Often when Liverpool’s assistant manager speaks it’s very clear that he just gets Liverpool’s ethos, and his season reflection is no exception.
Lijnders opened up to Liverpoolfc.com about how he felt the season went, and when asked if he was proud of the team achieving a third place finish, Lijnders echoed most fans’ views exactly:
“If you’d asked us on the first day of the season, the answer would be of course not, but if you ask me now it feels we became a champion with the way we finished the season.”
Lijnders focuses in on the form of the team in the final games of the season as something to be carried forward into next season.
Though Liverpool were not fighting for a league title, “the pressure we had in the last 10 games was immense, but we showed a champions’ heart and character. And the conclusion? Our journey is not ending.
“We were not perfect, but we were in our best way possible. With this we found consistency, with this we found a team again — a team who developed courage. Over the last weeks the boys created the mentality to see the next game as a final, just like in our good days. That’s the thing I’m most proud of, the courage we played with.”
Early on in 2020/21 it seemed as though the mentality cultivated in the league title-winning season had completely left the injury-ravaged Reds, but the recovery of such a mentality in the final stretch off games is a massive boost ahead of the 2021/22 season.
“This season was frighteningly intense, physically but especially emotionally. Setbacks came, but they never won. The boys kept working so hard in training and in the long term you will win with this — and that’s what happened.”
Gaining Champions League football was, of course, important, but regaining this mentality despite the setbacks is also crucial, as Manchester City, Chelsea, and perhaps some other sides will look to challenge Liverpool next season.
Lijnders looks forward to the challenge, and spoke about the preparation (and return from injury) that the lads will have ahead of them.
The off time will be important; it really feels as if we had two seasons just non-stop, so we will give everyone maximum time off to regain freshness. ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ is how they say it in English, I think!
“Some big players are working hard and coming back. They will come with leadership and with dedication. I can’t wait for that - and I’m not the only one.
“But over the season, we learned that we shouldn’t worry too much about things we just can’t control. The only thing what is important is the next game. It’s one of the simplest principles in football, but one of the best ones. Especially when you live this principle.
“How we prepare, our answer is - and will always be - the training, the training ground, pre-season, our way of football. Focus on the process. This is what Jürgen created and should be respected by everyone. And when things get tough, back ourselves, back our players.
“Shankly said it like this: playing football at the highest level isn’t pressure, it’s the reward. And we showed exactly that in these last decisive games.”
And ending his interview with a Shankly quotation? He most definitely gets the club.