Former Preston North End keeper Andrew Lonergan on his Liverpool move and the high expectations there
During a career stretching back two decades, former Preston North End keeper Andrew Lonergan has pretty much seen it, done it and bought the T-shirt.
But the direction in which his career path went this summer even came as a surprise to him.
Lonergan, 35, went from being a free agent to touring America with Liverpool and then to having a Super Cup winners medal around his neck.
Last month he was on the bench for the Reds for their Premier League clash with Southampton.
He has been included in Liverpool’s Champions League squad as Jurgen Klopp’s men embark on the defence of the trophy they won in Madrid in May.
The international break has given Lonergan a few days to draw breath after the events of recent weeks.
It is not a surprise to hear that he is loving life, with the Prestonian determined to enjoy every moment of his time at Anfield.
“In the summer I was a free agent,” Lonergan told the Lancashire Post.
“I was out of contract at Middlesbrough and while the phone was ringing, there was nothing which made me think ‘I wouldn’t mind that’.
“After a bit I heard on the football grapevine that there were a couple of No.3 goalkeeper roles in the Premier League.
“One of those was at Liverpool while Allison was away after international duty.
“I went to train with Liverpool, went over to the United States and played in one of the games.
“That spell came to an end and off I went.
“Then just a day or two after I left, Allison got an injury and the phone rang again seeing if I wanted to come back.
“I signed a contract and the next thing I knew I was sat on the bench in Istanbul for the Super Cup final.
“Then I was a sub for the Premier League game at Southampton.
“It has been a brilliant experience and it is a job where you’ve got to reach the highest of standards every day.
“If you aren’t on your game in training, you will get found out straight away.
“You’ve got a world-class forward line firing shots at you in training every day.
“I’ve been at clubs before where you’ve had a couple of players who maybe aren’t great in training but will produce in a game.
“At Liverpool, every player is on it in every training session, the standard of work and finishing in training is brilliant.
“They are a great bunch of lads, very down to earth people who are at the top of their game.
“Jurgen Klopp is brilliant to work with, all his staff are.
“What I have found going to Liverpool is the level of scrutiny and expectation is at a different level.
“From the outside, it is absolutely massive and the pressure is always on.
“In a small way I noticed that when I signed. There were a couple of days when I had to switch my phone off because I was getting so many messages.
“I appreciated everyone’s well wishes and support but I needed to get focused on the job.”
It is nearly 19 years since Lonergan made his first-team debut for Preston.
He was 16 at the time, still a few weeks off his 17th birthday when David Moyes picked him for a League Cup clash at Coventry City at their former Highfield Road ground.
It was quite a baptism of fire for a lad less than three months into his apprenticeship with the youth team.
That was the first of 232 games in the PNE keeper’s jersey.
Only in July 2011 did he leave Deepdale, Lonergan going on to play for Leeds, Bolton, Wolves, Fulham, Wolves and Middlesbrough.
It was at Boro that he was reunited with Jonathan Gould, the pair having been team-mates at North End.
Gould was keeper coach at the Riverside Stadium and one of the main reasons why Lonergan headed up to Teesside in August 2018.
A month ago, Gould was appointed to PNE’s staff and is in charge of working with the first-team keepers.
Lonergan says that job is in safe hands, in fact he can’t speak highly enough of Gould both as a coach and a person.
In March, with Lonergan on bench duty at Boro, the chance came up for some game time at Rochdale via an emergency loan spell.
Said Lonergan: “Darren Randolph was No.1 at Boro, Dimitrios Konstantopoulos and myself sharing the bench duties.
“Rochdale’s goalkeeper got injured and they were looking to bring someone in on loan.
“They were bottom of League One but that didn’t put me off, I just wanted to go and play.
“I played seven games I think it was and Rochdale was a great place to be at.
“Brian Barry-Murphy who had been a team-mate at Preston, had rung me up about the chance of going there.
“He’s since taken over as manager and got them going really well.
“I remember when it all happened, Gouldy asked me if I fancied going and seemed a bit surprised that I wanted to, bearing in mind the position Rochdale were in at the time.
“But it gave me the chance to play and I enjoyed every minute of it.
“It was a different league, with most of my time spent in the Championship.”