Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is determined to make up for lost time after committing his future to Liverpool Football Club on Thursday.
The midfielder signed a new long-term contract to extend his stay with the Reds that began following a transfer from Arsenal in August 2017.
Shortly after putting pen to paper on his deal, the 26-year-old sat down with Liverpoolfc.com at Melwood to discuss his return from the serious knee injury that sidelined him for over a year and what his targets are for the future.
Watch the full interview via LFCTV GO now in the embedded video below, or read on for a full transcript…
Alex, firstly, congratulations on signing a new deal with the club. How are you feeling to have it done?
I’m really, really excited. It’s kind of been talked about for quite a while now. It’s been in the pipeline for a little while, so it’s nice to finally get it done and just extend my time here, which I am really looking forward to. I feel like I missed out on a year, which I obviously did, but it’s really exciting for me to be able to sign. It’s something that I feel is an opportunity to give that year back and make up for lost time – and hopefully put in some good performances to make amends for not being around last year.
Does it feel like the ideal time to re-sign with the club?
Yeah, definitely. It is obviously a really good moment for the boys, for us as a team. Winning the Champions League was massive, of course, and I think it is a team going places. Everyone is really settled here and everyone has the same vision. The boys are really buying into what we’re doing and it’s really nice to be a part of that. For anyone, for any player, to come and join us or to extend their time here, they would be absolutely over the moon at this moment in time. It is a really good place to be as a whole, behind the scenes and within the club. To be able to extend any contract with a club like this is dream stuff; you’ve got to count your blessings every time you get an opportunity like this, you don’t get the chance to play for Liverpool Football Club every day. I am really excited to be able to extend my time here.
A lot of people feel these are exciting times for the club; is that an opinion the players share?
Definitely. I think it is obvious to see the team is progressing; even when we’re not playing well, we still manage to grind out results and that’s a really positive thing. In times when we are playing well, it sort of speaks for itself, we thrive and we have the ability to steamroll teams. From the outside, it would look like a really good time to sign – and I can speak even more from the inside about how good the group of lads is. It is a really, really good group of players, not only talent but characters and how much everyone respects each other. The manager and the coaches, the backroom staff, they’re all a massive part of it. The whole set-up, the structure, is perfect at the moment. Last year was the first sign of that going in the right direction with the Champions League. Now, in a weird way, it is almost like it didn’t happen, but I think that’s credit to everyone around the building – everyone is hungry for the next thing and what’s next. That’s the right attitude to have to go on and be more successful and go on to win more things. That’s the plan, hopefully we can follow it through and win some more things.
@Alex_OxChambo has signed a new long-term deal with the Reds 🙌 https://t.co/xLw0AZlOJs
— LFC (Liverpool FC)
22nd Aug 17:58
You’ve been here two years now, it’s been eventful…
It has, yes! It feels like I have been here a lot longer. I feel very comfortable and settled in. In my first season, quite a lot happened! I started off, it was a bit of a tough start, settling in, finding my feet in my new role. Then I sort of had a whirlwind three or four months where I felt on top of the world and everything was going amazing and I was enjoying my football as much as I had at any point in my career – and definitely more. I was really enjoying myself, I really felt like I’d found somewhere, a place in the team, where I felt really important; I knew my role and really looking forward to every minute, just doing everything I could to help and to keep producing the goods consistently. Then obviously the injury came and everything crashes back down; you’re looking at a year out, 16 months until my first Premier League start. That sort of changes everything a bit, but I think all of those things combined have really connected me with the whole place – the club, the fans especially and my teammates. You go through highs and lows and when they are as extreme as they have been, it is good to get those experiences and come through the other side. That makes you stronger and a lot more connected to the people around you, the people that have helped you through. That is where I have been and hopefully now we can keep it a lot more stable and steady. There are going to be more highs and lows for sure, but hopefully we can have more highs than lows from here on out.
How do you believe you’ve changed from the guy who walked through the doors a couple of years ago here at Melwood?
I would say I feel a lot more senior and more experienced, a bit more of an older head. I am happy to take on more responsibility on my shoulders, both on and off the pitch. You go through stages, especially in our careers, and it is a bit of a funny stage in your life when you’re 18 or 19 and young, but still expected to be a man and help carry the hopes of a club and a lot of fans and stuff like this. You’ve got boys in and around you who are older and have been doing it for longer, so some of them step up and take that responsibility to be the leader – and you kind of follow and learn off them. Now, with people like Rhian coming in, even Trent because he’s only 20 still, you have the realisation that those boys may now look to me and the lads in and around my sort of years and experience for advice and help. That’s where I feel more responsibility – the same on and off the pitch. Playing for a club like this, you’ve got massive responsibilities to uphold, the values of the club and stuff like that. I feel a lot more responsible to carry those things onto the pitch and off it as well, carry the values of the club and what it means to be a Liverpool player. I think that has probably been the biggest change.
