Part two of our exclusive interview with Liverpool goalkeeper coach John Achterberg, who tells us what it’s like working with Alisson Becker, Simon Mignolet’s attitude, Divock Origi, Jordan Henderson and the club’s ambitions for next season.
One of the Liverpool players who has enjoyed a fantastic debut season at the club is Alisson. You obviously work very closely with him, and he’s been magnificent for the Reds – winning the Golden Glove award was an impressive feat and his performance in the Champions League final was unbelievable as well. How would you sum up his first season at the club and what were your thoughts on his performance last Saturday?
“I think I have said it to a few people already – he’s had a great first season in England. It’s not easy when you come to England to settle in and I think he also wanted to get a good start – it’s not easy to get one. I think in big games, he made some great saves and he got the team through when needed. The defenders in the team also played their part by defending well as a team, and yeah he made maximum saves at the times he was needed. The whole team also work hard to help with defending!
“At home he needed to keep a clean sheet against Barcelona and in other games. Then in the final he produced the same [if you like] to keep the team in the game. At 1-0 he made a few saves, when Tottenham were trying everything to get a goal, he made it all look easy – he made good decisions under pressure. He can now always say that he had a great first season at Liverpool, winning the master trophy. Hopefully, he can produce some more.”
Absolutely. A lot of focus will go on Alisson, but special mention should also go to Simon Mignolet because he really has been, on social media anyway, fantastic this season in terms of supporting the players. He always seems to be upbeat, even if Liverpool lose. What’s he been like around Melwood and the dressing room? It can’t have been easy for him watching Alisson come in, and I think he’s responded really well. He seems to be a really integral part of the group?
“Si is obviously a really good guy – he works hard [always] every day and gives the right professional attitude, so for all the goalkeepers it’s good to see they can learn from Ali and Simon, and everyone has their own part to play. For the goalkeeping squad, this year was really good – we worked with the coaches and we worked really well with them. They all work every day to their maximum potential – they try to be better every day so you cannot complain.
“Si, you know, it’s not easy if you have been the number one for a while and then become the number 2 but still doing the same things day-in-day-out. You have to respect that really. Yeah, he has definitely been a big part in the dressing room with the team to help and be positive with the players. He helps the players to take free kicks and penalty practice. He goes in early and stays out late – as a club and as a team we all respect him [really] for that.
“Don’t forget he is a really good goalie, that is the truth – people can say this and that, but I tell you in a lot of clubs he can be the number 1 goalie. I am happy that he is here because it makes it easy for us – he’s a good guy and a good keeper who can do the job if needed.”
Liverpool are probably set for another summer of change. Last summer we saw a big outlay on players, and this summer it seems Liverpool will fine tune the squad. Divock Origi, for example – how pleased were you for him, especially in the last few months? In the first half of the season, he didn’t play that much and there were rumours of him maybe wanting to leave the club. He seems to have taken it in his stride and come back even better. In the last few months, he has established himself as a big game player that Klopp can rely on. How pleased were you for him?
“Divock is also a great guy. To be fair to him, he has also been working really hard in training, on his finishing and everything. I think if you want to make it somewhere, at Liverpool or any club, as a person and not just a special name, anyone who wants to do something – if you work hard it gets rewarded in the end. If you look at Divock – if you work hard in training and keep going, [you know] you will get chances because you always create chances by working hard. Then obviously he popped up in the big occasions – the ball is in the net and, yeah, you put yourself back on the team sheet, if you like. That’s what happened – the boss decided to play him, he’s on the team sheet, that’s how it is.”
How is it working with Jurgen Klopp? You’ve been at the club many years and have served under different managers – how is it to work with Jurgen? How pleased were you for him and for Liverpool supporters in general after a rollercoaster few years?
“The boss is always working and always positive, always looking after the people and help[ing] the people. He is a top man manager but also, obviously on the tactical side he’s brilliant as well. If you are only a man manager then you won’t make it on the tactical side and that’s why he has Pete and Pep.
“For the the boss to do this is great for him, you know, because he deserves it for how he works with the players and the staff. The skills he produces, like his top energy – I tell you now there’s not many managers like him around because you can look at all the clubs that have to change their manager all the time because they cannot find the right solution. Hopefully we have the solution and we can keep the solution for a long time because we have to. I think everyone can see that and that’s why we have to keep building on it.”
How pleased are you for Jordan Henderson? He’s had mixed reviews in the last few years – people on the outside don’t see the Jordan Henderson on the inside, in Melwood and around the club. Everyone who has spoken about him seems to have the utmost respect for him and says he’s a brilliant leader. How pleased are you for Jordan?
“I’ve said to Jordan that I’m so happy for you because he has also been a few times close to winning something, and obviously he’s been disappointed. Like you said, he is well respected and a great guy – he is great for the team. He works his balls off day-in-day-out. For him it is also a great feeling to make this next step and win a big trophy – I’m pretty sure he already wants to win more.
“This is the same for all the players and the staff – we want to win everyday, we want to win every game, we want to see more. We now have to enjoy this moment for the next few days and weeks – like you said before, in four weeks we start again and then we have to fight and work to be even better again because other teams want to beat us even more now because of what we do, so we have to be even better and be more on our toes to win the next trophy – that’s what we try to strive for.”
Finally, after missing out on the Premier League title this season, it isn’t the only trophy Liverpool can go in for next year. There are seven trophies up for grabs including the Community Shield, Super Cup and Club World Cup. Is the Champions League now the benchmark? Are Liverpool looking to come back bigger and better next season?
“It’s going to be the same as normal – you need to try and win the first game coming up and then the second game coming up. That’s how you work as a coach and a player, and then it will hopefully bring you somewhere. If that brings you somewhere, then we’ll try and do it, you know.
“There’s no guarantee, but there’s one thing for sure – we all want to try and win more, of course. We want to win games and we want to win more, but what will that lead to? We don’t know because we’re not the only good team in England – there’s about 7, 8, 9 teams and even the smaller teams on paper, they are really good.
“They are all big teams as well – they have international players. You cannot disrespect any team so you have to fight for everything and then hopefully that takes you to something special again.
“That’s what we have to do, that’s the main thing.”