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Name Neil Mellor
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Job xxxx Footballer
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Club as Player Liverpool FC
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2019 06 13 Retrieve

[Neil Mellor says Divock Origi has shown that he is ‘desperate to stay’ at Liverpool] [Jurgen] Klopp brought him on against Everton at Anfield with six minutes to go and he scored the winner in the 96th minute. Look what has happened since. He came on to score the winner at Newcastle, netted twice in the 4-0 semi-final comeback against Barcelona and has now scored for Liverpool in a Champions League final victory. That is a huge moment for any player so it is credit to him for not giving up on being a Liverpool player. He will have seen, while out on loan, that it’s not great when you leave Liverpool so has proved he is desperate to stay here. That has been reflected in the big moments he’s had. It says a lot that Liverpool substitutes contributed 17 goals this season, including one in the final. It shows there is a squad mentality, that even though players are disappointed to be named on the bench they’ll still come on and perform. The attitude those players have shown displays their professionalism and that is important because if substitutes reflect their disappointment and don’t perform, it can have a hugely negative effect on a dressing room. Divock Origi is a good example. He must have been thinking he was way down the pecking order and wouldn’t get game time, but he kept working hard in training to impress the manager and coaching staff

2020 04 21 Retrieve

[q: Which do you prefer; the Arsenal goal or the ‘lovely cushioned header’ for Steven Gerrard against Olympiacos?] Ah, tough one to start with! Can I say both?! They were both meaningful for different reasons. If we hadn’t gone on to win the Champions League after the Olympiacos game, I probably would have said Arsenal. But Olympiacos was unique, the goal meant so much, the atmosphere was the best I ever played in, and I’ve laid the ball off to one of the greatest players Liverpool have ever seen as well! It would have to be that. I think the famous commentary helps as well, doesn’t it? I get that a lot, people saying ‘lovely cushioned header…‘

[q: If you were coming through at Liverpool now, do you think you’d have gotten a chance?] It’s difficult to know. A big problem I had when I was coming through was that the relationship between the first team and the Academy at Liverpool was strained. That hindered a few of us at the time, no doubt. Now, the relationship is so strong, and the fact that the first team will be moving to Kirkby soon will only make it stronger. It will give young players a chance to impress and show their qualities

[q: You watch a lot of Liverpool’s Under-18s and 23s – who are the players you like the look of and can see coming through?] There’s a lot of talent there. We’ve probably seen more than we would usually see this season due to the Aston Villa and Shrewsbury games. I like a few. Obviously, I’m always biased towards attacking players, but I like Layton Stewart. I like that he has that hunger to score goals. I’ve really enjoyed watching Leighton Clarkson, I think him and Jake Cain have done better than most stepping up through the levels

[q: Do you see Curtis Jones as a first-team option next season?] I think Curtis has the potential to play for the first team. He makes things happen. I’ve seen him from when he was very young and the way he’s kicked on has been impressive. There was some talk about him going out on loan, and Middlesbrough were mentioned, but I thought to myself ‘Stick around!’ He is training with the best players Liverpool have had for many years, he’s with the best team in the world, he’s learning every day. If he goes to the Championship, he won’t be developing as much. Yes, he’ll get game time, but Curtis is 19. There is no rush, not while he’s in and around this squad, learning every single day at the highest level

[q: How do you see Harry Wilson’s prospects at Liverpool?] I’ve always liked Harry. People have always been asking ‘Is he good enough?’ but look at him. He scores goals and he creates goals, and that’s what you want from an attacking player. He’s always done that throughout his youth days at Liverpool. He’s proven he can do it in the Championship with Hull and Derby, and now he’s gone to the Premier League, which I thought he should have done last season to be honest, and proved himself again. I think he’s a great option to be around Liverpool’s squad. He might not start many games, but he’s a good player to have in the squad

[q: And what of Rhian Brewster down at Swansea?] I like him. He leads the line well, he’s a handful. I like the way he interacts with the crowd, he stays involved in the game and reads the momentum of it. I like that in a striker. He has personality to change games, he works hard. He’s the best centre-forward we’ve seen coming through at Liverpool in a long time. He finds space and he’s calm. He doesn’t snatch at chances or blast them; he knows how to finish. He was the standout player from the England Under-17 team that won the World Cup, but then he had that horrible injury which took a long time to recover from. But you look at the way people like Sancho, Hudson-Odoi, Foden have kicked on – why not Rhian? There’s a top-class player there

[q: What’s the toughest decision you ever had to make in your career?] It’d have to be making the decision to retire, at 29. Obviously, that was made up for me by the medical staff, but it was still heart-breaking. I’d lived my dream of being a footballer, I felt as though I still had more to give. I felt the best I’d felt in my career. I was going well at Preston and there were a lot of clubs sniffing round me at the time. I wanted to get back to the Premier League. That was the big frustration when the surgeon said I would have to call it a day. It was an emotional time; it’s not often I cry, but that was definitely one. Another low moment that stands out was missing out on the victory parade after the Champions League final in 2005, when we were on a later flight back from Istanbul. That really upset me

[q: What do you remember about your debut for Liverpool?] It was against Ipswich in the League Cup at Anfield, December 2002. It was a special night, and all my family were there. I’d done well in the reserves, and I felt I’d earned my chance. I’ll always remember before the game Gerard Houllier, in the changing room, saying randomly ‘Who wants to take penalties tonight?’ I’d missed one in the Youth Cup semi-final, but I put my hand straight up. I enjoyed taking penalties. He looked me in the eye and said ‘You’re on pens.’ That gave me a lift.

