Football Insights - John Barnes

The former Liverpool star talks exclusively to Genting Casino about the Premier League, Liverpool, England, the summer Euro Championships and more.

Read John's interview below.


Premier League Observations 

We’re getting to that time in the season where individual awards are handed out. As someone that won a PFA Player of the Year and two Football Writers Award, who do you think are the candidates for individual accolades this season and is there anyone that you think deserves to win Player of the Year?  

It was a no brainer last year to award Erling Haaland with the individual accolades after what he achieved in his first season, then you had De Bruyne the year before. In both cases, those players were head and shoulders above anyone else.  

From an individual point of view - I’m not into individuals, when I won those Player of the Year Awards, the most important thing was always the team - I don’t think there are any outstanding candidates this year. You could say Phil Foden at Manchester City. Maybe Erling Haaland again because he is the top score in the league at the moment.  

There aren’t really any outstanding candidates at Arsenal or Liverpool, so Phil Foden is one name in the frame. I also think that Ollie Watkins should be in the conversation given the season he is having for Aston Villa.  

Cole Palmer, from an individual perspective, he has done really well, but his club are languishing in mid-table. He has been outstanding for his club, but does he deserve the individual award given Chelsea’s form? I’m not so sure.  

I think Phil Foden is probably the main candidate.  

On England And The European Championships 

As someone who dazzled in the England shirt, I’d love to know how you would assemble England from the midfield up. There are so many wonderful attacking players for Gareth Southgate to choose from.  

The most important factor in any team is balance. England need to find the right balance, that is the most important thing.  

We know we have some unbelievable attacking talent in England, but the players that are more important are our defenders and defensive midfielders because these are the guys that give the players that can win you a game security.  

Sometimes we can be guilty of forgetting about finding the right balance because we look at the players we can choose from. The questions are always the same. Why aren’t we beating teams more emphatically?  Why isn’t this player playing? For as much talent as we have in the squad going forward, we don’t have the same options in our defensive ranks.  

Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips were crucial in England getting to the final of the European Championships in 2021. We have to get the balance right in Germany.  

I love it when people get excited and we talk about Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Cole Palmer, Harry Kane, maybe even drop Ross Barkley into the midfield, because he’s a lovely footballer, then how can England not win EURO 2024. You have to find the right balance.  

It’s pointless talking about what we have going forward – we can’t play all of them – until we get that balance right. You can’t play all of them and the issue is that people expect these players to play in exactly the same way or be as effective as they are when they play for their clubs. That’s unrealistic and has always worked against England. We’ve always had this problem at international level – myself, Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle – where the English teams play completely different styles of football and people expect it to all come together when players wear the England shirt. Phil Foden can’t play like he does for Manchester City because he doesn’t have all of the other Manchester City players in the team.  

When you put these players together, does England play to the strengths of Foden, Saka, Grealish? Because we have such good individual players, once we have that solid base in terms of good defenders and good defensive midfield players, then they may be able to individually do what they do. 

Individuals aren’t going to win England international tournaments. All we can do is ask Gareth to maximise the potential of the players that he has available. 

The whole idea of a golden generation, I heard it from 2010 and 2014, Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole, Rooney, look at the team. Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole – we don’t have defenders as good as them, so why are we getting carried away now? We need to have a certain humility. Gareth and the team has had that. I think we’re good – we should be aiming to win, but don’t be disappointed if we don’t. Let’s keep our feet on the ground.  

Cole Palmer. He’s having a great season, he’s a mercurial talent. Do you think he will be on the plane?  

He’s having a fantastic season and is a very good player. There are lot of players that England can play in the attacking areas, but if you have four players that saunter around a pitch like Cole Palmer, then you’re not going to win football matches.  

You need to find the balance.  

Ben White was caught in a media storm during the lasty international break. What are your thoughts on the situation, and do you have any sympathy for the player?  

I don’t know the ins and outs of Ben White’s situation with England, but if he doesn’t want to play for England then he shouldn’t play for England. You want players that are going to be committed whether they are starting or sitting on the bench.  

I do have sympathy for Ben White because of the attention that this incident has generated, but I wouldn’t have any sympathy for Ben White if he was included in the England squad and he didn’t want to be there. If that is what has happened, and he has made himself unavailable, then that’s fine. It’s really simple. You want committed players. You either want to be part of it or you don’t. You can’t have players that only want to be in the team if they are going to play. 

