Reds arrive in Japan raring to go

Liverpool’s Japanese adventure is now underway after the European Champions arrived in Tokyo ready to challenge for the title of club World Champions. Of course a tournament such as this attracts a lot of sponsorship, and sponsors want publicity. So Liverpool’s party barely had time to dump their luggage before being called to a press conference.

Captain Steven Gerrard made it clear he wanted to carry the trophy home with him next week. Gerrard said: “We are in Japan to win the tournament; it’s as simple as that.”

The first task for the Reds is to get over a 15-hour, 6000 mile journey, and the difference in time. It was 10am local time, the start of a new day, but the players’ body-clocks were still set to 1am. Gerrard admitted that they were feeling those effects, but the anticipation of representing Europe and aiming to become World Champions was overriding all of that: “We’re all a bit tired right now but we are very excited to be here and are looking forward to the games. We are going to get used to the time difference over the next few days and we will be raring to go in the first game. Any trophy that Liverpool enter or are involved in, we want to win it. We’re not here for a holiday.”

Stevie says that the whole squad is dying to get into action: “All the players have a great incentive to go and win it and everyone is looking forward to it. We want to add it to the Champions League trophy we won. Hopefully it will be a case of third time lucky for us and we can win it. I know we’ve had a couple of cracks at this before and we haven’t been successful but we feel as though we’ve got the right team and the right attitude to win it. We don’t really know too much about the other teams but sometimes that can help you. We won’t be going into the games worrying about the opposition and we can relax and do what we do normally.”

Gerrard was determined to get across just how important this game was to the club and to himself: “I am always hungry to win more trophies with Liverpool and so is the manager and all the other players. Being a footballer, the idea is to win as many trophies and as many medals as possible and this is another opportunity to win another cup and get another winners medal. We are already the Champions of Europe and we want to do Europe really proud and go and win it.”

It was refreshing also to hear that Gerrard and the team are enjoying the extra games their European success has brought: “There is a slight concern as we have played a lot of games but it helps if you are winning games an enjoying your football. We are playing well, keeping clean sheets and performing well at home and in Europe and as long as that continues, you won’t find anyone in this team moaning about too many matches.”

It’s no secret that Liverpool are looking to improve the squad in January, but Gerrard feels there’s enough in the squad already to do well in Japan: “The team has got a lot of strengths and we are doing very well at the moment. We are creating lots of chances, the goals are going in, we are mean in defence and we have some exciting players going forward. There is still a lot of room for improvement but I think the next few years will be really exciting for us.”

Also speaking for Liverpool was Chief Executive Rick Parry. He was also pleased to see the Reds being involved in the tournament: “It’s great to be here. It’s been a long wait but it is a privilege to be here.”

Liverpool were all set to visit Japan in the summer until the UEFA ruling that they must play from the first qualifiers in the Champions League put paid to those plans. This competition gives the Reds fans in that part of the world a chance to see their heroes, but Parry wanted to make it clear that this was an additional bonus of being in the competition and not a reason for their participation: “We are conscious of the fact that we have a huge fan base in Asia and we always feel the warmth of their welcome as we saw when we went to the Far East in 2001 and 2003. We are reinforcing links with our supporters but this is not a marketing trip to generate commercial revenues. It’s about trying to win trophies and that’s why we are here – to win another trophy. We know that we are a club that has a worldwide following and one of the reasons why I am really looking forward to seeing Liverpool play in Japan is that it is a reward for our many supporters in Asia. It will be fantastic for them to see us playing in a competitive tournament. We would love to come back as World Champions, so we will be taking it seriously. It is a very difficult tournament to qualify for – the only way we could have entered the competition was by winning the UEFA Champions League, which is extremely difficult.”

Parry echoed the sentiments of Gerrard about how much the players really want success in this tournament: “I know how desperate Rafael Benitez and the players are to win it and that is an extremely encouraging sign. People ask me if I’m surprised by what’s Rafa’s achieved already, we are very pleased but we are not surprised. We are very pleased for Rafa and the players.”

Parry also mentioned hopes at Anfield for more success domestically and the efforts to bring home a nineteenth league title: “We all share the same ideas and the aim now is to go and win a league title. We are very pleased with the progress, delighted with the job Rafa is doing and delighted with the players for how they’ve responded this season. We know we can improve more though and winning titles has to be our goal now.”