could ever watch and it was going to be 0-0. Well, how wrong could they be!
"As the game was getting near the end of extra-time, I'm thinking, 'Right Phil, it’s time to get your thinking head on here' and wondering who was going to take the penalties for us.
"I was trying to work out who was the most tired player out there for the penalty kicks. With them having a man sent off, it meant we had to take one of our players out of the equation for the penalty kicks.
"Just as I'm writing down our penalty takers, their fella fouls on the left wing and they have another man sent off. So I have to take another one of our players off the penalty takers list!
"I actually still have my piece of paper with the penalty takers written down to this day!
"Gary then floats the free-kick in and it comes off the top of Geli's head and into the bottom corner of the net.
"We on the bench wheeled off and ran but Patrice Bergues, our French coach, he said, 'Where are they all running, celebrating? The game is not finished yet!'
"Patrice had forgotten it was a Golden Goal. Not only that, but two or three of our players had forgotten as well!
"The celebrations at the end on the pitch were just absolutely incredible.
"We were all standing together in front of our crowd singing You'll Never Walk Alone and now, after seeing us last season against Barcelona, it seems like it has become part of the thing to line up in front of the fans.
"Our win in 2001 in Dortmund set a precedent of what was to come. To win the treble was just fantastic, though."
Indeed, the FA Cup final win over the Gunners still prompts discussion to this very day, as part of Thompson's punditry role on Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday.
"Even the Arsenal game in the FA Cup final, you know in football you win games that you shouldn't and that's what that was," he acknowledged.
"I don't look back and say that was dreadful of us because I played in enough games as a player for this club, and there were many games where a team that shouldn't be winning that game wins it.
"I remember when Arsenal played Manchester United in the FA Cup final a few years later and United battered them off the park before Arsenal won on penalties.
"I always say to Paul Merson and Charlie Nicholas on Soccer Saturday, that was you robbing that game so don't ever have a go at us for winning in 2001!"
With Wembley out of action, Liverpool sealed their first two trophies of the treble season at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
"Cardiff was wonderful, I love Cardiff," Thompson said. "It was a proper full stadium and the acoustics in there were just sensational.
"We won so many games there and won so many prizes, it was fantastic.
"All the pubs, bars and restaurants, everybody knew one or another when we went back and Cardiff was so welcoming for us.
"One of the best memories that will never leave me from Cardiff is how well we played when we beat Manchester United to win the League Cup in 2003."
Assessing the 2000-01 exploits as a whole, Thompson hailed Houllier for simultaneously making the Liverpool supporters happy and putting the club back on the European map.
"Looking back at the treble season, it's something we will never forget and we shouldn't forget it," he concluded.
"It hurts me sometimes that Gerard doesn't get the acclaim that he should do for that season.
"That team we had, though, it was absolutely amazing and the emotional journey that we all went on.
"We had players like Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler, all local Academy lads and it was phenomenal.
"The games we played, the emotions we went through, it was just an absolute pleasure to be involved in that."
Last Updated: 16/05/20 7:18am
Former Liverpool defender Jose Enrique says he would be keen to return to action as soon as possible if he was still playing - but there's no way it can be 100 per cent safe.
The Spaniard, who spent five years at Anfield between 2011 and 2016, is desperate to see the Premier League season completed and the Reds win a first league title in 30 years, but only if everyone is satisfied that conditions are right.
"For me, health is the most important thing," he told Sky Sports News. "But if I was a player, I would be happy to play.
"Obviously, everyone will say you're not playing anymore, and it's easy to say - but I believe I would do. Other ex-players agree with me, and I believe the players will be more controlled.
"They will be having tests almost every day. If something happens and a player gets coronavirus, they are already planning for how they are going to handle it."
With the UK government this week opening the door for football to return, clubs are now stepping up their preparations for a possible re-start in June - and Enrique is fully behind the idea.
"It's not just the players who are suffering, it's the clubs who are suffering economically, the fans who are suffering mentally if they can't support and watch the team," he said.