There are rumours about what has happened. I don’t know the story. Only Ben White and Gareth Southgate know the truth. I wouldn’t judge him either way.  

On Scottish Football 

UEFA recently announced that from 2025-2026, no Scottish teams would automatically qualify for a place in the Champions League proper, with the top two from the SPL having to navigate qualification rounds. Given Celtic and Rangers performances in Europe’s top tier competition over the last few years, are you worried that this new rule could see two of Scotland’s giants miss out and wouldn’t that be catastrophic from a financial point of view for Scottish football generally?  

There is a very strong possibility that the Champions League could kick-off properly without one of Celtic or Rangers in there. Scottish clubs have always had difficulty mixing it up with the best teams in the Europe, even when they were more financially competitive.  

There were periods of course where Rangers and Celtic were competitive. I’m thinking about Graeme Souness’ teams that had some big players in because they had a bit of money to spend and then Celtic under Martin O’Neil and Gordon Strachan.  

The issue is that it’s incredibly difficult for Celtic and Rangers to compete for the best players on a financial level, which has an impact on how well the clubs can perform in the Champions League.  

Nothing personal against Celtic or Rangers, but there are lot of other clubs from European coefficients that have the same problem, it’s just that these clubs generally aren’t the size of Celtic and Rangers. It’s unfortunate for Scottish football and it would be a worry from a financial perspective if neither club made it into the Champions League properly.  

Unfortunately, with the rules, it’s the nature of the beast 

The pressure of managing Celtic and Rangers, where you’re expected to win every game, must be enormous. Do you think Brendan’s experience gives him the advantage in the title race?  

If you look at Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City, the team that was on top of the league has changed week-to-week. It’s a similar situation in Scotland, and if Rangers had beaten Motherwell a few weeks ago, then you would have to say that they would be strong favourites.  

Rangers are four points behind Celtic with a game in hand. You really expect Celtic and Rangers to win most of their matches, and now Celtic are in the driving seat, but Rangers have been in it before. Whoever has the advantage holds the keys to the title. So, it’s advantage Celtic. I don’t think the experience that Brendan has had will necessarily give him an advantage over Philippe Clement. Both clubs should win the matches they have, and it will come down to the clash between them.  

At the moment Celtic have the advantage, and I don’t expect them to slip up.  

Premier League Talking Points 

Erik ten Hag’s future is a hot topic. Do you think Jim Ratcliffe will stick or twist with the Dutchman in the summer? Does he need to impress his new boss from now until the end of the season or do you think Ratcliffe has already made his mind up?  

I have no idea what Jim Ratcliffe is going to do, but he should stick with ten Hag. I think that Erik ten Hag is a very good manager. Which manager is going to be better than Erik ten Hag to take Manchester United forward? Until the fans and the players start to respect who their manager is, then nothing is going to improve.  

The players need to take some responsibility for Manchester United’s performances. I would never accuse a player of not trying or not trying to do their absolute best, but the question is, if Manchester United lose, who are the fans gong to boo? As long as the answer is the manager, then the players will absolve themselves of any responsibility subconsciously. I don’t think that any player enters the field with the intension of not giving his best, but you know as a player that when things are going against you, you have to run harder, you have to win your duels, you have to try harder, and that is what you do.   

I remember when Liverpool put out a virtual youth team against Everton in the FA Cup and they beat them. Those players knew that as much as they were the youngsters, they were never ever going to be forgiven for losing because when Jurgen demands we play, we play. If the fans were going to boo Jurgen, then those players wouldn’t have had to perform because it’s the managers fault for selecting us.  

When Manchester City, Arsenal or Liverpool change the team, they do so because the manager has complete faith and power. Manchester United need to empower their manager – they haven’t given ten Hag that power. Until the Manchester United leadership say, “we’re not going to accept bad performances and players not giving 100%,” then nothing will change at the club. Liverpool went through a similar malaise until Jürgen Klopp arrived.  

Do you have any sympathy for your old rivals Everton being docked further points and how much of a loss would Everton getting relegated be to the Premier League and the city of Liverpool?  

Forest are going through a similar situation and the points deductions, and the appeals process creates uncertainty for a number of teams at the bottom of the Premier League.  

I have a great deal of sympathy for Everton. Sympathy for the fact that the penalties don’t seem consistent, and nobody is sure how many points you should be docked for certain things, then you have Manchester City and all of their charges, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet. According to the Premier League, City have broken the rules, but they haven’t been charged yet.  

