John Meyler, then at the halfway point of his term as Cork manager, discovered a shared emphasis on wide players with Jurgen Klopp.
John Meyler once spent the day as Jurgen Klopp’s assistant manager, with the Liverpool boss taking a keen interest in learning from the then Cork hurling manager’s tactics.
The game, a charity match between former stars from Liverpool and Celtic, took place at Celtic Park in September 2018, with Meyler’s place on the sideline secured by his son, David, in a charity auction organised by James Milner.
David recently recalled the players’ accounts of his dad’s team talk: “Dad was swearing, shouting ‘it might be a charity match but we’re here to win!’ He was walking around, slapping fellas on the back… treating it like an All-Ireland final!”
John was just as determined to pick up insights from Klopp’s set-up, with the duo exchanging experiences while in the manager’s changing room pre-match.
“The first thing we were talking about was he was interested in my hurling background,” Meyler told Off The Ball. “He knew about hurling and he had a fascination with it – he had a huge interest in it and the speed of it.
“I was more interested in Liverpool and soccer. The two of us were asking each other questions about our different sports.”
Meyler, then at the halfway point of his term as Cork manager, discovered a shared emphasis on wide players – Klopp’s focus on overlapping full-backs, and Meyler’s work with wing-forwards operating between the lines.
“We started off talking about analysis, statistics, and GPS, the high performance. I was more interested in that, how he was measuring Liverpool. We were talking about the work-rate, discipline, and the speed of the game.
“It was fascinating from that point of view, and the number of people he had working for him in high performance at Liverpool. He had instant access to information.
“You picked up from him about attention to detail and the culture of that. It was fascinating, the ins and outs of it.
He was questioning me on hurling and the tactics of hurling, so he was trying to find out things like that whereas I was trying to question him about the tactics of Liverpool.
“I said, ‘you’re probably playing two at the back, six in midfield, and two up front – no-one is marking anybody.’ Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander, they’re nearly two wingers as distinct from two full-backs.
“I said to him about the emphasis that we had at the time on the two wing-forwards for Cork, Daniel Kearney and Luke Meade, that they were working up and down the channels.
“It’s much the same with tactics. You’re looking for honesty and work-rate.”
Where they differed, Meyler noted, was Klopp’s licence to look beyond the locality to sign new players.
“I said, ‘by the way, Jurgen, how many players from Liverpool have you playing for you? I think it was one, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
I said, ‘I have 35 players from Cork in the Cork team so you’ve a huge advantage. If I want a centre-forward or full-forward, I can’t go and buy him. If I like someone from Waterford or Tipperary, I can’t take them. I have to generate somebody from within the under-age structure’.
“He was questioning me, how you do that? I said that you have to nurture talent, as much you have to nurture talent through the academy. There is a different emphasis. If he needs somebody, he just goes and buys them.”