Pepijn Lijnders had to fill the shoes of Jurgen Klopp as our COVID-stricken manager was absent from the Stamford Bridge dugout, on a dramatic afternoon.
As is the case with most absent managers, it’s more than likely that our boss was still in charge from home but it was the Dutchman who had to pass on his messages on to the lads on the pitch.
Not only on the sidelines but our assistant manager had to fill in for the main man in front of the press and he spoke with the Sky Sports cameras after the game.
Against Chelsea, it was the final time we would see Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita before they head off to Cameroon for AFCON and the stand-in gaffer was asked for his thoughts.
The 38-year-old said: “I just told the boys as well that Naby, Mo and Sadio: that they should try to win the AFCON because it is a prize to catch and the careers are never long and they deserve to fight for each prize.
“This prize now comes in front of them – it’s a tournament with so much passion, so much culture and it is a really proud situation if you can play for your country, if it’s England or Germany or Holland or whoever and that’s what they have and feel.
“So they are African legends, they are legends for me, but if they win it they will probably be even bigger legends so they should try with all they have to win it”.
It’s great that there is so much support and love for the lads, despite the big hole they will leave in our squad during their absence.
We can only echo the thoughts of the club and say we wish them all the best of luck and hope that the trophy ends up being adorned in the flag of Egypt, Senegal or Guinea, in February.
You can watch Lijnders’ comments on AFCON courtesy of Sky Sports (via @footballdaily):
🗣 “You’re already legends there but everyone knows how it feels to play for your country, go and try with everything you have, try and win it and become even bigger legends.”
Pep Lijnders wishes all the best to Mane and Salah who leave for the AFCON pic.twitter.com/UuPZLSHdSM
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 2, 2022