The consistency is not there in terms of clubs being treated equally.  

I don’t want Everton to get relegated. I want Everton to be in the Premier League because it’s great for the city of Liverpool. I have sympathy for them because it is not clear as to who gets what (the number of deducted points) and for what for.  

Arsenal were uncharacteristically sloppy against Villa. Is that a sign of the pressure mounting and the players not being able to handle it?  

I don’t know if the Villa defeat was sign that these Arsenal players are under pressure in the title race. Arsenal are still a work in progress. They did so well last year – they were ten points ahead – and then all of a sudden… I always felt that they would fall away last year, which they did, because of that lack of experience. This year I thought they would do better, but I didn’t think that this is a team that has got over last year, they’re going to be perfect.  

I think Arsenal have done better than expected. For Arsenal to be where they are now and still pushing for the title is a vast improvement on last year, and I think next year they will be even better when it comes to that consistency that all title winning teams need at the latter stages of the Premier League season.  

If anyone expected Arsenal to win the title because of what happened last year, then that was unrealistic. This is still a young team that are gaining experience all the time. Title-winning teams are well worn. They grow. They keep the believe when things don’t go well – that takes time to build.  

Arsenal lost at home to Villa who are a very good side. They won ten, drew one and now they’ve lost one. They will get over that.  

It’s so difficult to win the Premier League. That is why I just wish that Pep Guardiola would leave Manchester City. Challenging his team is so difficult – you have to be almost perfect to win the Premier League when you’re competing against Pep.  

Unai Emery returned to his former club and picked up the result. It must have been incredibly satisfying for him. How much credit does he deserve for what he has achieved at Villa since taking over?  

Unai Emery has always been a good manager. What fans have to understand and appreciate is that managers need to be supported; fans are lucky to have certain managers and should support them, rather than feel that certain managers are lucky to be at their club.  

After Wenger and to an extent after Kenny left Liverpool, there was a bit of a feeling that the fans of both clubs felt like the manager was lucky to be there. Given time at Arsenal, I think he could have been successful. It has to be a two-way street of respect and support between the manager and the fanbase, especially when things aren’t going so well.  

It's always difficult when you follow a big presence like Wenger. I think what Emery has shown at Villa is a bit of a lesson to the fans that says stick with the manager. I think Arsenal were a bit too quick to write Unai Emery off because he’s shown what he can do – he’s shown it for years – and now Villa are benefiting from that.  

He’s established them as a top team this year. The Champions League looks nailed on now and you would probably tip them to win the Conference League as well.  

Of course, you would (expect Aston Villa to win the Conference league). Cup competitions are not that interesting to me because, sometimes, you can be lucky to win them. The league is your bread and butter and that shows you how good you are over the course of the season. That is where you can tell how consistent you are, that is the barometer. The fans will say that they want to win the trophy, but the league is where you want to be, and he’s doing fantastically well in that too.  

On The Champions League 

There are some delicious ties in the Champions League this week. From a Liverpool title perspective, do you think it would be better for both Arsenal and Manchester City to qualify and then face each other, with all of the emotions that will come with that tie? 

The Champions League will have no bearing on what happens in the Premier League title race. It didn’t affect things last year when Manchester City won their treble, and I don’t expect it to have an impact this year, even if Arsenal and Manchester City were to play each other in the semi-finals.  

Manchester city are very comfortable juggling three competitions simultaneously. Would it have an effect on Arsenal? Possibly, given that they have never won the Champions League before, but I don’t think so. All the best teams want to be in as many competitions as possible competing. Results in the Champions League breed confidence.  

On Liverpool  

It’s advantage Manchester City after Liverpool and Arsenal both lost at home this weekend. Can you see Manchester City slipping up from between now and the end of the season?  

I made Manchester City favourites before Liverpool and Arsenal suffered defeats to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa respectively, so I’m not going to change my mind. We all know how difficult the Premier League is – I didn’t expect Crystal Palace to beat Liverpool – but I did expect Liverpool to drop points during the run-in.  

I still believe that Liverpool will push Manchester City further than Arsenal in the title race. At the moment, it’s advantage to Manchester City. They are the favourites, and they have always been my favourites to win the title. My opinion on that won’t change unless something monumental happens over the next six games.  

The defeat to Palace was disappointing, but we’ve still got a chance. We will push them all the way and now we have to bounce back, as do Arsenal.  