"In my opinion, I believe they should do everything to restart the game. But if things don't go well, and you have to stop it again, then fair enough.Enrique scored two goals in 76 appearances during his time at Anfield
"It's a very difficult situation, but I think they should give it a go and see where it goes."
However, the 34-year-old is also adamant everything possible must be done to minimise the risk.
"They can assure you it will be as safe as possible - but they can't assure you it will be 100 per cent safe," he said. "You can get it anywhere - in the supermarket, on the street, even if you keep your distance. It's everywhere.
"But they can do as many tests as possible, before and after games - these players have families as well - you go home and have your kids there. So it's not just your health, but also your family.
"So try to get as many tests as possible, and if they have it, go in to quarantine for two weeks. I believe that's the way to go. If I was a player, and they can assure me of this, I would be happy to play."Enrique also spent four years at Newcastle between 2007 and 2011
Enrique believes it is vital for the Premier League to get going again, but not just to confirm a league title win for Jurgen Klopp's side.
"You know how fans are - if they give us the league now, they will say you really didn't win it!" he said. "I can't wait for them to lift the title.
"Whoever doesn't recognise they deserve to win the title, they don't understand football. They've been completely different to every single team in the league, not just in terms of points, but the way they have played.
"But it's about other teams as well - who finishes in the Champions League, who goes in the Europa League, relegation and promotion. We're talking about so much money, and so many feelings of the people.
"So I believe we should finish it, so it's fair for everyone."Enrique has been impressed by the margin of dominance established by Liverpool in the Premier League this season
Enrique has been hugely impressed by what Liverpool have achieved this season, with the spirit the team has shown being the biggest reason as to why they are so far ahead of everyone else.
"The difference has been incredible, no one expected it, with all the good teams in the Premier League that could fight for the title," he said.
"I heard Jurgen Klopp say in an interview - and I completely agree with him - that in some games you could see the team wasn't playing well, but they're still winning.
"And that's what a winning team is. You see it with Real Madrid and Barcelona, when they win everything. Even when they're not playing well, you are confident they will score.Enrique believes Jurgen Klopp has helped Liverpool shift into a winning mentality like at Real Madrid or Barcelona
"That's the same with Liverpool, going in to every game, the confidence is that we will win. But 25 points? It's too much! It's crazy really!"
And for those Liverpool fans who are considering congregating around Anfield when the title is won, he has a simple message - don't!
"So many people are excited, it's been a long time waiting," he said. "People will be so tempted to go outside and celebrate, that's normal - but please - don't do anything like that. Don't get in any trouble!
"If we win the trophy there will be a time to celebrate, but not now. If football re-starts, don't be outside the stadium together - if they do that - they will cancel football again.
"Please, respect the authorities and let's enjoy football at home. It's what we have to do right now."Join Sky Bet Club and track your progress towards a £5 free Bet
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Rob Jones’ time at Liverpool was relatively short due to injury, but he remains one of the most gifted right-backs to represent the club in the Premier League era.
“It’s better to burn out than to fade away”
– Neil Young, ‘Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)’
There are few things more fleeting than a footballer’s career. Even the longest, most fulfilled ones can fly by like a piece of litter in a hurricane. Two decades tops, and that’s if you’re lucky. For the unlucky ones it’s much shorter and for the really unlucky ones it’s like they barely lived their best life at all.
Which brings me onto Rob Jones.
His was a talent that promised much but sadly was wrecked by injuries. Liverpool’s best right-back—and arguably their best defender—of the 1990s was forced to retire aged just 27, the pain of playing proving too much to bear for someone who should have been in their prime.
I loved Jones and told him as much upon spotting him at an Oasis gig at Earls Court in September 1997. He turned around, smiled and carried on walking while I stood there, aged 16, looking suitably embarrassed. But I meant it, and I still do. Jones remains one of my favourite Liverpool players of all time and his is a story that should be told, that should be remembered.
Jones’s late grandfather, Bill, represented Liverpool during the 1940s and 1950s and he grew up wanting to follow in his footsteps. A Kopite who dreamt of playing in front of the Kop and who achieved that ambition in a manner that would be unimaginable now.