Also, working with the manager, who gives me a lot of confidence and belief, which helps me go and really believe I can be the guy that goes onto the pitch and makes the difference. That comes naturally to some people, but there were some points in my career where I was feeling that responsibility and that I could be that guy – and there were definitely times when I probably was the guy who just wanted to work hard to try and help, but ‘they [the other players] are the superstars, give them the ball’. I think it’s a maturing process, finding your feet and what your roles and responsibilities are. That’s been a big thing for me that’s changed since being here. Even though I have missed a lot of football, I still think I have come on in that aspect – and I still definitely have got a lot to learn and improve upon. I am hopeful that I can go on and do a lot more, take more of those moments, make the difference and really help the team.
In terms of the injury, how important was the support network you have at the club in helping you through it, not just in terms of your teammates but also the people who work here at Melwood?
It’s massive. It’s simple, I couldn’t have done it without their help and their support. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes we take for granted being in an environment like this where, for example, we have a doctor on site and physios to help our every need. I have got friends who at the moment have had knee reconstruction surgery and they only get to see a physio once a week. Sometimes we can take for granted that – to first and foremost look after your health – we have support there. Then we have the physios every day that help you get back to fitness by doing everything they can in their power every day to help you, whether it’s a phone call to help talk you through it and see where you are mentally, or generally doing the work and putting in the quality work to help your rehabilitation. Down to the chefs upstairs; Carol and Caroline, who work in the kitchen alongside Martin and every day make sure you’re well fed and you’re happy. They’re not so much talking about football to you, it’s more just a family feel and they just want to look after you. Mona with the nutrition, Andreas and all the fitness guys in the strength and conditioning department… everyone is a massive network. Then my teammates were a massive help to me, always checking in on me. Just little things… when a teammate asks how you’re doing and says, ‘We need you back!’ those little things keep you going and help you. The management, the coaching staff, too – everyone has had a massive part to play. Then you have your family and friends at home.
Another massive thing is definitely the fans; I was completely blown away by how much support throughout and how patient everyone was, really. At the start, we didn’t make it abundantly clear how long I was going to be out for because I didn’t want that to be a distraction to what the boys were doing going towards Kiev. Then when that did come out, I think the fans may have thought I’d be back around November or Christmas, but the whole time I knew I was going to be lucky to play that season. When they did find out the news, I was a bit taken away by how people weren’t losing their heads, basically! Or getting frustrated by it. They carried on supporting me all the way through. It was massive for me and that’s something I’ll never forget or ever take for granted. In those moments when you’re at the lowest points of your career and – depending on your circumstances – in your life, when all you want to do is play football, those times are really hard. To have people you don’t know so well supporting you to the utmost is amazing and you cannot be thankful enough for it. It is something I won’t ever, ever forget or take for granted. That helped me massively.
And the supporters, too – you had messages from all over the world during your time out…
I had messages from everyone. Just stuff like that is a bit surreal really, when someone from another country even knows your name or who you are – I still find it a bit strange! To know that they are wishing you well and wishing you back to fitness and taking the time to do these things for you, it’s really nice and inspires you to come back and try and give back in any way you can. That’s sort of the next stage for me now, that’s what I’m on a mission to do now back on the pitch.
In terms of your road back to fitness, how significant was it for you to have been on the bench for the Champions League final and be around everything that happened there – including the celebrations after the game and the next day back in Liverpool?
That was really nice, it was kind of what I was working towards. I was working towards being back and in and around probably sooner, but as rehab goes, they never really go exactly to plan how you expect them, especially the longer ones. You always have things that crop up and different times to manage things. It turned out that I was just back in time for the Huddersfield game and then available for the final, so it was really nice to be just back and around it and a part of it. It’s hard to sort of put into words how it feels when you can’t actually contribute on the pitch and you’re sort of watching everything from the outside. It’s a strange sort of situation and feeling, but you’re still part of the team and you still want the best for everyone and still want to help where you can. So, just something little like being on the bench and actually putting the kit on and being in the warm-up and being around the boys right before they play, giving them a few words of encouragement, makes a massive difference. At the same time, I was warming up, there, ready just in case I needed to come on – I was making sure I was ready for that as well. Then when you win, you just feel so much more a part of it when you can strip off and be in the kit with the lads and down there on the touchline, feeling the emotions of everything. It was a brilliant night and one that I’ll never forget. The parade, in a way, was even better for me. I enjoyed that massively, just seeing so many people in the streets all there for one thing was mind blowing.
Did that experience maybe change your perception of Liverpool?
