Steven Gerrard snaps into the question like he used to snap into a tackle.
He is talking at Anfield about a new role next season as Liverpool’s U18 manager, where he will be responsible for developing the next…well, him; and the questioning turns inevitably to the lack of toughness in modern academies.
Even before the sentence is complete, long before the subject of aggression is broached, he interrupts with the sort of bite that trademarked his playing career, and says with almost a steely glare: “My teams will be physical.”
You can bet your life they will be.
He is one of the most complete players Anfield has ever witnessed even in the illustrious history of the club, but his time at the top was defined as much by attitude and desire as it was by talent.
In his near two decades as a first team fixture, he saw a worrying trend amongst the kids trying to break in after him… and he is determined to address it in his new role with as much passion and relish as he did on the pitch:
“I think a lot of them are shocked with the step up to Melwood from academy. I’ve seen a lot of players who have come out of the academy with huge reputations and go into the (first team) dressing room where it’s sink-or-swim and a lot of them sink.
“As a player I got many many tackles wrong and went over the top a few times and I had to come and apologise. That is not something I want to put into kids or young players, but you have to prepare them for the top level.
“The top level is physical and demanding and it is not just about tackles and competing. It is about preparing them for the last 10 minutes of games when it’s hard, your legs are burning and your heart is burning… it is not a nice place to be as a player.
“But you have to get them to be mentally strong to be prepared for that.”
Liverpool announced Gerrard would assume the role of U18s manager this week, and he will begin the job in the summer, after shadowing several of the coaches at the junior levels in the academy for the past few months.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has been instrumental in persuading him to take the unconventional route – in English football at least – of learning the coaching trade away from the limelight “he said I will make loads of mistakes, but your first job is better to be away from the cameras”, Gerrard says with a smile.
But now he wants to get his teeth into producing first team players who took the route he same famously travelled through the junior ranks, though he believes the modern day pampering – and money – doesn’t help today’s youth generation.
“I like streetwise footballers. I think all the top players they come from the street – that type of player,” he says.
“The kids in our academy are coming into an unbelievable place to work, they are getting boss food, they are getting picked up and the full time lads get a lot more money now than we got we first started.
“There is a case where they get a little bit too much, too soon and they sort of get into that comfort zone of working in a lovely place and then it is a big shock for them when they have to move on or get released.
“So that is what you have to drive into the players that while they are here you have to make sacrifices and give it your best, don’t get too comfortable, because the hard work starts when you get out of the academy.”
He has also seen the video game generation thinking they are the next superstar because they’ve learnt tricks on ‘FIFA’…..
“I don’t know computer games, but there are a lot of skilful players in the game that young players try and emulate – probably too much instead of trying to be themselves and playing to their own strengths.
“They try to model their game on players like Ronaldo, but have to look at yourself and say, ‘What have I got? What are my strengths? How can I improve my weaknesses and become a player in my own right?’
“There is a showboating mentality through academies. A lot of kids that play the games think they have to do 10 lollipops or Cruyff turns to look good or stand out. We all love a bit of skill and talent, I love all that, but the other side of the game is huge. It’s massive.
“These players I have to try and prepare them for careers in the game. Not all of them will play for Liverpool’s first team, but I feel if I can help them to compete in the other side of the game it will help their careers.”
In a world where Chelsea have won the Youth Cup at U18 level for the last four years, but haven’t produced a kid as a mainstay of the first team since John Terry came through almost 20 years ago, it is a big ask. But Gerrard has shown he’s more than up to a challenge…