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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Rodgers: Liverpool need to toughen up

Liverpool boss aims to build team that can handle 'rough waters' to win Champions League place again

Brodge
Brodge
Pool

Brendan Rodgers has ordered his ailing Liverpool team to toughen up if they are to mount a serious challenge for a return to the UEFA Champions League next season.

The Reds saw their slim top-four hopes all but extinguished in Tuesday night's defeat at Hull as a testing campaign looks set to finish with little more than a whimper.

While manager Rodgers believes his side's mid-season rally has cost them in recent weeks he will have been alarmed by the lack of desire on show at the KC Stadium, where they were upstaged by struggling Hull in every department.

He said: "The challenge for next year is to build a team that can get through the rough waters as well and that is going to be critical for us.

"We've got a lot of fantastic players but when it is tough we have to get through that and if we want to make a challenge like we did last year, that is what we have to do.

READ MORE: How Liverpool's goals dried up...

"The challenge for me until the end of pre-season is to rebuild a group that can get through. The players here have given their best to meet that challenge but we have to refocus again and look to improve the squad."

Along with increasingly influential Brazilian Philippe Coutinho, captain Jordan Henderson has offered one of the rare bright spots in an increasingly difficult campaign.

And Henderson has insisted clocking off early is not an option as his side look to give something back to the fans - including those who boycotted Tuesday night's game in protest at the £50 admission charge.

Henderson said: "We've just got to keep going. We've got to move on as quickly as possible to the next game and hopefully try to win every game from now until the end of the season and see where we are.

"We've got to lift ourselves because we know at the weekend QPR will be right up for it and it will be a difficult game.

"But we set high expectations of ourselves and we expect to be winning games like this. The next game is important so we'll need to make sure we bounce back."

Meanwhile, organisers of the Liverpool fans' boycott of the match at Hull are delighted with the response after up to 1,500 supporters voted with their feet.

Large sections of the away end were empty at the KC Stadium as the Reds lost 1-0 to see their hopes of Champions League football fade away.

Many supporters had purchased £10 child tickets and not travelled in protest at the £48 adult ticket price, instead joining demonstrations outside Anfield and the Premier League's London headquarters. "We think it was a big success," Spirit of Shankly chairman Jay McKenna said.

"When we said to people 12 days ago we would be taking this stance ourselves and spoke to half a dozen coach operators from Liverpool who said they would do the same, we were anticipating a quarter of the away end not attending.

"But I think from what we saw last night it was definitely over half and we've had people saying stewards at Hull told them there were 1,500 empty seats, which just shows the anger about high prices in general but particularly the situation at Hull where we were charged three times what Stoke were.

"There were supporters at our protest at Anfield last night who weren't in the away end for the first time in almost 20 years.

"We've never had people actively staying away from matches in protest like we did last night, not even in the very dark days of (former owners) Tom Hicks and George Gillett. That shows the level of anger from supporters who had to make a very difficult choice last night.

"One of the most striking things was looking at people who you knew would normally be in the away end hundreds of miles away from the ground.

"It shows how supporters feel. There was a lot of anger and passion from people not only saying 'This is wrong' but talking about what to do next."

McKenna said future boycotts were a possibility but they, along with other fans' groups, wanted to pursue more dialogue with clubs and the Premier League.

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