Former Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen admits he did not acknowledge the pressure he played under until he looked back at his career from the safety of retirement.
Pressure is the word which keeps cropping up in relation to Jurgen Klopp’s current squad, especially after successive 1-1 draws against Leicester and West Ham allowed Manchester City to return to the top of the Premier League for the first time in two months.
They are there only on goal difference, having played one match more, but the fact a month ago Liverpool failed to take the chance to go 10 points clear with a win at the Etihad Stadium, and then subsequently missed chances to extend their lead, has led to increased scrutiny of the players.
There was an edge to the Anfield atmosphere just over a week ago when they dropped their first points of the season to a side outside the top six but Owen dismissed suggestions Klopp’s side were struggling to deal with expectations.
“You don’t think about pressure, really. I certainly didn’t,” said the striker, who won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup treble with the club in 2001 and next month will play for the Legends team against AC Milan Glorie in an Anfield charity match in aid of the LFC Foundation.
“When I look back on my career I think: ‘Wow, I was the goalscorer for Liverpool and England, playing in World Cups and FA Cup finals’. When you look back you realise there was huge pressure.
“I don’t think players are going to be nervous and thinking there is pressure on them. That is their life. They live like this. It works the other way around.
“When you retire and you don’t have that pressure any more then you can go a bit doolally because you almost feel you have no purpose in life any more.
“That was what everything was about when you were a player. They won’t be feeling pressure or losing any sleep about things. In fact, the big game players get better with it.”
Former winger Steve McManaman was the first of the new generation at Liverpool to not win the top-flight title, making his debut seven months after the club’s last Division One championship was won in 1990.
He completely dismissed suggestions the players were feeling the heat.
“I think it’s nonsense, to be honest,” he said.
“If Liverpool win by five at the weekend then you aren’t going to talk about pressure, are you?
“These players who have played in World Cups – I know they lost the Champions League final – Mo Salah who carries his country on his own shoulders.”
In 1996-97 season McManaman’s Liverpool were top with 10 matches to go but won only four, losing three, and the title slipped from their grasp.
“When I looked around the dressing room I don’t think it was pressure. I just think probably we had a little less quality than the opposition at times in big games,” he added.
“I made my debut in 1990 with everybody who had won it (the title). I felt as if it was just the norm, this is what we do.
“It didn’t bother me, the pressure of it being tense games or it being a certain part of the season and needing to get over the line because I was used to it.
“I was used to speaking to John Barnes, to Alan Hansen, to Kenny Dalglish, to Roy Evans and Ronnie Moran, who had been through it loads of times, so it was easy for me.
“This is a different group of players 29 years later. They seem fine and are saying all the right things.
“They just need a big win on Saturday and it banishes all the talk.”
:: Liverpool Legends v AC Milan Glorie will be staged at Anfield on March 23, with proceeds going to the Liverpool Foundation. For details and to purchase tickets visit: https://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/tickets/328746-tickets-liverpool-legends-ac-milan
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