Arsenal have been much better this year in terms of their consistency. The Villa defeat was the first they had suffered this year, and over their last twelve matches they have won ten, drawn one and lost one. Was it a shock to see them lose yesterday? Possibly, given their form this year, but Aston Villa are a very good side who are pushing for a place in the Champions League. 

The Premier League is the most difficult league in the world. What happened this weekend happens in football.  

After a bruising defeat to Palace, what would your message be to the Liverpool players? 

Hold your nerve. Liverpool can only control what they can control, and that is winning football matches. The Palace defeat is the first defeat at Anfield in a year in the Premier League, it was going to happen at one stage. It has happened now. Liverpool have been playing so well this season, that I don’t want one result to detract from what the club has done.  

The Atalanta game was a disappointing result and that could have knocked our confidence a bit, but Jurgen will pick up the players and we have to go again.  

Of course, there will be a lot of disappointment around the club this week, but this was only Liverpool’s first home defeat of the season. Liverpool had the chances to win the game in the second half, and Trent Alexander Arnold was positive after coming back – Can you give Liverpool fans some reasons for optimism?  

Liverpool fans can remain optimistic because of what the club has achieved over the last few years. What Jurgen has done, what the team has done, and the consistency that we’ve shown as a club. Yes, we lost the game (against Palace), but of course when players like Trent Alexander-Arnold are back and fit, then that is better for Liverpool and their ambitions. Is Trent going to be up to speed for the next game against Atalanta? Probably not, it will take time for him to find his level.  

We can’t look to find the solutions from individual players returning, we have to look at what we’ve done (historically). We have to believe in what we’re doing and trust the process, which is something that has served Jurgen well during his tenure. We just need to get back to doing what we’re good at. Against Palace, apart from the first half where they were the better team, we should have scored five or six goals, and we should have done. On another day we would have scored the goals to win that game.  

In any football match, regardless of the result, you need to analyse the performance. If you play well, create chances, more often than not, you’re going to win. If Liverpool continue creating chances like we did in the second half against Palace, then we’re going to win matches. It would be a more worrying sign if we weren’t creating chances and didn’t play as well s we did in the second half.  

Klopp lamented his team’s lack of momentum in the game with Palace and criticised the pressing. Have Liverpool’s injuries started to catch-up on his squad – are the last few results a consequence of fatigue?  

I think that fatigue could be one of the reasons (that Liverpool lost their last two games) – there have been a number of key absentees throughout the season and some players may have played a little bit more than they would have done.  

You have to remember that this is also a new Liverpool team. When you look at the Liverpool teams during Klopp’s tenure, the pressing comes from the midfield. When we had players like Henderson, Fabinho, Milner that was a midfield that was so used to the way that Klopp wanted to play without the ball. The press and the trigger for that press from the front players, there was a perfect understanding between the players.  

All of a sudden, these guys got a little bit older, and a new profile of player came in, guys like Thiago, Harvey Elliot, Curtis Jones. These players are not quintessential Jurgen Klopp pressing midfielders, these are more skilful players. That is the way that Klopp has been leaning over the last season or so.  

This season, you have Alexis Mac Allister, and Dominik Szoboszlai. It will take time. We’re a much more technical team with this midfield. We don’t just look to play fast, direct balls and get the ball forward. With these technical players, because they like to play, when we lose the ball, we’re more open in the transition and teams can get at us. This a new way of playing and we’re still getting used to the adjustment.  

When Jurgen talks about pressing and Liverpool not pressing as well as they have in the past, I think that is a consequence of having more technical players. Endo has come into the midfield and has the responsibility of bringing balance to the team, but it is still a very technical midfield.  

This is a very young team. The future bodes well for the next manager that comes into the club. I do think that maybe we underestimated how good that last Liverpool team was in terms of organisation, tactically, and on and off the ball.  

Atalanta vs Liverpool 

Does the result against Palace change the way that Jurgen Klopp approaches Atalanta on Thursday night?  

Jurgen doesn’t change the way he approaches the game, and he certainly won’t after a defeat. He may change the personnel, but the team will always play the same way. This is a different style to the one where he had his quintessential three hard-working midfielders, the midfield has more technical quality. Perhaps Harvey Elliot will come into the team because Liverpool need to score goals, so the midfield could be a bit more attacking.  

