Ahead of the trip to the South Coast to face Brighton, Liverpool FC captain Virgil van Dijk took part in a pretty extensive interview with news agency PA Sport. He was speaking in his new role as an ambassador for McDonald’s Fun Football, the largest free grass-roots participation programme in the UK, which gives 250,000 children the opportunity to play for free every year.
“I’m so glad that I’m part of this whole campaign. I just want to be an example for the kids. The last free football session I attended in the city centre of Liverpool I took my two eldest daughters with me and they had an amazing time.”
Speaking on a variety of Liverpool-related topics, the 32-year-old defender commented on the plethora of personnel changes in the squad this season, the captain was upbeat:
“I don’t see it as a challenge, things happen for a reason, players move on and new players come in, players get new roles and I think that’s a very exciting thing.
“Obviously the captain has changed, the vice-captain has changed, the leadership group has changed, the players have different responsibilities outside the pitch. I think everyone is enjoying their roles at the moment and the team spirit is very high.
“Everyone is realising that everyone has a role to play and, whether you start, if you’re on the bench or whether you come on, everyone is trying to make a difference. I think so far that’s really good and that’s the basis of success.
“I think the squad we have at the moment looks very exciting. We have the quality to make it difficult for every team in the world.”
With Ben Doak and Jarrell Quansah making key contributions to the team, the big Dutchman spoke about how much he enjoyed helping the younger members of the squad, but with a light and mindful touch:
“You feel a responsibility. I know exactly how I was when I came up the ranks when I was younger.
“It’s never easy and, as one of the older guys, one of the experienced guys, I want to help them where I can.
“Obviously you don’t need to hold their hands but you need to make sure they’re able to perform in the best way possible and I think so far everyone is really enjoying doing that and we have to just keep that level.”
Of course, last week’s controversial game against Spurs was brought up as a topic. After the dust has settled, the captain sees the silver lining in the performance, and reassures that the team is focused on the challenge of Brighton:
“You definitely can take a lot of positive things out of that game. Obviously it’s quite difficult when you lose to see the positive things immediately and that was definitely a difficult period after the game but a couple of days later you realise and you analyse certain things.
“I was really proud to see how strong my team was as a unit. It’s something to build on and we will build on this and just keep going.”
“It’s going to be tough but we have to be confident and try to do everything in our power to win the game. Obviously we have the quality to make it difficult for them and we have to show it.
“The main thing for us is to stay consistent. That’s the key to winning something. And obviously no injuries, and that’s what we try to avoid. I’m very happy with the start we had as a team.”