Wolves captain Conor Coady is preparing to face Liverpool for the first time in a league game since leaving the Reds in 2014 and knows he faces a big task.
A talented young central midfielder when part of the Academy set-up at Kirkby, Coady now plies his trade as a ball-playing centre-back in the middle of a three-man line.
It means he’ll be tasked with stopping Mohamed Salah and Co. on Friday night when the Reds head to Molineux, looking for a win to ensure Jurgen Klopp‘s squad remain top of the Premier League over Christmas.
Coady grew up a Reds supporter, along with all his relatives, but in an interview with the Express and Star ahead of the match he made it clear the allegiances have changed: “My boys are obsessed with Ruben Neves!”
Wearing the gold of Wolves, that’s to be expected, but he hasn’t forgotten those who helped him get this far. The skipper spoke about his influences as a young red—and there are no prizes for guessing which duo made the biggest impression.
“It was always Gerrard and Carragher for me. Then Fernando Torres at his prime, Luis Suarez when he got a bit older.
“Gerrard and Carragher in particular were big influences on me, 100 per cent. I was lucky enough to train with them and watch them and follow them.
“They never missed a training session or shirked anything.
“It’s important you learn off those people as much as possible. Gerrard was more of a match-winner. Carragher, how he spoke and organised things around the training ground, it was great for me to learn from.
“They’d speak to you when they thought you could improve, saying I could do this or that better. It was the same with all the young lads.”
Wolves beat the Reds 2-1 almost two years ago and Coady says having been through the experience takes some of the edge of this occasion.
“It was a special day.
“I’d never played at Anfield in a first-team game but I’m a competitive guy and player so I never just wanted to enjoy the day.
“It was special hearing You’ll Never Walk Alone and playing in front of the Kop, etc, but as soon as that whistle went it was game time.
“Having gone through that experience it 100 per cent takes a bit away from Friday’s game as an emotional occasion, in a good way. I’ve played Liverpool before and beaten them.
“We want to do it again now.”
Roberto Firmino—who also played that cup match—has recently played off Salah through the middle, while the goals have come from wide with regularity too. Coady knows it makes the Reds a difficult team to stop.
“They’re frightening with the pace they’ve got and the movement they have, the way they play.
“Firmino’s now dropping in to get the ball, they’ve got all different ways of playing.
“But we need to make sure we’re ready. We’ve got to be focused on our jobs for 95 minutes – if you switch off they’ll punish you.
“We won’t change no matter who we’re playing. We’ll have no fear and we’ll play to win the game.
“Liverpool have got a brilliant team but we’ll be ready for them. The whole club is high on confidence, supporters, players, everyone.
“We’ll be fearless.”
Liverpool will hope to become just the fourth side to win at Molineux this season, with Klopp’s team showing incredible form and resilience lately.
As much as Wolves might well be fearless and confident, sitting seventh in the table in their first season back in the top flight, that goes double for the Reds: unbeaten, top and title contenders.
Three points in the West Midlands on Friday night would be the best Christmas present of all to those of a Red persuasion, just as Coady used to be.