I don’t think the Palace result will have any bearing on this fixture. The most important thing for Liverpool is always the Premier League. We want to win the league – we don’t want to finish second. I don’t think Klopp will look at the Atalanta game and think ‘ we’ve got a chance of a trophy, so therefore, let’s play our strongest team because Manchester City have their destiny in their hands’.  

As for personnel, he may see if he wants to give minutes to some of the players that are returning from injury. It’s a bit of a free hit because not many people expect Liverpool to go through after the first leg, even though we’ve overturned some significant first leg defeats in the past. 

For Liverpool, I think it is a question of getting more organised out of possession so that we can press more effectively.  

Whatever team he puts out, they are going to have to perform. He doesn’t prioritise competitions – he wants to win every single game.  

We know that Liverpool can overturn these kinds of deficits, they’ve done it before. What would be your message to the Liverpool players ahead of this tie?  

If you look back at when Liverpool overturned the Barcelona defeat, or when we beat Milan in the Champions League final, they were experienced teams that were playing well and had the mental resources to deliver those kinds of performances. Coming off the defat to Palace, are these players capable of overturning the tie?  

There are a lot of questions. Are the team going to be confident? Who is going to play? As much as we’ve seen Liverpool do it in the past, I would be very surprised if they managed to turn this one around. I know Jurgen will demand a performance and that they players go out there and give a 100%.  

It really depends on the team that Jurgen plays. The teams that have overturned these big deficits have not only been experienced, but they have also been settled. We know the performances that we’re going to get from those teams and players, whereas if you look at the last two games, we can’t guarantee that Liverpool are going to be able to deliver a performance that overturns this tie and sees them go through. Hope springs eternal.  

Further Liverpool 

After Jurgen Klopp remodelled his midfield this summer, and following on from the previous season, I don’t think many people would have tipped the club to be challenging for the title, but here they are. How impressive has Liverpool’s performances been when you consider the integration of several new players?  

Klopp deserves so much credit for what Liverpool have done this season with a new midfield. I also think that you have to look at the front three. For how many years did we have Mane, Salah and Firmino – three players that understood how to press and how the midfield would press behind them.  

This is a new Liverpool team – there was always going to be a transitional period – but because Jurgen has done so well, we just automatically assumed that Liverpool would pick up where they left off. Of course, from a consistency point of view and getting used to this new way of playing, there hasn’t been that consistency, however, we were top of the league last week and we’re just behind now. We’ve already won the Carabao Cup. OK, we had the disappointment of going out in the FA Cup, but we’re hanging on in Europe. We’re still in with a great chance of winning the Premier League.  

The club have had a blip (in the last two games). We expect things to happen for Liverpool because of what Klopp has done in the past, but the future looks very bright for Liverpool. If you look at how competitive we are in the league, which is the most important barometer for consistency, with a whole new team and a whole new profile of player and then you look at the age of these players…over the next few years, if this group stays together they will only improve for a new manager whoever he happens to be.  

Liverpool have called upon some of the academy boys this season. Out of the youngsters that have performed, who would you back to go on and establish themselves as part of the Liverpool team moving forward?  

I think Jarell Quansah could establish himself in this team over the next few years. He’s impressed me. We do have Virgil, Konaté and Matip, although he is probably not going be around next season (his contract expires in the summer). I don’t think we should get too carried away, there always has to be an element of caution with young players and we don’t want to expose them to too many games too quickly – sometimes young players can struggle with consistency and pressure.  

Look at Kelleher, some people are starting to write him off after his last couple of performances because he made a couple of mistakes in one game. He’s been absolutely fantastic for Liverpool this season.  

You don’t want to build up young players too much. They are part of a system, a process moving forward with experienced players with them, but Connor Bradley and Quansah have shown what they can do under difficult circumstances this season.  

These players need to be handled with care. Let’s not put too much pressure on them, and with more minutes, they will improve further. They are good options for Liverpool to have.  

Connor Bradley has done really well, but that is Trent’s position, so unless Trent is going to be playing in midfield next season, then he won’t play every week, even though I think he is good enough to. Bradley is more of a traditional right back and, he probably defends a little bit better than Trent in terms of coming round and being a more orthodox right back. He can also get forward well.  

There have been some great performances from Liverpool’s players. Who would you like to call-out or highlight as someone that has particularly impressed you this season and what are your reasons why?  

