Football

Van Dijk explains Liverpool working with psychologist amid Premier League wait


There is an obsession amongst football fans, it seems, about the destination of the Premier League title, and whether it is right to resume the season amid a global pandemic.

Not at Anfield though. While partisan loyalties seem to split two groups of thought on voiding the current season – or resuming even if it eats into the next campaign – there are no such deliberations amongst the Liverpool players themselves.

In a revealing interview on the official LFC website, Virgil van Dijk, a recognised leader within the squad of the Champions elect, says he and his team-mates are working on the psychology of their current, enforced lay-off…and trying hard not to lose sleep and energy over things beyond their control.

The Dutchman has urged “patience” in these unprecedented times

Clearly, a worldwide catastrophe that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives is outside anyone’s control, even governments. Yet van Dijk admits it is hard, with the title so close, not to think of the ramifications of being within touching distance of the trophy which still remains elusively beyond grasp.

“Obviously it has been very surreal, a bit crazy. You have never experienced things like this before, you see these kinds of things in TV shows or films,” he solely declared.

“The unknown is the difficult part because obviously everyone wants to look ahead to something, you want to think of how long it will take. But I think in this case you have to just be very patient, do the right thing.

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“The reality is it’s just a crazy time right now. We have to remember the most important thing is everyone’s safety, that’s the main thing.”

Jurgen Klopp has echoed the thoughts of his player

It is a theme echoed by manager Jurgen Klopp, and the entire Liverpool squad – the idea that there are far more important things right now, beyond the issues and debates of football.

While rival fans seem to take pleasure in constantly suggesting the Premier League should be voided this season, Liverpool supporters react with the sense of injustice such a decision would create.

At Anfield though, one of the club’s mantras has always been to focus on the things within their sphere of control, not outside it.

That comes from Klopp, and Lee Richardson, the former player and Chesterfield manager who is now a qualified psychologist, working with the club three days a week.

He was officially appointed by the manager last November, but has worked with the players since last summer. And van Dijk revealed the mindset of players as they are isolated at home is a key element in the work they have been doing since the league was paused.

Liverpool have been relentless this season dropping just five points

“It’s a totally different mindset, first and foremost. Your body is feeling different of course as well. This period, together with the Christmas period, is the busiest and toughest period – mentally as well – of the season,” he said.

“Now you have no idea what might happen, you stay at home and relax basically and do other things, play other games instead of football. You’re not in the mood to really play football.

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“Obviously you miss it and want it but there is no other way, you just have to stay put and wait for the right moment to go out there again.”

Richardson has worked hard with the Reds squad to sharpen mindset and focus on the job, and nothing beyond it. He has remained in touch with all the players during the enforced lockdown, video conferencing on a regular basis.

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He has also worked with individuals on any psychological issues from the isolation. For van Dijk, that means remaining positive, and retaining a sense of perspective.

It is easy to feel aggrieved the title may be stolen from Liverpool, and easy for anxiety about that to surface. Yet he insisted: “We will all get past this if we all do the right thing.

“I don’t want to say take the positives out of this because there are too many negatives of it still; there are so many people dying and it’s horrible.

“But there are things that you have to take from it. Be sensible, do the right thing and stay home. Think about each other because you don’t only help yourself by staying at home, you help each other as well.

“That’s the only way we come past this – and we will. I’m not doubting that at all.”





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