Extended: Gerrard and Klopp talk management at Liverpool FC

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Do you remember the moment when you felt
you wanted to be a manager, Jurgen, and how young were you? – 20.
– 20? It was! I was never happy
with my football, to be honest. For me, I knew I wanted to study sports,
so I played third division football, trained with the youth team at Frankfurt,
and enjoyed it, so I knew that’s what I wanted to do,
and I was always waiting for the moment when somebody would come to me and say, “We all saw you cannot play football,
but maybe you want to train the team.” For me, it was about trying it. We had
numerous conversations, in this office, and I asked Jurgen a lot of questions,
what it was like, and he spoke about his experiences, and I think for me it was
all about the next two years, to go and sample it, see what it’s like,
but he gave me the pros and the cons, and gave me invaluable advice
moving forward. I’m enjoying the role, and I’m making loads of
mistakes, but they’re off-camera, which is what he suggested was the best
move to do, and now that I’ve experienced that I think it was certainly the right move from
the beginning. I’m just trying to grow and learn and get used to a completely
different role and completely different job than being a player. And that’s been
the most eye-opening thing for me, how different it is from being a player. Now I’ve got more respect for managers,
more respect for coaches… Finally(!) I used to think I was the best coach and best
manager in the world when I was a player. “What are you doing that session for?
Why’d you do this, why’s he doing that?” Now, I apologise for all that, and I realise
how much of a difficult job it is for any coach and any manager,
because it’s a completely different ball game. It’s all about trial and error, trial and error.
Because nobody knows how it works, if you ask Pep Guardiola, today he looks like
he knows absolutely everything, even he didn’t start perfectly, I think he started at Barcelona B,
was not perfect from the first day, so he obviously thought, “Maybe it’s not the
right job for me”, so you all have to do that. And that’s why it’s so difficult to start
on the public level where I am now, because people are talking
constantly about you, and you need to get
resistant to things like that, you cannot always be in doubt about,
“What am I doing?” You cannot do what the people want,
you need to do what you think is right, and if you have a strong team
around you it helps massively, because you have questions. Can you
imagine, as a Premier League manager, I go out there, “By the way, one question –
what would you do in this situation?” It’s not possible, everyone would think,
“No, you need to know.” But we are human beings,
and so we still have questions. “How can I deal with
this player or this problem?” And it’s good to have
a strong team around, but I have. Not in the beginning, I started alone,
but then thankfully I got it. So that’s the only help you can get, and to
learn all these things is a wonderful thing. Losing feels the same way on each level, but not having the pressure from outside
helps to make the right decision again in the next game. And so
I’m really happy that you enjoy it, because it doesn’t happen too often,
that a player of your size starts on this level. That’s why I always say it’s a job you have
to learn, and if you’re ready to learn it then you don’t have to be a genius
to come through, you need to be busy, you need to be interested,
and then it’s possible. And THEN it’s a big help that
you’ve been a world-class player. Because then you know all about the game,
your own ideas, but if that’s the only thing,
you were a world-class player but not ready to learn the next step,
then it doesn’t help. A few of them struggled obviously,
in Germany… That’s what I’ve learned in the six months,
you don’t realise what comes with it. There’s so much information
to learn and take in… Have you found anything in particular
a struggle, Steven, that learning process? I think everything that’s new,
it’s not a struggle but it’s different, you sort of go out your comfort zone. So for the first time you have
25 players around you, then you have to take what’s on
the paper and deliver it on the field, then you get your first player knocking
at the door – “Why aren’t I playing?” Everything’s new. Some things are a struggle, because you’re not used to it
or you’ve got no experience, like the boss is saying, but with time
and experiences in certain situations, if you’re faced with the same thing again
you think, “What did I do right,
what did I do wrong?” It’s experiences that help you
with decisions moving forward, but I’m not gonna lie, at the beginning
you’re like a rabbit in the headlights. “Whoa, what am I gonna do?” When you’re a player you just turn up
and you think, “I know I can go and perform “on the training pitch, or at Anfield,
or Goodison or whatever”, but when you’re a manager there’s
so much more that you have to think about. Are you all right with the prospect of maybe
picking up a phone and speaking to Jurgen if there’s something
you’re not quite sure about? Well, I have, that’s already happened, there’s been numerous times
I’ve picked the phone up on a text, or I’ve been here and asked a question. I think he’s already said in the media
that the door’s open and anything he can help me with,
and for me that’s gold dust. He’s obviously got a lot more, what,
20 years more experience than me, in what I’m trying to do, so any little
bits and bobs I can get from Jurgen and his staff, or anything that I see him doing, I obviously need to take it in
and add it to what… But it’s much better to learn it by yourself. Because that’s how it is. For example,
one big difference for me was the analysis. At the beginning I did it completely alone,
because we had nobody to do it, and watching the game from the pitch, two days before I became a manager
I played my last game. I was right full-back, so I had this view on the
pitch and I saw all of them from the back, and then you have the first game
as a manager, and you sit there and see them
all running like this, and you’re on the same level
and you think, “Wow.” That’s really a bad view. And then after
the game, first press conference – “What do you think about this situation
and that situation?” I really struggled with the answers,
but I gave some answers and what I learned first,
they obviously don’t listen, because otherwise they would
have recognised I have no clue what I’m talking about! I was running home actually, sitting in front of
the television watching the game back, and again and again. I watched my first game
as a manager four times the night after. I wanted to be prepared for
the next morning and the session where I actually have to tell the players not
my opinion, but the truth about the game. Because opinion is what you have
after the game as a player, you think, “Why did you play that ball,
why did you pass that ball?” Players are constantly talking about
offensive situations until they concede a goal. They don’t talk about defensive situations
until the ball is in. With me, I was a player two days before,
so I was their friend – I’m still their friend. They came to me and asked me questions,
and I needed to have answers. In the beginning I always sent them out
and said, “Give me five minutes! “I need to think about it,
I don’t have an answer!” But we could do it, because I was not in public
as well, it was the Championship in Germany, so that’s good, learning by yourself, because you cannot do the way
somebody else is doing. You can pick up things, you can say this part
of football, Jurgen Klopp football, I like, this part of football is there,
how United get results, very good, stuff like that, now being more serious
in a game, now fluent – that’s all OK, but you will see it, and then you have to think
about how can you achieve it. How can I get it for my boys?
Not going out and asking, “What do you do in training
so it looks like that?” Because that is different,
we all have our different ways. It’s a fantastic time you’re having at
the moment, hopefully you feel like that. No, it is. When you can really do
what I very often miss – just train. Because the job now
is so many things around that sometimes there’s
no time for training. – You think, “Wow, how did that happen?”
– Yeah, too many games. The other thing as well, it’s about personnel. I might say to my kids,
“We have to play the Jurgen Klopp way”, but I haven’t got Jurgen Klopp’s players. I’ve got different players with different styles,
so you have to find out about the individual, hear their strengths and their weaknesses,
and then play a way that suits them people. I don’t think it’s fair to ask some of my kids
to run like Mane or do what Firmino does, because they’re already ready
to be top players. But, yeah, it’s a fascinating job because
you learn so much every day about players.

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