Dominik Szoboszlai has been incredible. He is my favourite Liverpool player, and it’s a shame that he hasn’t been able to show what he can do in the last few weeks because he picked up an injury. He reminds me of Steven Gerrard. He can attack. He can defend. He can do everything.  

It’s a shame about the young boy Stefan Bajčetić, he was earmarked for Fabinho’s role, and he looked very good when we saw glimpses of him last season. That role – holding midfield - is the key to the way that Liverpool play. Remember last season when Fabinho was there along with Henderson and Milner, he came into the team. Endo was signed really because Stefan Bajčetić wasn’t fit and that isn’t to be critical of Endo, because he has done really since coming into the team, but long-term, that holding role is Bajčetić’s position.  

If you had Bajčetić holding, that would free up Mac Allister and Szoboszlai either side of him. We’ve seen Mac Allister play the holding role, which isn’t really his best position, but he has done really well when asked to do it.  

Do you think the prospect of following Klopp could have been one of the reasons why Xabi Alonso decided against joining the club as his replacement? Is there a danger that Liverpool could face similar problems to Manchester United and Arsenal after they replaced their legendary managers?  

It’s always going to be difficult to follow Jurgen Klopp into Liverpool. The difference between Liverpool and Manchester United, is that when Fergie left and David Moyes came in, the age of the United players worked against David Moyes. Ferdinand, Giggs, Scholes, all of these players were in their thirties.  

Had Jurgen left last year, and a new manager came in with a squad with Henderson, Fabinho, Milner and some of the other older players, I think that would have been a problem. The next Liverpool manager is inheriting a group of players with a much young age and less profile, so that is a much better situation.  

Alonso may have thought about the difficulties of following Jurgen, or he may just feel that he is still a very inexperienced manager, because he has only had a season and a half with Leverkusen, so therefore let me gain a little bit more experience. I don’t think that Alonso will be thinking that he will become the manager of Liverpool in two-or three-years’ time because if the new manager comes in and is successful, Liverpool will be appointing a manager that they will want to do well, then he will be there for the next five or six years. He must feel staying at Leverkusen is the right thing for him to do and I respect that decision.  

Are there any candidates that you think should be in the conversation who haven’t been mentioned?  

It’s a strange one because if you look at a big job like Liverpool or any big job, there aren’t that many outstanding candidates available. There certainly aren’t as many names that are proven winners of the biggest prizes – there is no Ancelotti or Mourinho available, for example. There isn’t a name that guarantees success because of their track-record.  

I’m not saying that whoever gets the job will get it by default because of the lack of outstanding candidates, because they will still be one of the best managers available with unquestionable talent. My point is that there isn’t the same volume of managerial candidates who have seven or eight years of success under their belts unless you’re going to look at some of the old guard like Ancelotti or Mourinho and Liverpool aren’t going to do that.  

The most important thing is for the fans to believe in the manager and back him, whoever it is, regardless of what he’s achieved. The fans have to back the next manager.  

And they will. I’m sure they will.  

Of course, they will, but will they if he loses the first two matches? It’s not a question of backing him because we know you’re going to come in and hit the ground running by winning matches. When Jurgen first came, don’t forget, the first season Liverpool were twenty points off the top, but the fans still backed him.  

Arteta at Arsenal. It didn’t start particularly well, but they backed and look what has happened.  

At Manchester United, they’ve had several different managers since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Who did they get? They had van Gaal. They had Mourinho. These are experienced, great managers, and it still wasn’t enough for them. That should be a lesson to fans: when you get a manager, stick with them through thick and thin.  

Replacing Klopp’s personality and emotional connection with the fans and the city will be impossible. Is that he biggest challenge for Michael Edwards?  

It will take time for the next manager to build that special relationship with his players, the fans and the city of Liverpool. Any manager coming in won’t have that relationship within the first month. That will only come with time and that will only come with the right character.  

Is it important for the Liverpool manager to have that emotional intelligence and connection with the people? Yes, but if you come into the job and you’re very aloof and cold and you don’t have the special connection with the fans, but you win every football match, then it doesn’t matter.  

It can work both ways. You can have managers that are incredibly successful who keep their distance from the players and the fans and maintain an icy demeanour, and you can have managers that are successful who are part of the group.  

The most aloof manager that doesn’t identify with the fans but wins football matches is fine. The most human manager who identifies with the fans, loves the players, and doesn’t win football matches, will get the sack. If you’re the latter, you’ll be given more time because the fans love you. That relationship with the fans and Klopp’s human side was a key factor in the fans and the club keeping the faith with him after his first season.  