I was poor in the first half and I was worried he was going to take me off at half time. He didn’t, he kept me on, and a few minutes into the second half, Kop End, I’m waiting for Mark Venus to make a challenge inside the box. I nudge the ball past him, he takes me out, bang! Penalty! I’m buzzing.

I go to get the ball and El-Hadji Diouf, who’d been signed for big money that summer and was struggling to justify his price-tag with goals, has got the ball under his arm and is saying he’s taking it. I’m like ‘What are you doing?’ but he is having none of it. So, I’m a lad on debut arguing with a £10 million ($12.4m) signing in front of the Kop! People probably thought ‘Who is this kid?’ I looked at Steven Gerrard, who was captain, and he said ‘Just let him take it.’ Diouf scored.

A few minutes later I’m one-on-one with Andy Marshall the goalkeeper, knock it past him and I swear to God it’s going in until it hits a bit of grass, and comes back off the inside of the post. To this day, I still think it’s going in! We won on penalties that night, and went on to win the League Cup that year. I scored in the semi at Sheffield United and got a medal when we beat Manchester United in the final.

[q: Did you ever forgive Diouf for that?] [Laughs] The funny thing is that my next start was at Manchester City, my dad’s old club. It was Liverpool’s last ever visit to Maine Road. Diouf has the ball, he cuts in from the right and he’s on the byline. All he’s got to do is square it to me and I’ve got a tap-in from three yards. What does he do? He tries to beat Peter Schmeichel on his near post and hits the side-netting! I always think back to those two moments, the penalty against Ipswich and that chance at City. I could have had two goals in my first two starts if it weren’t for him!

[q: Who were your heroes growing up?] The standout for me was always Alan Shearer. He had everything. He scored all types of goals, he bullied centre-halves, powered headers, smashed shots from distance, got tap-ins. He was a handful, and he loved scoring goals. I love those type of strikers. I wanted to be like him, an all-round centre-forward

[q: Why did it not work out for you at West Ham on loan in the 2003-04 season?] A few reasons. I was a young boy, 20 years old, going down to London with no friends and family, living in an apartment with another lad, and it was a big change. I couldn’t cook, couldn’t look after myself, I had no support network around me so my lifestyle wasn’t great.

Another big thing was that the manager who signed me was Glenn Roeder, but he was sacked after a few games. Trevor Brooking came in as caretaker and he loved me, but then Alan Pardew came in and he told me from the word go that I wasn’t a player he wanted, that he’d inherited me and that he wasn’t going to put time in to develop me. I never started a game for him.

It was a shame because it was a good dressing room and a good team; we had Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe, David James, Rob Lee, Matty Etherington, Tomas Repka. I remember my first day signing and meeting Defoe, who thought he was going to Manchester United. That never happened and he eventually went to Spurs. You knew he’d move on and be successful, but I remember being on the bench with Carrick away at Rotherham. He didn’t always start, believe it or not, but he kicked on and went on to have an amazing career

[q: What was the toughest part of the injuries you suffered as a player?] It was the uncertainty. I had seven operations in total, and the first surgeon said I had an 80 per cent chance of getting back to the Premier League. Then, I wake up from the surgery and he says ‘It’s more like 50-50’ because he didn’t realise how much damage there was to my knee. It was hard. It was the fact that I just couldn’t feel fully fit. Even when I scored against Arsenal, Olympiacos, I was taking injections to manage the pain in my knees. I always felt hampered throughout my career

[q: Who are the best players you played and trained with?] Steven Gerrard is the best, that’s obvious. I was lucky to be at Liverpool with great players – Carragher, Alonso, Jari Litmanen, what a player he was. Michael Owen, wow! What a goalscorer! He was a player who could win a game from nothing. When I was coming through and I was scoring goals, he was always the one who held the record for that competition or that age group!

[q: What’s the best team talk you’ve ever experienced?] It was Gary Megson at Sheffield Wednesday. He gave this speech once before a game, and honestly it was one of those where all the lads wanted to hug him at the end of it! He used to have a couple of brandies to loosen himself up, and he spoke about family, religion, everything except football. It was one of the most inspirational speeches I’d ever heard. After it, we were all like ‘Wow!’

What happened afterwards? We played Tranmere away and got battered, 3-0 I think! But it was a good speech!

