There is a feel good factor around Anfield this week after two excellent results and Kenny Dalglish is right to suggest that Liverpool FC are making good progress on the pitch. One of the players more than playing their part in recent weeks is Martin Skrtel, who took the time out to answer various questions about life at Anfield.
FFC: Martin, what is the realistic target for Liverpool F.C. this season?
MS: I think that the target is to finish in the top four, and of course we want to be as high as we can, but we will see how things can go after the Christmas [period] – but I think if we finish in the top four that’s gonna be great for us.
FFC: The club made a lot of new signings over the summer. In which areas do you feel the side has progressed most from last season?
MS: The whole team because the last season, especially the beginning of the season, wasn’t the best for us and then after Kenny [Dalglish] came in together with Steve [Clarke] a lot of things changed. New players come in and I think we start playing better as a team. Also after the new signings in the summer we are getting stronger as a team and I think we can see that on the pitch.
FFC: You mentioned Kenny there and obviously Kenny Dalglish is a living legend at the club. How inspirational is he to have as a manager?
MS: Yeah, it’s a big thing for us you know? Because I think everybody knows him and what he’s done for Liverpool, and also what he is doing now for Liverpool so I think Kenny is an inspiration for every single part – trying to progress the unit for him, for the fans and for the club.
FFC: With yourself, Carragher, Agger, Coates and young Martin Kelly at the club, there is plenty of competition at centre-back. Do you feel that Liverpool could comfortably switch to a 3-at-the-back system in the future?
MS: I think that is not a question for me but for the manager. But I think it’s only a good thing if he gets, for every single position, more players because then you have to work hard on the training [ground] and in the game as well because only 11-players can play and start the game. So I think that’s good for ourselves [the centre-backs] and for the team as well.
FFC: You wear number 37 at Liverpool FC. Did you choose that number and if so, were there any particular reasons for doing so?
MS: Yes [smiles]. You know before in Russia [with Zenit] I play with the number-3, and also in the national team I play with the number-3. But when I came to Liverpool Steven Finnan was wearing number-3 so then I made the choice to take 37 because number-3 is my lucky number and number-7 is a lucky number for my girlfriend, so together it’s 37 and I’m quite happy with that number!
FFC: Since joining Liverpool FC, in which areas do you feel you have improved most as a player?
MS: I think tactically and also physically because after I came here I had to learn a lot of things…how to play, how to do a lot of things on the pitch, because under Rafa we were working….everyday on the tactics based [approach] so it was helping me a lot. All of the football is much, much stronger and quicker here than Slovakia and also in Russia and so in this way I have had to learn a lot as well.
FFC: You turn 27-years old next month. Do you really feel that you’re coming into your prime?
MS: I hope I will be – just [get] better and better now because you know all of the people talking for the defenders [say] if they are getting older, they are getting more experienced and they are better on the pitch, so I think that it’s going to be my way as well.
FFC: You recently made your 100th appearance in the Premier League with Liverpool and kept a clean sheet…what have been the highlights of your career in England so far?
MS: In England? Difficult to say just one moment because during the four years I’ve been here we’ve played a lot of good, memorable games. I always remember the first game I played for Liverpool and also the first game I scored for Liverpool and I hope in future we’ll get some trophies and the highlights of my career will come in the future.
FFC: Who is the best striker you have ever come up against?
MS: Hmm…there’s a lot of them in England because the Premier League, for me, is the best league in the world with the best players in the world so…I can say Drogba, Rooney or Adebayor, but that’s only three of them! But in every single team you can pick one great player and a big star there.
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FFC: Martin Kelly, Jon Flanagan and Jack Robinson have all made the breakthrough to the first team squad in recent times. Are there any other youngsters that Liverpool fans should look out for in the future?
MS: Yes, you said those three but also we can say Jay Spearing or Nathan Ecclestone. I think the guys at the academy are doing a great job and we can see if any lads come in from the academy and train with the first team, you cannot see a big difference with them and between the guys from the first-team, so I think every single player from the academy can be, in the future, a Premier League first-team player.
FFC: Is it true that you began playing football as a striker or winger? If so how did you come to play centre-back?
MS: Yes! [smiles] Yeah, I started playing as a winger then as a striker but when I [was] getting older and older I was going more back and back! [laughs] At 16 I played for the national team in Portugal and our centre-back got sent-off and another one got an injury so the manager just asked me if I can try to play centre-back, so I tried and I’ve stayed here until now!
FFC: Rumour has it you were quite the Ice Hockey player in your younger days, is this true and do you still follow the sport?
MS: Yeah! When I was younger I was playing ice-hockey but now I don’t have time for that because all year I am here and also I think it’s too dangerous to play ice-hockey now! So I just try to watch it on TV and I like this game and really enjoyed it.
FFC: At international level, who is your most talented Slovakian team-mate?
MS: Difficult to name. Hmm…if I had to pick just one…maybe [thinks more]…Vladimir Weiss.
FFC: You were a team member of your country’s first appearance as an independent nation at a World Cup in 2010. What were your best memories and highlights of the tournament?
MS: It was a great summer and a great tournament for us because it was the first World Cup for Slovakia and I think we did well there. We got through from the group, but then we couldn’t beat Holland so…I think it was a great tournament and I will always remember that.
FFC: Which other defenders in world football really impress you and who are your favourite players?
MS: The player I was always looking up to, to be like him was Fabio Cannavaro because, for me he was one of the best centre-backs, so he was the favourite player for me. And if you’re asking now? Favourite player…I don’t know because I don’t have favourite players now – all the big players are my opponents and I play against them so I just look at them as my opponents!
FFC: Finally, Slovakia unfortunately failed to qualify for next summer’s Euro 2012 tournament, so who is your tip to win the competition and who, if any, will you be supporting?
MS: [Thinks] I think Germany are quite strong now, and also Spain – they are the favourite – and also England, so I think one of those three teams will win. And I think I will support England or Spain because I have team-mates there so, one of these teams.
OK Martin, we’ve got some quick fire questions for you:
FFC: First match you ever went to see?
MS: [Laughs] Hmmm, I can’t remember because I was too young but was definitely some game in the Slovakian league.
FFC: Best player you’ve played with or against?
MS: With…best player I’ll say was Stevie G, and against…Zinedine Zidane.
FFC: What’s the best goal you’ve ever scored?
MS: [Laughs!] Erm? Maybe it was the goal [when] we played for the national team against Cyprus and it was 1-1, then I scored for 2-1 then we won this game, so maybe this one!
FFC: Best stadium you’ve ever played at?
MS: Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
FFC: If you weren’t a footballer, what do think you’d be doing now?
MS: Difficult to say. I hope I would be a footballer for as long as I can [remember] so, I don’t think about what I could do if I wasn’t a footballer!
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