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Pic Colin LaneEcho Sport staff Neil Jones

Which players/leaders at the club do you enjoy interviewing the most? Do you have any entertaining memories from interviews you have conducted?
– I count myself as pretty lucky in that my bad experiences in interviews have been pretty few and far between. I think I could count on one hand the number of genuinely rude/unhelpful people I have spoken to. Terry Venables being the worst – he was so rude that I actually abandoned my plans to interview him. There’s no excuse for such behaviour.

– Of course Premier League players are well versed in how to handle the media, so when you get someone who is a bit offbeat and a bit different, they stand out like a sore thumb. At Everton, I find Sylvain Distin particularly engaging and a really good fella to speak to. I went on tour with Everton to the USA in 2011 and he was very helpful, as were Phil Neville and Phil Jagielka.

– With Liverpool, interviewing Jamie Carragher was always interesting. He is as switched on as any footballer, and so if you ask a bullshit, vague question, his stare lets you know. I interviewed him after a game at Anfield once, Liverpool had won 3-0 and I thought I would do a bit of brown-nosing by praising the defence, rather than the attack. I started “Jamie, a lot of praise is being heaped on Luis and Maxi, but the defence now has kept four clean sheets in five games, it looks a lot more solid THESE DAYS…….”.

– As soon as I’d said ’these days’ I knew I’d cocked up. His face dropped: “These days?! What do you mean these days? We have had one of the best defences for the last five years. Don’t you remember all those seasons Pepe Reina won the golden gloves? Yeah we let in a few bad goals earlier in the season but these players have been part of one of the best defences in the Premier League for the last five years.”

– The other journalists around me are laughing nervously, glad it’s me in the firing line and not them. Carragher finished his tirade, smiled, patted me on the head and said “don’t worry lad, I know you only started following football this year, but we keep clean sheets here all the time, I promise”.

– Other memorable incidents? I once turned off the lights during a Kenny Dalglish press conference, after accidentally leaning on the wall switch. The speed with which my colleague Ian Doyle moved out of the way to make sure everyone knew it was me will live long in the memory, as will Kenny’s response: “Blimey, it’s the lights that have been hacked, not the phones”

What do you think about Brendan Rodgers’ LFC project?
– How long have you got?! I think this is a huge season for it, personally. I think there’s still a huge chunk of supporters that need to be won over by Rodgers and his side. Last season, there were undoubtedly signs of genuine progress in certain areas, whilst others either didn’t progress, or actually got worse. I think the style of play has improved, and the ’plan’ that the team has is more evident than it has been for a few years. But there’s naivety there, and there is still not that confidence that Liverpool can go into games and *definitely* win them. It still feels like a bit of a lottery, which Liverpool team you will get.

– I think this summer’s transfer dealings represent a gamble, especially if one or two big players leave. Rodgers got a lot of criticism for Borini/Allen last season, and I think it wouldn’t take much for the likes of Aspas/Toure to suffer similarly, if things don’t go right from the word go.

– Overall, I think Liverpool need a good start to the season, they need a better run in one or both domestic cups, and they need to be in contention for the top four well into the New Year. If their season is over come January, it will be hard to describe next season as anything other than a failure.

Whats it like having hundreds of transfer questions on twitter everyday – and do you really get that much information during silly season?
– Firstly, it’s an absolute ballache! It really is. It has got to the point now where every tweet is greeted with a rush of questions. So much so that, every time I get ready to send a tweet, I ask myself “do I need to tweet this? Is it worth it?’, when before I would always tweet because, well, I wanted to. There are a lot of really nice people on Twitter, and I genuinely enjoy speaking with them, but transfer season is just one long ballache.

– There are a few things which bug me about the whole ’updates’ situation. One is that people ask you questions that they can answer by reading what I have written in the paper. I will post a link to a story, and ten people will ask me a question that is answered in the story. It is almost a default setting; they see a tweet and automatically ask the question.

– The amount of times I get asked “Any news on Mkhitaryan???????” – always with loads of ?s – really grates. As do the emotional blackmail questions “Come on, put us out of our misery and tell us we’re signing Eriksen”. I’m not here to keep Twitter fed, it is just part of my job. My real job is filling the paper, so if you want to know “what’s happening” then read the paper or visit the website.

– Another is that people seem to think that I know more than I am letting on, and that I deliberately withhold crucial information because……well….why? I am a journalist, a reporter, my job is to get as much good information as I can, and then publish it. I don’t write a story for the ECHO and then keep five or six juicy titbits to myself, just in case people ask me on Twitter. So if I have ’gone quiet’ on Eriksen/Papadopoulos/Ilori/Mr X, it is because, get this, I don’t have anything new to say on them.

– Another thing which bugs me – I am on a roll here aren’t I? – is that people get so angry over transfer stories. They want information. If you provide it and it isn’t what they want to hear, you get told you know nothing and that you got DEAL X wrong and that JOURNALIST A says this. If you can’t provide it, then you, er, get told you know nothing. People need to understand that transfer deals can change by the day. Teams can be in for a player one minute, and then decide against it the next, it doesn’t mean that the original story was wrong, just that it has changed.

– As for how much information I get; I would never lie and pretend I know more than I do. If I don’t know something, I will try to find out, but there are better journalists than me out there, loads of them, with better contacts. All I can say for myself is that anything I write, I write because I know there is truth in it.

How do you as a local journalist get hold of a transfer story?
– It depends. It can be via a tip off from someone who works with or at one of the clubs, it can be via an agent, a scout, a foreign journalist, a player themselves, or, more rarely, it can come via a tip from the club. When transfer stories appear elsewhere – i.e. not ours – then we will run them past the club’s press office, the manager, or the MD/CEO, to see if there is any truth in them.

– Of course the trouble is sifting through what is true, what is not true, what is half true, what each party’s agenda is. It is hard, but generally transfer stories are not that hard to find when the window is open.

What positions do LFC need to strengthen before the transfer window closes?
– They need a central defender, definitely. I would argue they need a winger of genuine quality too, as I don’t think you can rely on either Downing or Sterling to do it consistently over a whole season. If Suarez goes, of course, they will need a goalscorer (they might actually need one even if he stays), and I think they could do with another central midfield player to compete with Lucas and fill in for Gerrard if he misses games.

– I don’t think they will sign one this window, but I do think they could do with a left back too.

And finally, as Swede I must ask you…whats your opinion of Sven (not necessarily only football) and how big is Glenn Hysén (really) in the city of Liverpool?
– First off, Sven. I find him quite a comedic character, this softly-spoken Swede who has all these mad stories to his name. The things I have read about him are strangely endearing – him sitting sipping champagne on pre-season tours, mingling with all kinds of weird and wonderful people and, of course, the more tabloidy tales. It is hard to align the Sven we see on the television, the permanently bewildered, avuncular chap, with the one we read about, pants round ankles, up to all sorts.

– As a manager, his reputation has suffered since he left the England job. His MO seems to be to take a job with a club that has money and an ambitious owner, make loads of eye catching signings, but not actually deliver too much success. He earned the England job through his work at club level, which was outstanding at times, but I can’t think of too many clubs that would touch him now.

– Glenn Hysen. He’s seen as someone who was signed too late by Liverpool. He’s certainly not in the ’legend’ category. Seen as a decent player, but not much more.

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Totaal Liverpool would like to thank Neil Jones for taking time answering our questions and share a few parts of his background, experiences and opinions on our Website.

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