Saturday 17 February 2018

Ronnie Whelan: Moaning will not help Jurgen Klopp solve problems at Liverpool

Read Ronnie Whelan's exclusive column in The Herald every Monday

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp
Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

Jurgen Klopp is not doing himself or his players any favours by moaning about too having to play many football matches.

It's fashionable for players to be tired these days.

Let me say from the start that this is not a retired pro having a go at this generation of players. I'm not even sure they are as tired as we're led to believe.

It's the attitude of the managers that bothers me.

FA Cup weekends in England has always been a special time to be a professional footballer. The whole community around a football club, often people who wouldn't be regular match goers, come out for the day. It gives everyone a lift.

I watched the full spread of games around England on Match-of The-Day and I was struck by how much more animated the crowds at all the grounds were than you get at many Premier League games these days.

I would even stretch that to the players. It seemed to me that everyone was trying that bit harder and a crowd will always respond to that.

The line that managers sell is that the Cup is a distraction but a distraction from what? From playing football?

Sometimes you have to wonder what we are doing if the only thing that has value any more is a Premier League point and the cash it generates at the end of the season.

It's only the managers though, who preach this message. I've never heard any player bad-mouthing the FA Cup or suggesting it is in the way and making their lives hell.

The fans still love it because for most of them, it's the only time there's anything to play for in the season; the only games where there is some glory at stake.

I'd guess many players in the Premier League welcome the distraction and I don't believe all this guff about tiredness.

Maybe that's the old pro in me coming out but seriously, a lot of these lads have only played about 25 games so far this season and many less. How can they possibly be tired?

I don't buy that the game is so intense now and pace so fast that they are all physically destroyed. Try playing on a bad day in January in Roker Park in a mud bath and you'll understand what tired means.

With all the advances in sports science, diet and medicine, Klopp is still dealing with a rolling injury list, mostly involving pulled muscles.

The treatment room at Melwood has been the busiest place in the club for the last few seasons.

Yet I have memories of Phil Neal playing 410 consecutive games for Liverpool and many others who were never out of the team.

How can this be? The pitches were worse, the application of sports science almost non-existent and yet today's professional footballers seem unable to maintain the same level of high performance over a sustained run of games without breaking down with an injury or needing a winter break in Dubai.

I don't have any answers to this but I do know that complaining about an FA Cup replay which could open the door to another run at Wembley for Klopp and Liverpool won't solve his injury problems.

In fact, you could argue that if he had fielded a full strength team instead of everyone but the Anfield tea lady against West Ham, he might have been able to get the win that would mean he had a fixture less to think about. I could say the same about the previous round against Exeter.

If Klopp needs a lesson on how important the FA Cup can be for a struggling giant, he need only look at what the competition has done for Arsene Wenger in recent years.

He looked like a beaten man for a great deal of last season and even as a big admirer of his, I felt that maybe his time had come to call it a day.

But the FA Cup win revived him and his players, I've no doubt about that. When he secured Champions League football as well, talk of Wenger leaving the Emirates ended.

Klopp is only starting out on the road with Liverpool but there is one thing I know about Anfield.

The ethos has always been that the more games you played in a season, the more trophies you won and the day football becomes an imposition for a player is the day we might as well throw our hat at it.

Herald Sport

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