Former Wolves captain Sam Ricketts has compared the pressure of playing for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to being at Molineux in League One.
Ricketts, now managing Shrewsbury Town, recently took the Premier League champions-elect to an FA Cup fourth round replay, which they lost 1-0 at Anfield after forcing a 2-2 draw at Montogmery Waters Meadow.
The replay drew massive focus as Klopp elected to play his Under-23s team and was not even present as his first team were on their winter break.
Ricketts had a half-hour chat with the Liverpool manager after their first game and understood the German’s reasoning because of the mental as well as physical strain imposed on the players right at the top.
“I only played at that level for a couple of years – and not at a club like Liverpool – but it’s incredibly hard to play at a club like that,” said Ricketts, who skippered Kenny Jackett’s Wolves to the third tier title in 2013-14 as they broke a host of club records along the way.
“I probably learned about that more at Wolves, where every game we went into, we were there to be shot down.
“It got to the point where the manager didn’t show us clips of the opposition before we played them, because the line-up that played us compared to the teams that played in the three games beforehand were completely different.
“That’s a big mental ask to be honest. Every game is a sell-out, and it’s the game every opposition player has been looking forward to all season.”
Ricketts added: “It’s a different level – every game they go into, they’re being aimed at to be shot down.
“When we (Shrewsbury) played them, it was our biggest game, whereas their players have been playing since the summer, and they will play this summer as well with the Euros, so it’s a tough ask and I can understand their thinking.
“These players are fighting on all fronts too and having an unbelievable season so I can understand their thinking.
“He (Klopp) told me he planned this mid-season break three months ago, so for now to rip it up and say ‘lads, you can’t go on this break’ was a near impossible thing to do.
“You see it with the players – when we play a big game or going back to when I played a big game – after the match, you are mentally shattered.
“Whether it be Premier League games, cup games or a Championship play-off final, you’re just exhausted at the end of the game because you’ve been concentrating for that long that you do need a break.”
Shrewsbury’s former Wolves midfielder Dave Edwards, 34, won at Anfield at the same stage of the Cup, when Paul Lambert’s side won 2-1 there three years ago with goals from Richard Stearman and Andreas Weimann silenced the Kop.
But despite playing well himself, he was unable to inspire a repeat as Ro-Shaun Williams’s 75th-minute own goal earned Liverpool’s youngsters a fifth round trip to Chelsea, after Shaun Whalley’s effort for the Shropshire side had been ruled out by VAR.