For Jones was only 19 and playing for Fourth Division Crewe when in late September 1991, Liverpool’s then-manager, Graeme Souness, saw him perform against Newcastle United in a League Cup tie at Gresty Road and decided he liked the look of the blonde-haired figure at right-back.
Souness sent his chief scout, Tom Saunders, to watch Jones in his next outing—a 2-1 league victory over Gillingham—and having received a glowing report, made his move. Or to be precise, a £300,000 bid.
It was accepted, and before Jones knew it he was on his way to Anfield to meet Souness face to face. A contract was quickly signed and only adding to the fantastical, whirlwind nature of it all he was then asked by the manager if he felt ready and able to make his debut in two days’ time. It would be against Manchester United. At Old Trafford.
“I told him ‘of course I could’,” Jones recollected during an interview we did for the Guardian in early 2013. “Liverpool had a lot of injuries in defence at the time and Graeme obviously saw something in me that he fancied and decided to take a gamble.
“Nowadays you would never see a Fourth Division player sign for Liverpool and go straight into their first team, but it was rare even back then. It felt like a dream that shouldn’t have come true.”
The dream was real enough and Jones seized it. He was excellent at Old Trafford, playing for only 65 minutes but delivering a display that has gone down in Liverpool folklore given he marked an exciting 17-year-old winger called Ryan Giggs out of the game. Indeed, such was the job Jones did on Giggs during that goalless draw on October 6, 1991 that the Welshman went on to pay tribute to Jones in his autobiography, Robbed, describing him as one of the best full-backs he has ever faced.
It is some compliment and that performance was no fluke. Jones made a further 38 appearances for Liverpool during the remainder of the 1991/92 season, proving to be a quick, brave and defensively astute presence at right-back. He was also assured in possession and what made his quality and consistency especially remarkable was that it came during a turbulent time for the club.
Souness had been a great Liverpool captain but he was struggling to be a great Liverpool manager in what was his first full season in charge, manhandling the refreshing of an all-conquering side that had reached the end, and in the process falling out with players, staff and supporters alike. That Jones, a fresh-faced recruit who had come straight from the bottom tier of English football, thrived in that environment said as much about his mental strength as it did his talent.
He ended the season with an FA Cup winner’s medal following Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland at Wembley and was a shoo-in for the England squad that was travelling to Sweden for that summer’s European Championship, having made his international debut against France in February. But he missed out because of shin splints. It would be the start of a grim, defining theme.
The shin splints injury required surgery in late 1992 before cartilage problems hit during the 1993/94 campaign, and while Jones continued to make a sizeable number of appearances for Liverpool during that period his body was increasingly letting him down. A cracked vertebra meant he missed another international tournament—Euro ’96—and during that time also came the injury that ultimately did for him: patella tendinitis, otherwise known as jumper’s knee.
It affected Jones’s left knee specifically and despite numerous attempts to fix it through surgery it proved incurable. Jones simply could not get fit and having failed to make a single appearance during the 1998/99 season, the player was told by Gerard Houllier ahead of the Frenchman’s first full season as Liverpool manager that he had no future at the club.
It was a heartbreaking moment for Jones, who not only played through the pain barrier during his eight years at Anfield but also adapted after Roy Evans replaced Souness as manager in January 1994 and introduced a 3-5-2 formation that saw Liverpool’s long-standing right-back now operating at left wing-back. It was an unusual and challenging role for Jones to carry out but, again, he did it well.
It was under Evans that Jones won his second and final trophy as a Liverpool player, the 1995 League Cup, and overall he made 243 appearances for his boyhood club. He famously never scored but neither did he have a bad game, or certainly that’s how it feels looking back on his career.
I can’t remember a single defensive howler, or a single bad pass, a single poor cross or any moment, in fact, when Liverpool’s No. 2 had me shaking my head in despair—something that cannot be said about an awful lot of the full-backs who came before and after him. Jones was good or very good week in and week out and deserved more than to leave Liverpool with a lingering sense of what might have been.
There followed a move to West Ham but again Jones couldn’t get himself fit—the knees were too weak and the will just wasn’t there any more. So having made one appearance for Harry Redknapp’s side he called it a day on August 28, 1999, less than three months before his 28th birthday.
