LIVERPOOL FC legend John Aldridge sat down with live4liverpool.com for an exclusive interview yesterday and discussed Monday night’s game, Liverpool’s striking options, Jamie Carragher’s retirement and how Liverpool’s fading Champions League dreams may affect the future of Luis Suarez.
Aldridge was promoting Barclays’ new ‘Pingit’ App and will be outside Anfield at the Barclays Pingit Photobooth (located in the Family Park next to the Anfield Road End of the Stadium) ahead of the Swansea game.
From 12.30pm until 2.30pm this Sunday, John will be on hand to discuss football, have photographs taken with supporters, and fans will also be able to take part in the ‘Don’t Pass it, Ping it’ interactive experience, alongside the LFC great.
With the name of the new App, which is set to revolutionise the way people use financial transactions, in mind, we asked John which Liverpool player past or present has had the best ‘ping’ of a pass. He cited Xabi Alonso, Jan Molby and Steven Gerrard as three players who stood out before eventually settling on an answer:
“I think Jan, just. Just! I’m probably being loyal to my mate but his passing really was fantastic. Ronald Koeman, who I played against, was the same. His passing was extraordinary out of defence. We’ve obviously seen Stevie do it for years now, switching the play and pinging the ball around the park and Xabi was immense as well, but I’ve got to be loyal to Jan!”
After Liverpool’s demoralising defeat to West Brom on Monday, Aldridge admitted to being majorly disappointed with the way the Reds started the game:
“The first 45 minutes was the most disappointing thing for me. In our last three home games we’ve won three, four and five nil but the tone was set in the first five minutes last night. West Brom had more possession than us in that opening period and it gave them confidence. That continued all the way to half time and while I have to say we improved in the second half, it wasn’t enough. You have to say that fourth place is now gone. Champions League qualification isn’t possible this season any more unfortunately.”
After conceding that the Reds now have little hope of sneaking into the Champions League this season, Aldridge admitted that the lack of a top four finish could affect Liverpool’s chances of hanging on to Luis Suarez in the summer. The Uruguayan striker has recently stated that he is happy at Liverpool but ex-striker Aldridge thinks Liverpool may struggle to retain the services of their mercurial forward:
“We’re living in hope that he’s good to his word unlike a certain someone else who was not so long ago. If you want get back into the top four and closer to the likes of Manchester United then you have to keep your best players like Luis and get quality in around them. The problem is that without Champions League football to offer, it becomes very hard to entice top players or keep them at the club. If they were Liverpool fans growing up and love the club then that obviously helps, but it’s not an ideal scenario right now.”
Aldridge is encouraged though, that Liverpool have found a player of the requisite quality in Daniel Sturridge:
“You could see already how much we missed him last night. In the first half in particular he was missed enormously. Several times, the ball went into the box and we just had no one in there to capitalise like he has been recently. Both the team and he and Suarez in particular have a great understanding already and he’s done very well since he signed. He holds the ball up well, he’s strong, pacey, and most importantly he knows where the net is. In a way, playing through the centre after being out wide at Chelsea for so long is probably a bit new to him but he’s taken to it like a duck to water and his old habits from when he started as a centre forward have come right back to him.”
“At the moment I think you have to play him down the middle. For me he goes missing when he’s in wide positions. It’s been tough for him because he’s been injured, and is lacking match sharpness but we just have to be patient with him and see what he can add as the season progresses.”
Having played abroad at Real Sociedad, Aldridge gave his expert take on how settling in to a new club and culture can be:
“I find that the top quality, experienced players usually have little problem fitting in straight away. The longer it takes for a player to get up to speed, the more worrying it gets. We’ve seen plenty of those players come to Liverpool over the past fifteen years unfortunately, but then sometimes younger players like Lucas for instance, improve if given time. It took a while for him to find his feet and now we’re reaping the rewards. What is important is that the manager has to pick and choose when to play these players as they settle in.”
Regarding Liverpool’s relatively young squad, Aldridge admitted to being excited about the future and pleased to see the club giving youngsters a chance, but stressed that the squad requires more senior players going forward:
“It’s great to see young lads getting a chance and besides players like Sterling, Wisdom and Kelly that we’ve seen lots of, there are some really good lads there in the Academy like Ryan McLaughlin. He’ll be an excellent player. There are kids of 15 and 16 in the youth sides with fantastic potential. Not all of them will come through and be regulars but if you can have a constant stream of one or two making it into the first team every year then it will put us on the right road. Our academy is bearing fruit finally and is up there with any in the country from what I’ve seen.
“Having said that, getting more experience in the squad is absolutely vital. The fact we have so many kids makes it imperative that the next few players we get to come into the club are over 25 and have plenty of experience so that we can get a good balance. Youth is all well and good but you have to look at wider picture. Kids alone won’t win you anything and all the top sides down the years have had the right blend which we don’t have right now.”
One experienced player who will depart this summer is Jamie Carragher, and like most Liverpool fans, Aldridge was shocked and saddened by his announcement regarding his impending retirement:
“We were all surprised given the timing and the way he’s been playing. Things change, we can live in hope until May or June that he changes his mind but Carra’s obviously done it for a reason. He’ll be sorely missed and it won’t be cheap to get someone in of a similar quality. He’ll have to be replaced in the summer, no question. In my opinion we simply have to go out and get a top quality centre-half who is also a leader. Where they are and what they will cost I don’t know, but it has to be done. It’s always a slight gamble to bring in someone from another country and ideally I’d like to see a British or Irish defender come in. Ashley Williams of Swansea is a very good player and he could be a possibility.”
Stay tuned to live4liverpool.com tomorrow to catch the second part of our exclusive interview in which John discusses the emergence of Jordan Henderson, whether Liverpool have to lower their expectations in the short term, match fixing, and how goal-poachers like himself are a dying breed.
“John Aldridge is an ambassador for Barclays ‘Don’t pass it, ping it’ campaign. Pingit is revolutionary technology developed by Barclays which allows people to transfer money to each other using their mobile phone. Users do not need to be a Barclays customer. For more info go to www.barclays.co.uk.”