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'I needed to be ahead of van Dijk's standard - he's not just the best centre back, he's the best player in the world'

Klopp’s ‘mentality monster’ belief drives Irish defender

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Conor Masterson

Conor Masterson

Conor Masterson

It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves him, as the song goes.

In fact, going through the exit at Anfield last summer has proven to be the making of Conor Masterson as a footballer as he's made big strides in the colours of QPR and the Ireland U21 side.

It took a while but the skills and habits he learned at what he calls "the best club in the world right now" have left their mark.

It's not been easy for the Dubliner since Liverpool told him he was being released – formal notification of his release came just six days after the club were crowned champions of Europe.

As Liverpool moved on, so did Masterson.

The former Lucan United player did find a club quickly, as he was not short of suitors, but that move, to QPR, had the appearance of an impending disaster.

Ball

After six long months at the London club, he had not kicked a ball, not played once for the first team. A loan move to a lower league club loomed, the Champions League seeming a long way away.

But circumstances can be transformed quickly in football and in the blink of an eye, it's all smiles for Masterson.

Three appearances in the space of 13 days, including a starring role in defence in QPR's win over Leeds United, and the 21-year-old will play in tonight's FA Cup game at home to Sheffield Wednesday (live eir Sport 1, KO 8.00).

"I was frustrated, but I was still enjoying my time at QPR. The club were really good to me and I knew that once my chance came I had to take it, I knew that QPR did believe in me," he says.

"When I first came to QPR I was grateful for the opportunity but as the weeks and months go by without playing, you do get worried.

"So you have to deal with that, and you have to make sure you are ready, I said to myself going into training every day 'I will work harder again today'.

"I didn't sulk or moan, I didn't show a bad attitude as I had worked hard to get here and I wanted to be ready when my chance came," he says, feeling at home in the English capital after a long spell in the relative quiet of Merseyside.

"We have an Irish crew here in the squad with Ryan Manning and Mide Shodipo and there's a strong connection between QPR and the Irish community around the area."

He traces his current success to the spirit which took him to Anfield in the first place and his approach in his five-year spell there.

"Because of where I had been, at Liverpool for so long, I knew there would be ups and downs in football, and it's dealing with the downs that makes you as a player," he says.

"It's having that belief in yourself when things are not going right that you can get there, that when you are at the top of the spectrum at Liverpool and drop down a level, and that's no disrespect to QPR, you deal with that and keep going.

"And I am reaping the rewards for that now, it's the belief in yourself, the hours of work you put in, that decides where you go instead of getting distracted.

"I have seen players who have unbelievable talent but they just lose it as their mentality, their work ethic, is just not there and it's easy to fall behind very quickly. 

"Liverpool are the best team in the world, you have all the luxuries possible. And the day you get told you are leaving, it's quite tough to take."

He had been close: he was on the bench for the first team three times, including a Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City.

But he ran out of road at Anfield. "I knew around January of this year that I would be leaving Liverpool," he says.

"They can just go and buy any player in the world so it's difficult to come through at Liverpool.

"I needed to be ahead of Virgil van Dijk's standard to get into that team and he's not just the best centre back in the world right now, he's the best player in the world.

"They just have this mentality. Klopp's words are 'mentality monsters' and that's what they are, they feel they will win every game, win every trophy," Masterson says.

"And I have that in my head now at QPR. Every single day is important to me, I train like every session could be your last"

The Euro campaign with Ireland's U21s is important ("We have a brilliant crop of young players, the future is in good hands") but club success is also sought. "Some teams in the Championship have all the focus on the league but our manager wants us to win every game, he sees the FA Cup as a prestigious tournament and if we get past Wednesday here, who knows?"

Online Editors