Hi Jimmy, your new book, ‘Hard Case’ details your long and glittering career with Liverpool and beyond—what do you look back on as your fondest memory?
Well there are a few. When I made my debut – pulling that red shirt on for the first time – or scoring the equalising goal in the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 1977, which was a cracker I might add, but to top the lot was lifting the European Cup in Rome a few days later.
You played in one of the most successful Liverpool sides of all time in the 1970s, what was it like to be a part of such a historic time for the club?
At the time, when you are part of that period in the club’s history, you don’t realise what’s going on. The seasons come and go very fast, so it is only when you’ve left the club that you reflect on what you and that team actually achieved. Even now I look back and think what a hell of a time we had.
Who stood out as the best player you played with at Liverpool, and why?
These questions are not easy because there were so many fantastic players that I played with: Graeme Souness, Tommy Smith, Ray Kennedy, Stevie Heighway, Terry McDermott. But the two that stood out were Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish. Out of those two, I think that the top player that I played with was Kenny; to me he was the complete player, with tremendous skill and awareness of his teammates.
Yes, my experience was very important in helping Brighton get through some tough rounds on the run to the final in 1983. At various stages I could chip in at team meetings about certain things, saying, for instance, the most important game if we got there would be the semi-final. In that game the pressure is on, all or nothing, and that is where you need bottle as a team to win through to the final.
You also spoke about Liverpool’s amazing 2013/14 season, and why they didn’t win the title—how do you think Brendan Rodgers could have done it differently last season?
It was a fantastic season and great to watch; the only thing I thought could have been addressed was the defence. We let in too many goals and it meant that every game the pressure was on the forwards to score more.
I have gone on record before now stating that if Jamie Carragher had signed for another season we would have won the league because he would have organised the defence a lot better and we would not have leaked as many goals as we did.
You were known throughout your career for your tough-tackling stance in midfield — are Liverpool missing this commitment at the moment?
First of all, I used to love the competitiveness of trying to win back possession of the ball and the bit of tough tackling that goes with it. I think, in today’s game, it’s different in that most successful sides have a central midfield player with a presence, meaning that he is capable of making a tackle with precision timing and destroying the other team’s forward play. The last one we had was [Javier] Mascherano, so the simple answer is yes, we are lacking in that department.
The player most similar to you in terms of this commitment, and in working his way up through the ranks to the first team as a local lad, is Jon Flanagan—how important is it that Liverpool continue to build their side around players like Flanagan, and obviously Steven Gerrard?
Jon Flanagan has a fantastic attitude playing for the club, and I for one can’t wait for him to get back in the first team. It’s important to try and find local talent to bring through to first team level because you do tend to get a totally different approach from local players. I am sure the club are working on that.
Your playing career went on until you were 41 years old—how could Gerrard manage his career so that he can keep on playing?
I don’t think I could tell Steven Gerrard anything about playing longer, these days there is so much science involved in what they eat and what they do in training, there seems to be more coaching and physio staff than players these days. There’s just one thing you need, and that’s to be a bit lucky not to get one of those injuries that you would make you suffer if you tried to play on for a few more years.
Liverpool are obviously struggling at the moment, but how can Rodgers turn it around this season?
I think Brendan has and is trying a lot of ways to get back to winning form. He has good players that can play well, but it is a team game and it’s harder to get eleven players to play well together. He needs some of them to be a bit braver and take on some responsibility and then I am sure the confidence will come back.
Lastly, you are considered a legend at both Liverpool and another former club, Southampton, but which side will do better this season?
Fortunes can change in a matter of about 3 or 4 games, just look at Newcastle and West Ham – their managers were getting the sack one minute and now they are on top of their game. Southampton have done very well with their close season upheaval and I would like to think that Liverpool can and will turn the results around and get up there again.
We will see around mid-April where the two teams might finish, but it’s a long way to go yet.
Read our review of Jimmy’s autobiography ‘Hard Case’ here.