Wounded Liverpool have the willpower and character to still deliver a magnificent ending to a so far dismal season.
That is the message from assistant boss Pep Lijnders, who believes the squad he sees up close and personal in training every day, will turn things around as they aim for Champions League glory.
The Dutch coach was asked about the desire and mental strength of Nat Phillips, the stand in defender whose recent performances have given the Reds two clean sheets…and won him the club’s player of the month award for March.
And in answering, Lijnders insisted the defender typifies the spirit he believes will turn thoughts around. “”Nathaniel is an example where determination and respect can bring you,” he told the club website.
“It’s absolutely true that it’s a story everyone can take something from. It’s not the first time this will happen in our club and not the last, for sure.
“The passion, the ambition, the love for the game will always make or break you.
“Luckily, we have many stories like that already. The willpower and character was the base of many of our boys to win with us. That gives me confidence that we will be back.”
Phillips struggled to force his way into the side when all three of Liverpool ’s senior centre halves were injured, with boss Jurgen Klopp preferring midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson ahead of him.
The manager also used raw teenager Rhys Williams ahead of the 24 year old, and signed two new defenders in the January window.
But Phillips has been given his chance in the past month, and taken it powerfully, earning him the award, and also praise from the assistant boss.
“He puts his head where other players don’t put their feet. He has a heart like a lion,” Lijnders said.
“Probably if I need to survive in a jungle, the first two people I’d choose are Nathaniel and Millie!”
Phillips himself isn’t getting carried away, because he knows he still has a long to go to secure an Anfield future.
“It’s really nice to feel that sort of love and I’m hugely appreciative of it,” he said.
“But at the same time, I try not to pay too much attention to it and just concentrate on the job at hand that I’ve got for myself, and carry on doing what I was [doing] to get myself into this position.”