[q: Why did you never go into coaching?] I was put off by seeing great coaches lose their jobs, and seeing what the job did to them. I don’t like that side of the game. And also, I really enjoyed the media side of things. That appealed to me. I’ve done bits of grassroots coaching, which I enjoyed, but that’s honest football. It’s not putting pressure on kids to go and play three, four, five times a week. Kids have to enjoy football, they don’t have to be professional players at 10 or 11, missing school to go and train. That’s not right, in my opinion

[q: What’s the best advice you were ever given?] A couple stand out. Steve Heighway told me when I was at the Academy that I’d have a better chance of succeeding if I dedicated myself to the club, learned everything there was to know about the club and loved the club. That always stuck with me. And I always remember Sammy Lee at Melwood saying to me ‘Do you think I like you?’ He explained that you can’t please everyone all the time, that some people for whatever reason just won’t like you, so stop worrying about being liked. That was something I took on board, and I suppose now that’s more prevalent than ever in the age of social media

[q: Who was your toughest opponent?] My first ever first-team game at Anfield was a friendly against Lazio, and I was up against Alessandro Nesta. Obviously, he went on to become one of the great centre-halves in world football, so he’d have to be right up there. But the toughest I ever came up against, honestly, was Olof Mellberg at Aston Villa. He was like a wall! He was solid, quick, strong, aggressive. He was really good. I didn’t get much out of him

2020 06 22 Retrieve

[Neil Mellor says Coutinho wants Liverpool more than they need him] Liverpool haven’t missed Coutinho anywhere near as much as they expected to, which is a huge credit to the squad that was left behind. It says everything about where Liverpool are at that he’s willing to come back and would walk away from Barcelona, where he’s had a difficult time. It’s a credit to the group that he wants to come back and whilst he is an excellent player, he probably wants Liverpool more than they need him at the minute which says everything

[Liverpool are said to be exploring a number of other recruitment options at present, with Jadon Sancho, Adama Traore and Kalidou Koulibaly among those to have generated the most speculation] It’s exciting to see Liverpool linked with them as they are all excellent players. Koulibaly is one of the best centre-backs in world football. I think the club has shown they will back Klopp – so if he really feels one of these players will improve the team and squad, I’d expect them to back him in the market this summer. You are talking big money for all of them but with [Virgil] van Dijk and Alisson, the club have proved they are willing to back the manager if he believes certain signings are critical.

[Pressed further on where Liverpool may look to strengthen] Liverpool’s starting 11 is incredibly strong, so you are probably looking more at supplementing the squad that truly dislodging a starter. Timo Werner was linked but he has now signed for Chelsea. Liverpool, with the exception of Van Dijk and Alisson, haven’t spent massively on transfer fees. If they are recruiting from a position as reigning Premier League champions that is really powerful. If I was to pinpoint one area, it might be to get a bit of back-up in the final third so they aren’t always relying on [Roberto] Firmino, [Mohamed] Salah and [Sadio] Mane

2020 06 30 Retrieve

[Former Liverpool striker Neil Mellor says The German manager has completely redefined the entire club] Klopp is adored by Liverpool supporters and rightly so. When he took over at Liverpool the club was nowhere near competing for the top six, the season he arrived Liverpool finished 8th. Within a previous press conference he said: ‘we will win a title’ and Liverpool fans wanted to believe him but found it difficult, because of where Liverpool actually were. Klopp has turned any doubters into believers, and he has been phenomenal in what he has given Liverpool. Klopp has brought a togetherness and a connection to the club, which is really unique. Every supporter feels like they’re connected to the football club and you can see the players do too, with how they were together and celebrating the title win, and even game to game

Liverpool have now put themselves into a position as one of the biggest clubs in the world, and Klopp will want more success at Anfield. I know we’ve seen both [Luis] Suarez and [Phillippe] Coutinho leave Liverpool for Barcelona, but I think Klopp would leave on his own terms, when he is ready. Hopefully he can go again next season to take the team to win the Premier League title again

The beauty of Liverpool is that no one is even considering anyone else other than Jurgen Klopp as manager. He’s working to take Liverpool to that next level where they want to be Liverpool and the club are as happy as they have been for 30 years, with this manager in place taking the football club exactly where the fans want him to be. There is no talk whatsoever that they want to see anybody else coming in and taking over the football club. Klopp seems to be Liverpool down to the ground, with his mentality and his approach. It’s times like this, that the supporters can really enjoy having somebody like your club in charge who connects to the people of the city.

The big test for Liverpool is achieving 100 points and remaining motivated – but one of Liverpool’s main strengths is the mentality that they have within the group. So they have to rely on that new target, which is to be the Premier League team with the greatest ever points. To get 100 points is just unbelievable, so if Liverpool can do that, that is the incentive from now to the end of the season and it is possible. That will be the mentality – to enjoy this moment, and then prepare for the next games