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Thursday 29 September 2016

Crafty Jurgen is changing minds

But smiling face is hiding ruthless streak claims McAteer

Former Liverpool and Ireland star Jason McAteer was at the launch of SSE Airtricity's summer football campaign at Aviva Stadium. All customers who switch to SSE Airtricity will now receive the new official Ireland football jersey free, as well as 15% off their home energy
Former Liverpool and Ireland star Jason McAteer was at the launch of SSE Airtricity's summer football campaign at Aviva Stadium. All customers who switch to SSE Airtricity will now receive the new official Ireland football jersey free, as well as 15% off their home energy

It's been some week for Liverpool football club. The wave of emotion which followed the Hillsborough verdict will still be washing around Villarreal tonight.

In the unlikely event that Jurgen Klopp is lacking comprehension on any aspect of the club and the city he is now invested in, this should fill the gaps.

Jason McAteer doesn't think Klopp has missed anything and like the rest of us, feels that there is a chemistry building between a mildly eccentric German and a club laden with history and pathos.

These days, McAteer flits between the Al Jazeera studios in Qatar and Liverpool, doing a bit for the club's house television channel and turns up in Ireland as often as any of Jack Chalrton's team.

He has a finger firmly on the pulse of life around Anfield too and offered one tidbit about life inside Klopp's bubble which is very revealing.

For years, one of the iconic images for many fans and professional footballers alike was the moment a red-sleeved arm rose to touch the Liverpool crest in the narrow, stepped corridor which led to the pitch.

Klopp has banned that. Well, not actually banned it but told his players that they must earn the right to do it. Crafty man.

"When he went in there, he implemented double training sessions and made it very tough for the lads. You're not even allowed to touch the 'This is Anfield' badge now until you've earned the right. He's told the players that," said McAteer who sees a ruthless streak behind the smiling face.

"Well you wouldn't do it if he says don't do it. So they're not allowed to touch it. You've got to earn the right to do it and when you've earned the right to, I'll let you touch it."

What defines earning the right?

"It's up to him, isn't it? I don't know what that would be. I don't know what his level of expectation would be. He's got a degree in psychology, so he's a really clever man," said McAteer.

"When he came in, he wanted to bring the unity amongst the fans. I don't think he quite grasped the culture that we get off with 15 minutes to go. We want to get in the tunnel early or the car is miles away or we want to get on the road.

"I don't think he quite grasped that at the beginning. But he wanted to bring this unity back to Liverpool where we stayed until the 93rd minute and he's done that. The fans are staying.

"But the fitness thing was the big thing that he implemented. I think they're bearing the fruits of that now. I think they're a much fitter, organised outfit. We had that lull where they went off the boil for six or seven games.

"People were saying that Brendan (Rogers) won the same amount of games and all that. I think that was just the downside of the effects of the training. All of a sudden you're going to get fitter and fitter. You're going to get tired obviously and then you're going to peak.

"I think Liverpool and Tottenham are playing the best football in the division over the last four games. I think Liverpool are a completely different outfit from when he took over.

"He's stuck with the same formation - one that he believes in. He hasn't wandered away from that. He's changed the personnel. He's had a good look at everyone.

"I think there's a ruthless streak in him. When I've met him, he's really approachable and he's got a great sense of humour but I get the feeling that there's a ruthless streak in him. I think there'll be a bit of a clear-out in the summer."

McAteer is convinced the Klopp holds full control over transfers in an out and that the infamous Liverpool transfer committee won't be meeting any time soon.

"Yeah. 100pc. I think that will be gone anyway. I think it's just him making the calls," he says.

"I think it would have been one of the stipulations in his contract that he buys his own players. They had to give him that. I don't think it worked under Brendan.

"The big question is what he does with Daniel (Sturridge) and the repercussions of what happens with Sakho.

"Daniel will want to be number one. Unfortunately, with the recent injuries, he has gone back. There are big talks between those two.

"Daniel will want to play every time and I don't think Jurgen will give him that guarantee. And then there is the question, does Daniel stay fit? You have to balance wages and how often he plays.

"We are all built differently. I have a sensitive side. I will battle through stuff but there are some footballers who need someone to hold their hand. You have to be 100 per cent fit? I never played 100 per cent fit and I dare say there are a lot of players who were in the same boat as me.

"Daniel feels he is one of those players who has to be 100 per cent fit in order to give 100 per cent. It is not like that. But that is the way he wants to be and the manager has to deal with that."

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