Imagine a room of Liverpool footballers assembled for one of their first meetings with their newly appointed coach.
They’re probably in hoodies, flip-flops, sport-shorts or sweats, sprawled on various pieces of meeting room furniture with a large imposing white-board in front of them.
Some players are talking, no doubt, some are waiting to see the magic of ‘the normal one’, a few have commandeered extra chairs to put their feet up. Regardless the tension is present in the air, and you know it because everybody seems to be scanning the room looking for something.
Klopp walks in; the side chatter ceases, a few players sit up straighter, some push their chairs in closer to the table. Without saying a word he grabs a black dry-erase marker and writes the following in block capital letters,
The players hold their collective breath, is it commentary on their play up to this point? A slam of the program as a whole? A scathing critique of a struggling offense in a program that has languished too long?
Klopp scans their reactions, knowing that they’re waiting for him to speak. He smiles before explaining that instead of worrying about which club is at the top of the table, who is scoring the most goals, who has the largest transfer budget, the previous games, the season thus far, etc. players should put that all aside.
The new focus of Liverpool FC is to make their opponents feel terrible.
A single-lane focus that no matter who Liverpool face the team’s only goal is to give their opponents hell for ninety minutes.
So what does hell look like? It’s the constant ‘heavy metal’ press Klopp is famous for. Running more than you thought possible in ninety minutes, and then running more. Playing harder, relentlessly trying to win back possession, and then moving forward at a faster pace that results in a superb finish.
What’s more, the genius of it is that it speaks to every individual player. Every athlete: professional, collegiate, or high school can tell you about the handful of people they never want to go up against again. Most often athletes can vividly recall want makes that particular player a bear to face.
One of my favorite signs that hung in my high school locker room was:
“It doesn’t take talent talent to hustle and be on time.”
And although Klopp has praised the depth of talent at his disposal, his strategies are going to ensure that his side is not only talented, but the hardest working, most fit, pack of rabid footballers in the EPL.
As a former athlete and passionate sports spectator, I’m on board.