'I want to show everyone how good I am' - Liverpool star Clyne ready to make up for lost time

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The England international full-back missed most of last season with a back injury but is already feeling fit and ready to go for the new campaign

When the first batch of Liverpool players return to Melwood in the first week of July, we can expect at least one of them to bounce through the gates.

Pre-season training is not usually something professional footballers relish, but for Nathaniel Clyne this is a big summer. The chance, he says, to make up for lost time and to prove a few things. The chance to relaunch his career.

The 2017-18 campaign was a write-off for the Liverpool full-back, ruined by a back injury picked up last July. It would be February before he resumed training, March before he could be part of a matchday squad. His first appearance of the season came in April; he would make just four others.

So while Jurgen Klopp’s side were establishing themselves as one of Europe’s finest, thrilling supporters with their goal-laden performances and their Champions League exploits, Clyne for the most part was watching on.

During his injury rehabilitation, he was there, at Melwood, but he wasn’t. While Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and co trained, he worked alone. Long hours in the gym, a close relationship with the exercise bike and the pool, regular consultations with Dr Andy Massey and the Reds’ medical staff. A long, hard road back.

“They were tough times,” Clyne told  Goal in an exclusive interview. “It was difficult, for sure.

“To be out for so long is frustrating, and the fact that it came during pre-season probably made it even worse. Then to eventually have to have surgery, that was another setback, it was tough.

“You’re there, and the players are all going out to train while you’re off to the gym or the physio room, day after day. You’re on the bike or whatever, and that’s all you can do. It does affect you.”

Clyne’s eventual return to action came at a time when Liverpool were in the midst of that thrilling Champions League run. His only two starts came in away matches at Everton and Chelsea, games which immediately followed huge European nights.

“Yeah it wasn’t easy,” he admitted. “When I came back it was the business end of the season, so the games were big and had a lot riding on them, so to have to go straight in was a test for me.”

“But it was important for me to get a few minutes under my belt, get a taste for it again and set me up to go again in pre-season.

“I’ve worked hard to get my fitness back, and I can feel the benefits. I’ve been working hard, the club gives us regimes to follow even during the off-season, so that we keep ticking over. I probably need that more than others because I’ve been out so long, so I’ve already been doing bits.

“I feel as fit as ever and I’m already looking forward to the start of pre-season. It’s about proving to people now that I’m back and I’m as good as ever.”

Nathaniel Clyne

He knows he faces a battle, too. Football waits for no man, and one player’s misfortune can just as easily be another’s opportunity.

Clyne’s absence last season opened the door for both Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool. Both, at various times, impressed at right-back; Gomez may have gone to the World Cup were it not for an injury of his own, while Alexander-Arnold was Gareth Southgate’s wildcard pick for Russia. The teenager made his full debut in last week’s friendly win over Costa Rica.

“I can remember when he first stepped up from the U23s to the first team,” Clyne says of his young competitor. “Straight away in training you could see his potential.

“He’s had his chance this season, and he’s taken it very well. He’s a very confident player, good on the ball. He’s impressive.

“He’s passed all the tests that have come his way, and I’m sure if he’s given a chance in the World Cup he will do really well.

“Since I’ve been injured, I’ve watched how Liverpool have done well and how England have done well, and that’s given me extra incentive. It’s a big motivation.

“Like I say, I’m fully fit now, and I can’t wait to come back and show how good I am again!”

Liverpool's Nathaniel Clyne

Clyne, speaking at the launch of the #FarahXI campaign, is in positive mood as he looks ahead to the forthcoming World Cup.

He could, with a little more luck, have been in Russia himself of course, but he is preparing to watch England’s campaign as a fan. And he believes Gareth Southgate’s men can make an impression at the tournament.

“Of course I look forward to it,” he says. “I think everyone does. I’ll be watching the games as much as I can, certainly all the England games. I’ll be cheering the boys on, hoping they can do well.

“I’m confident that England will do really well, actually. They’re a really solid team, very good defensively. We don’t concede many goals, and the new formation I think has helped with that.

“Then you look at the attacking players who can create and score goals, there are lots of them in the squad. We have a very complete team.”

HD Nathaniel Clyne England Slovakia Euro 2016 21062016

He added: “It can help that maybe there isn’t as much expectation as in other years. But there is always pressure playing for England, that’s just a fact. Whether it comes from the media or wherever, it will always be there.

“But for me we should be confident going into the tournament, we have a good team, good players and we have a chance to do well.”

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Good enough to win it, Goal asks?

“I’m not going to say that!” he said with a laugh. “I can’t call who will win it actually. There are four or five really strong sides in there; Brazil, France, Germany. But England shouldn’t be written off, I’m sure of that!”

Nathaniel Clyne shares his England #FarahXI and three lions memories on the Farah menswear blog. Shop Nathaniel’s look including the classic Brewer shirt here. 

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