Big Interview: Ex-Preston North End keeper on life with Jurgen Klopp and title-winning Liverpool
The statistics will show that Andy Lonergan didn’t play a game in the 2019/20 season but what a ride the last 12 months have been for the former Preston North End goalkeeper.
It was a campaign like no other in Lonergan’s long career, one in which he was part of Liverpool’s squad which won the Premier League – the Reds’ first title for 30 years.
In July last year he went to Anfield to provide some training cover when other keepers weren’t available in pre-season.
He ended up going on Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the United States and played in a friendly against Sevilla at Fenway Park.
That was the start of a football journey which saw him earn a year’s contract with Jurgen Klopp’s men, sit on the bench eight times in various competitions and face the Reds’ attacking power every day in training.
Bearing in mind when Lonergan first got the call from Liverpool he was a free agent having been released by Middlesbrough, it was some turnaround in fortune.
For now, the Liverpool adventure is over and the 36-year-old is relaxed about where and what his next move in football might be.
For now he is enjoying spending time with the family and time on the golf course, waiting to see where the gloves might take him next.
“It’s been a great year, one I could not have predicted,” said Lonergan.
“To have been part of the Liverpool squad is something I’ll never forget.
“It was win after win, they made football look easy at times.
“If the season had not had the break and fans had been in all the time, I’m quite sure Liverpool would have had more than the 99 points they got.
“I think the lads thrive on the pressure of a crowd, it pushes them on.
“The best players need that pressure to perform at their best.
“I think for teams lower down, not having fans there helped them because there was not that pressure from the fans.
“Going into training every day was a pleasure, I only missed two days training all season with a stomach bug.
“The level of intensity in training is something else.
“There was not a single day when anyone dropped off in terms of their attitude.
“We all have the odd bad day at the office when things might not quite go right but that was not an attitude thing.
“One training session which really stood out for me was the day after we had won the league, Chelsea having beaten Manchester City.
“There was a five-a-side game going on and a decision was given which someone wasn’t happy about.
“It led to a lot of shouting – not fisticuffs or anything – because players wanted to win that five-a-side game.
“Forget the fact we had won the title the night before, the intense focus was on this game in training.
“That summed up the attitude about Liverpool, it was full of winners.”
Lonergan found Klopp an excellent manager to work with, the German no different behind the scenes to what you see in public.
“He’s a brilliant guy,” said Lonergan.
“What you see is what you get – he says it as it is.
“Jurgen would come into the canteen and have a laugh. On the training pitch he worked us hard and didn’t really have to dish any rollickings out.
“If something hadn’t been done quite right he can be quite harsh but he was always fair.
“He was great with me, he would speak to me just as he spoke with Mo Salah or Virgil van Dijk.
“It would be just a normal conversation with him.
“Some managers think they need to distance themselves from players but I don’t think that needs to be the case all the time.
“Klopp is liked by everyone at Liverpool and he respects the lads.”
Lonergan’s games on the bench included the European Super Cup against Chelsea in Istanbul, the FIFA Club World Cup ties with Monterrey and Flamengo in Qatar, the Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid and Premier League matches with Southampton and Bournemouth.
There were many more times he was with the squad on matchdays in case he was needed as a late call-up.
Said Lonergan: “I was on the bench eight times and I was in the squad for Premier League games 30 times.
“They always took a few more players with them, so it was nice to go to some great stadiums.
“It was more difficult after the restart, clubs were only allowed to take their matchday squad
“I’ve left Liverpool now, they will have five keepers when they go back with lads returning from loans.
“There is no space available at the moment for another keeper, I knew that was going to happen.
“I left on a high and I really enjoyed my time as a Liverpool player.
“I’m just relaxing at the moment, playing golf and maybe I’ll get a holiday.
“What happens next, I’ll see. I’m in a fortunate position that I don’t need to play football for the sake of it. It needs to excite me – there might be the chance to go abroad.”