I know Liverpool the city. I know how much it means. The human connection and how he engages everyone will be a massive loss and something that will be hard to replace when he leaves.  

When Jurgen departs it’s the end of an era and what an era it was. How would you sum up Jurgen’s period at the club and how will he be remembered?  

He’ll be remembered as one of the top three Liverpool managers ever. I always put Bill Shankly above everyone because he started in the second division and started the Liverpool winning dynasty.  

Bob Paisley was much more successful than Bill Shankly, but it’s much easier to be successful when you’re following on from someone rather than starting from the bottom. Bob Paisley continued what Bill Shankly left. Paisley was much more successful in terms of trophies.  

You had Joe Fagan, who was brilliant, then Kenny. Kenny won the double and did what he did, but he was continuing with the best team in the country.  

When Klopp arrived, Liverpool were looking to challenge for a place in the Champions League at best, and Jurgen changed that. Jurgen brought Liverpool back to the top and, when you consider who we’ve been fighting with in Manchester City, it was always going to be difficult for Klopp to do what he has done. I would put Jurgen alongside Bill Shankly, so he is in the two greatest managers of Liverpool category.  

Are you worried that the end of the Klopp era will lead to an exodus of Liverpool players – some of Klopp’s stalwarts?  

Most of the stalwarts have already moved on. Look at the departures over the last couple of seasons with Mane, Firmino, Fabinho, Milner, Henderson – there aren’t many of them left.  

I don’t think Virgil van Dijk will necessarily be thinking about (moving on for a new challenge). I don’t think Virgil will be in demand by the world’s biggest clubs because of his age and his position. What better challenge could there be for him than wanting to see his career out at Liverpool and helping the club flourish with a new group of players in a new era?  

From Mo’s perspective, I think it’s a little bit different. Mo Salah is the only player I think could leave and there will be offers on the table from Saudi Arabia which could be an interesting opportunity for him.  

I don’t think you’ll see any other departures. This is a new, young, exciting Liverpool team with a bright future. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that as a player?  

On Newcastle United 

Newcastle produced a spectacular 4-0 victory over Tottenham at the weekend. Can the Spurs result give them the momentum to finish in the top six this season?  

Newcastle are a good side with a good manager. They have some good players. The results aren’t as important as the process. The process takes time to build and that’s where you get your consistency from.  

The issue that Newcastle have is, since the Saudi’s went in there, there has been a lot of discussion (in the press) about the managers future and the club appointing a big-name manager. From week-to-week, I feel so sorry for Eddie Howe because it’s like people are waiting for a big manager to come in when Eddie has been doing a fantastic job.  

Newcastle are moving in the right direction. They are growing as a team, they’ve got good players – we saw that against Tottenham – so let that development happen slowly. 

A lot of Newcastle fans want European qualification, but my thoughts on that were if that happens, it happens. Newcastle need to focus on getting that consistency into their performances. Believe in the manager. Believe in the players. Try and keep hold of the players. There is talk about Bruno Guimaraes and Alexsander Isak moving on. I don’t see why they would want to – a club like Newcastle can fulfil their ambitions.  

Football has a habit of living week-to-week. Because Newcastle beat Tottenham, now we’re asking if they can qualify for Europe. If they lose next week, we’re going say: “Eddie Howe isn’t the right man, let’s get someone else in,” that’s the thought process. They need time to grow, which is what they’re doing. Eddie Howe is doing a great job and they’re a very, very good team.  

If one of Bruno Guimaraes or Alexsander Isak were to depart, who would be the bigger loss to the club?  

I think Guimaraes would be the bigger loss to Newcastle. He’s had another great season and has done very well in his last few games, popping up with a few goals. I think from a consistency point of view, Bruno Guimaraes would be a bigger loss than Isak, but of course, I think they are at a stage in their development as a club where they could replace him. He didn’t come to the club as a superstar and there are lots of good players out there that would be attracted to playing for Newcastle. He is a very important player for the team, but I think they could find a replacement for him.  

I actually think that Newcastle are now in a place where they could cope with the loss of any of their players and adequately replace them. I don’t believe that they would be signing replacements that would push them to win the league or finish second, but the fans need to trust the process and be patient.  

Players come and players go, it doesn’t matter which club you are.  




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