It is no age for a footballer to retire and certainly not one who had so much to give for club and country. A fit Jones would have undeniably been an asset for Houllier while for England he would have definitely collected more than the eight caps that came his way under first Graham Taylor and then Terry Venables. Because make no mistake: Jones not only came before Gary Neville, he was also better than him.
Jones could be forgiven for feeling bitter about how his career unfolded, and the title of his autobiography suggests he does. But the man himself has consistently insisted there are no regrets or resentment. He got to play for the club he loved and while there were some dark times after retirement he quickly prevailed, helped in no small part by Steve McManaman, who became a close friend of Jones during their time together at Liverpool and regularly flew him out to Spain following his move—also in the summer of 1999—to Real Madrid.
Jones’ family also proved critical to his post-playing recovery and along with his wife, Sue, the now 48-year-old runs a series of successful children’s nurseries across the country. Since 2013 he has also been employed in a mentoring capacity at Liverpool’s academy, working with the under-18s, under-19s and under-23s, three or four times a week.
As Jones put it in an interview with the club’s official website in March: “My role is to help the boy become a man as well as a footballer.”
Two of the boys Jones has helped in this way are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Neco Williams, showing the system not only works but is absolutely lovely. For what warms the heart more than knowing one great Liverpool right-back has guided another, and potentially another?
And Jones really was a great right-back for Liverpool. Not at Alexander-Arnold’s level, or that which Williams may reach, but great nonetheless. In some ways he was ahead of his time and the tragedy is he was ultimately denied that very thing: time.
But Jones is not bitter and perhaps we shouldn’t be either. Because his is a career that did not end with a whimper. There were no sad final games that had Anfield groaning in unison and begging for him to be put out of his misery, or a drop down the divisions that was as wretched as it was embarrassing.
Instead Jones strode to the highest stage and went out with the crowd wanting more. He was a right-back who burned out rather than faded away, and if you squint really hard you can still see him out there—making tackles, getting the ball forward, being brilliant.
Bundesliga action returns in one day but for Liverpool it’s still about waiting, preparing and looking to the future.Reds psychologist Richardson explains his role
Lee Richardson plays a key role in the backroom staff, albeit a quiet one three days a week.
He’s Jurgen Klopp‘s resident psychologist for the Liverpool squad, with a specific office being prepared for him at the new training ground in Kirkby.
Speaking with the Evening Standard, he has explained his role and process with the Reds, saying “to earn buy-in” from the players is probably the most difficult aspect of the job.
“At Liverpool, I managed to interact with certain players early on and I think that’s helped build that rapport and trust so far,” he said.
Richardson says the guys at the top – FSG – set the tone for club’s forward-thinking attitude and that “when it comes to caring for people, Liverpool has that as a number one priority.”Lewtas’ highs and lows of the U18s season
U18 boss Barry Lewtas saw his side’s season curtailed early, as youth football seasons were finished due to coronavirus, but he has taken much pleasure and many positives from 19/20 nonetheless.
He told the club website that some fantastic football and results were the highlights, as well as picking out of couple of impressive individuals.
Leighton Clarkson and Jake Cain both came in for praise, particularly their delivery from wide areas and set pieces, as well as others who have featured for the seniors this term as well as in the UEFA Youth League U19 team.
Sticking with the backroom staff theme, is there a workplace people want to get back to more than Melwood right now?!Leagues restart latest updates
However, players and managers aren’t all in agreement yet so the plans may face a delay.
In Serie A, a new summit will gather on Friday to discuss changes requested by clubs to the initial proposals.
In part they centre around no legal liabilities to fall to club medics and entire squads not needing to be quarantined in the case that one player tests positive.
And the Bundesliga is back tomorrow!Quickfire LFC news
Harry Redknapp, the self-professed idiot who doesn’t have any idea about money or even know how to turn on a computer, says he wants to buy a football club.
That should go well then.Tweet of the day
— CR (@courtloumc) May 15, 2020What we’re reading
Our Bundesliga preview, for starters! The Liverpool stories to watch and how to watch the games all feature here.