I heard about it from Istanbul and what it was going to be like if we won, but seeing it first hand is something you can’t really grasp with just hearing the stories. It was unbelievable. When we came down onto The Strand, that was something I think I never thought I’d see in football. It was something amazing to be a part of. I couldn’t speak for a good week after that [with] the amount of shouting and singing we did. It’s amazing. To share those sort of moments with your mates and the guys that you’ve worked so hard with or seen work so hard for something, that’s special. That’s what makes it so special to be a part of a team and basically be a footballer. They’re the moments that you live for. To see how much it meant to so many people and they’re all there to show their appreciation, it’s what you do it for. It doesn’t come around so often, so you have to soak those moments in. But the main thing for us is that we have more of those moments and give back more of those moments to the fans because they really are the type of fans that deserve those moments. The amount of support they give and the passion they show, it’s incredible. I’m really glad I could kind of be part of that history where the team I was involved with could change and move so many people’s lives. It was really special.
On that theme, is it all about now looking forward not just as a collective, but also for you personally? It was a first league start in 16 months at Southampton…
My personal [target] is a collective [one]. I’ve got the same goals as the team, I think that’s the most important thing first and foremost – the team. I think that’s the biggest thing of the manager. The quality we now have, everyone wants to play every game but it’s not possible. Everyone has to want to play and that’s what everyone wants to do, but we all know that it’s not possible. I think that realisation that everyone is in makes so much sense for the team and you can already see that it really helps the team. It’s good when people want to play and they’re angry but as long as they go and take that out in the best performance they can – whether that’s in training the next day or when they get a chance to come off the bench – that’s crucial for us. That’s the sort of mindset I’m in first and foremost.
Personally, it would be great to play all the time but coming back from a knee injury and being part of this team, I’ve just got to remain being focused on making sure that us as a collective go and do what we want to achieve. That’s my personal goal – to be ready to help the team and play as much as I can. I want to play as many games as I can, help as much as I can and do as many good things as I can. But the main thing is definitely this team and that’s definitely more powerful than any one of us individually at the minute. The team, what we can achieve is really special I think and I hope that’s the plan for the future. From what I’ve seen, that’s completely the mindset of all the team and definitely the manager.
It feels like you’ve really embraced Liverpool since you arrived…
It’s a hard place not to embrace. It’s such a full-on culture, so much passion from everyone that is associated with the club – it’s really endearing. The thing I respect so much about them is, yes, the fans want results and they deserve results and that’s what this club is about, but at the same time, if you give them everything you can, they respect that. As a footballer, I think the least you can do is respect the fans, the club and who you play for and give them everything you can. When you get the support back that you do, you can’t really have any complaints. The first time I really noticed that was when we played Sevilla away in the Champions League in my first season. Obviously we were 3-0 up and we drew 3-3. We should never have let that happen and for fans to have taken days off work the next day and spend money to come out there, for them to still applaud us as we walked over, I couldn’t believe it. That was when I realised: ‘These guys are special, this set of supporters are really special.’ They give us everything and, at the minute, the team are giving them everything. Together, it’s a really nice environment to be a part of. That’s when I really noticed for the first time how special this place was. When things don’t go well, people are still there. It’s similar to my injury, that’s when you really sort of become part of something and respect something. I just love being involved in it. That’s sort of everything Liverpool is about and it’s something I definitely bought into straight away.
One of the reasons why I wanted to come here when I did is because I knew it was that kind of a place and a place that means business. But if you give them everything, they’ll really support you. To be part of something bigger than yourself is massive. The place speaks volumes and anyone new that comes in is always kind of blown away by what it means to really be a Liverpool player. Hendo told me for years, but until you come you don’t grasp it. The only thing I used to know is that I hated coming to Anfield and getting beat! That was never nice, I knew it was not a nice place to play an away game. But it’s a lot nicer to be on the home side now!
And with the fans behind you and the atmosphere Anfield can generate…
It’s massive. As an away team player coming to Anfield, the atmosphere that they create and the energy they give the team, it’s like no other away game. You always knew it was going to be really difficult. Now being a home player, you sort of have that feeling that when you’re going out in front of your home fans, like the Barcelona game for the boys last year, you always have that belief that they’re not going to like this and we’re going to love it. That’s how it feels. At the minute, the track record is good and we sort of thrive off it. Hopefully we can keep that going and really take strength from that going forward. I’ll tell you what, the away support is not bad either – it was bouncing at the weekend at Southampton. It’s a great club to play for and any of us that get the chance to play, it’s really special and I’m really lucky to be a part of it.
So what would you say to the fans watching this and who are excited about your new contract?
First of all, I’d say thank you very much for all the support that they gave me through a long comeback, probably longer than they would have liked and longer than I would have liked. I can’t thank them enough for that. I can then promise them that I’ll give them absolutely everything moving forward. There might be times where I have bad games and good games and moments where it’s not so good, but I’ll always work through those moments and give my everything to correct them and keep pushing this team forward. I hope that I can do some special things like I did before I got injured and, most of all, be a part of this group of players that go on to hopefully win more things. I’m really excited to see what the future holds for us all and I look forward to seeing them every game moving forward.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain