Pepe's still a top keeper - Jones
Tue, 25 Sep 2012 16:54:00
Brad Jones has dismissed criticism of Liverpool team-mate Pepe Reina's form and insists he has no concerns over the Spain goalkeeper.
The 30-year-old has, by his own high standards, had a poor last 18 months with mistakes last season being followed by errors already in the current campaign against Manchester City, Hearts and Arsenal.
But Jones, who is set to take over in goal as Liverpool begin their defence of the League Cup at West Brom on Wednesday, stressed that did not mean Reina had become a bad keeper.
"You don't get to the top, which is where he has been for the last five or six years, if you are no good - it is simple as that - and you don't stay there," said the Australia international.
"Whether he has made the odd mistake here or there, it is easy for people to jump on a goalkeeper and criticise.
"I don't think anyone has any doubt about Pepe. I don't think he has any doubt either.
"He has been at the top since he was 17, starting playing at Barcelona, so I wouldn't be worried if it was me and I don't think he is too worried about himself."
Critics have pointed to the lack of competition for a regular first-team spot - Reina has made 363 appearances and been a virtual ever-present having signed from Villarreal in the summer of 2005 - for the Spaniard's recent mishaps.
That has been the case for the last couple of years but now Jones has regained the back-up spot having been frozen out by former manager Kenny Dalglish he is confident he can push his team-mate all the way.
And in no way does he take any satisfaction or encouragement from Reina's mistakes.
"You see at some clubs where it doesn't really work and I've seen it a few times over the years where people fall out and goalkeepers don't talk," he said.
"But there is a mutual respect between the group. We all try to work as hard as we can but at the same time any one of us can play.
"The group we have here is probably the hardest-working I've seen and it can only be good to push each other on.
"Peter Gulacsi is there as well and he works as hard as any of us each day so it is good for all of us to have someone right behind you pushing you on and not to have that big gap where someone knows 'It doesn't really matter what happens, I am going to be playing'.
"I think that is important and the group we have is very good."
Jones was brought to the club by Roy Hodgson in the summer of 2010 only for the manager to be sacked six months later.
He brushes off his time under Dalglish, who sent him out on loan to Derby, but admits he was unhappy both professionally and personally.
Jones' son Luca died in November 2011 after a long battle with leukaemia and the six-year old's illness had an undoubted effect during that time.
"It feels like a totally new start, starting with a clean slate," said the 30-year-old.
"I have got to a point where, professionally, I have to move on and I have less things to worry about this season.
"With a new manager coming in you had to prove yourself all over again and it is something which I feel has gone well.
"The new manager involves me a lot more - obviously it was difficult last year - and I'm hoping the manager has been happy with the way things have gone and the way I have trained and played in the few games.
"I feel I am in the best place possible to perform to my best - whether or not I can challenge Pepe all I can do it my best.
"For me personally I have always tried to train my hardest and do my best but there was a difficult time when other things were getting in the way and football took a back seat.
"But I think now I am probably training the best I have done for the last few years and if I get opportunities I will be looking to take them.
Liverpool have confirmed academy technical director Pep Segura, who joined in 2009, and head of fitness and conditioning Darren Burgess, who moved to Melwood a year later, have left the club.