At the start of 2010 I was approached to consider taking on a new role at the Liverpool Football Club as Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science. After flying over for an interview, I was offered, and accepted, the post. Here is the story of my time at LFC - You’ll Never Walk Alone.
After a world wide search Liverpool Football club announced the appointment of Dr Peter Brukner in March 2010 as Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science.
Following my appointment I spent the last month of the 2009-10 season at the club getting a feel for the current medical and fitness set up and traveling with the team to European games. Then I returned to Australia and accompanied the Socceroos to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Following Australia’s exit from the World Cup I came straight to Liverpool, arriving at the start of July 2010.
Two of my colleagues from the Socceroos came with me to Liverpool – Phil Coles as Head of Physical Therapies, and Darren Burgess as Head of Fitness.
I had been appointed by Managing Director Christian Purslow (below) and Manager Rafa Benitez, but by the time I arrived in Liverpool Benitez was gone.
Soon after my arrival it was announced that Roy Hodgson would be the new manager of Liverpool.
We soon got stuck into pre-season training, minus all the World Cup players, then went to a 10 day camp in Switzerland followed by some pre-season friendlies.
The Australian contingent's arrival was documented in there Liverpool Echo.
The season commenced with an unlucky draw at home to Arsenal, but from then on Liverpool were very inconsistent with some excellent performances such as the home game against Chelsea, mixed with some very disappointing losses especially the Carling Cup loss at home to Northampton.
Meanwhile there was considerable drama regarding the ownership of the club. After a lengthy legal battle, owners Tom Hocks and George Gillett were forced to sell the club.
The club was bought by the Fenway Sports Group, headed by John Henry, the owners of the Boston Red Sox.
On the field things were not going well and by Christmas the fans had made it clear that they wanted Hodgson out and King Kenny in.
In early January Hodgson was sacked and Dalglish appointed till the end of the season.
At the end of the January transfer window Fernando Torres was sold to Chelsea for £50M, while Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez joined LFC.
Liverpool finished 6th thus missing out on all European competitions for the first time in 12 years
Signing medicals are an important part of our job at Liverpool to determine if there is any injury which might prevent the club signing a player and also to get a baseline image of players joints.
There was a much increased emphasis on injury prevention with all players undertaking daily team prevention activities as well as their own individual injury prevention programs
There was an increased emphasis on gym work and the gym was completely re-fitted with new equipment.
Unfortunately injuries still occurred
Kenny Dalglish was appointed permanently at the end of the 2010-1 season and over the summer a number of players came into the club – Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Stuart Downing and Craig Bellamy among them.
Again Liverpool’s league form was inconsistent, but we progressed to both domestic cuo finals winning the Carling Cup at Wembley defeating Cardiff City on penalties ,and losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
I was fortunate to have a fantastic group of talented, committed professionals looking after the first team.
Dr Zafar Iqbal came from Tottenham to the position of first team doctor.
Zaf won the Behind the Scenes (medical) award at the Asian Football awards in January
The physio team of Phil Coles, Rob Price, Andrew Nealon, Chris Morgan and Paulo Barreira was the best in the business.
Masseurs Paul Small and Sylvan Richardson of a great job looking after tired players’ bodies
Working alongside Darren Burgess was Barry Drust
and Jordan Milsom ensured the players were the fittest in the League.
We were also fortunate to have some outstanding young sports science interns from Liverpool John Moores University
Around Melwood I have had lots of support from other departments including Paul Tyrell from the media department.
We had a big Melwood night out at a 60s concert featuring Liverpool legend Gerry Marsden whose song You’ll Never Walk Alone is the Liverpool anthem.
Santa has made an appearance at the LFC Christmas parties, both the kids party at Melwood …….
And at the club party...
MY LIVERPOOL FAMILY
I have been very fortunate to have my Aussie colleagues Colesy, Nealo and Burgo and their families as my “Liverpool family”.
In April 2012 I parted company with Liverpool |football club. Press release from LFC here
Below is an article published in the Daily Telegraph on April 19, 2012
Liverpool owners’ hasty cull of head of sports medicine, Dr Peter Brukner, shows they are not putting fitness first
There are two interesting tables involving Liverpool and Manchester United at present. In one, United are in first place and Liverpool are in eighth.
In the other it is Liverpool who occupy the top spot, with Manchester United back in eighth. Unfortunately for Liverpool the first table is the Premier League one; the second has been compiled by the website physioroom.com and intriguingly shows that Liverpool have suffered the fewest number of injuries in the league, incredibly half as many as United.
Apart from two long-term knee injuries, to Lucas (what a miss he has been) and Charlie Adam, Liverpool had every first-team player available for last Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton, which is an achievement given the time of the season.
During that game, the team’s fitness levels showed as they over-ran their opponents in the second-half to turn the result around — which tallies with yet more statistics showing, on average, that Liverpool’s players sprint 14 per cent more than their rivals in games. Rather than total distance covered, this key piece of data is regarded as relevant to dictating the players’ fitness in matches.
Yet, last week, and before the Wembley match, Liverpool’s owners sacked not just the club’s director of football Damien Comolli but the head of the sports medicine and sports science department, Dr Peter Brukner, with immediate effect. If it was a surprising decision, given Liverpool’s apparently strong record on fitness, then it was also a curious one in its timing.
Why could it not wait until the end of the season, rather than right now with key games still to play and fitness, player recovery and so on such crucial issues?
Certainly Brukner’s departure has caused some astonishment at otherPremier League clubs, and within the world of sports science, given the impressive levels of investment Liverpool have made and because, also, such a thorough approach would appear to be something that would appeal to the club’s owners — and the whole Moneyball psychology — in the Fenway Sports Group and John W Henry in particular.
Will Brukner’s department now be unpicked? Quite possibly so and maybe it was deemed as too expensive to run as Fenway plan a number of cut-backs. It could be a false economy. The rumour is that Liverpool are expected to turn to Dr Mark Waller, the former head of the medical department and someone who is well-known by manager Kenny Dalglish, and other clinicians might follow Brukner, an Australian, in leaving the club. Dalglish paid tribute to Brukner, a respected figure who has worked in several sports, following his departure. But what odd timing.
Clearly Henry and Tom Werner, the club’s co-owners, felt that something had to give at Liverpool with the underachievement at the club despite their vast investment in the transfer market. Comolli’s departure was a statement of intent, an abrupt attempt to shake things up, which it did, with the sense that a lot of money has been wasted.
Although Dalglish was also quick to dismiss suggestions he had any role to play in the departures, they will nevertheless increase his power at the club. He has received the owners’ backing for the time being at least and the next 12 months would appear crucial. He has to deliver.
There is only one table that matters, of course, and that is the Premier League table where Liverpool sit in eighth place and an incredible 36 points behind United. But given their strong record on player fitness, their ability to rehabilitate players quickly, then why dispense with the man who had helped place them at the top of at least one table this season?