With the most British of footballing finals, the FA Cup taking place this weekend at the glorious Wembley, it Is fitting that I spent some time with the outstanding former Premier League star Glen Johnson, a man that represented both Liverpool and Chelsea with great distinction.
Glen Johnson Exclusive
Mane scored the match-winner vs Aston Villa, rumours are circulating that Bayern are thinking of making a move for him. How important is he to Liverpool? Should he stay?
"Liverpool should definitely keep him. It all depends whether he wants to stay, but if Mane wants to stay and Liverpool have the choice, they have to keep him.
Mane has been amazing, he's played in three or four different positions and performed well in all of them, he's clearly a team player and as we saw the other night, he can finish in front of goal."
How impressed were you with Aston Villa and how good a manager do you think Steven Gerrard can become?
"Gerrard isl a great manager and has done a great job with clubs he's been at. His managerial career is still young, but I'm sure that the Liverpool job is destined for him one day - I guess the time is just when.
Obviously Jurgen Klopp is doing an amazing job so to follow in his shoes when he leaves will be tough for anyone, but I'm sure Steven Gerrard will get the job one day."
Next up for Liverpool is the FA Cup final against another of your former clubs Chelsea, how do you see that game going?
"Like most finals really, I can imagine it being a bit cagey at the start, but they're two good teams. Liverpool are in a better position at the moment, but listen, in a final, they're both good enough to beat anyone - I'm expecting a tight game."
Who's the better right back in your opinion, Reece James or Trent Alexander-Arnold?
"It's tough because I think they're both fantastic. I think Trent is just about better on the ball and certainly got a better delivery, but to be fair to Reece that sounds harsh because he's fantastic as well.
I'd say Trent is better going forward and Reece James is better defensively, but all round, I'd have to say Reece James is better."
With so much talent on either side, who do you think will be the standout player for both teams?
"For me, I'd say the game-changers for Liverpool will be Liverpool's front three and Fabinho if he's fit enough to play. I think he has been brilliant for them, he does the ugly stuff as people call it, but he also breaks things up so quickly that teams can't gather any momentum. If Mane and Salah are firing as well then it'll be hard enough for any defence to stop them.
I think the difference will definitely be between Liverpool front three and Chelsea's back four."
Mason Mount tends to always produce big moments for Chelsea, how big an effect do you think he can have on the FA Cup final result?
"Mason Mount is so important for anything Chelsea do well. Anytime they break forward or counter-attack, any good moments in a game he's usually involved in, so i think if they want to win the FA Cup, he has to play well."
With the takeover rumoured to be complete, how do you think Chelsea will fare next season? Are they good enough to challenge for the title?
"Yeah, they definitely can. They have a great manager and a great side. The owners are going to want to come in and are going to want to invest. Chelsea aren't a million miles away from the title now, but yeah I expect them to compete next year and with the new owners coming in, I'd imagine it will raise everyone's game."
What do Chelsea need to do to challenge for the title next season?
"Getting to the level of Man City and Liverpool is so hard for anybody, but they need to be consistent. On their day, Chelsea can beat anyone but the consistency that's shown by Man City and Liverpool isn't easy. You need a big squad, you need players that are buying into what the manager is doing and you need a good set of 18 to 20 players, so Chelsea need to invest and make sure that everyone is on board with what the club is trying to achieve.
Let's face it though, Man City and Liverpool at the moment are miles ahead of anyone."
Now Man City have signed Erling Haaland, who do you feel Chelsea should bring in to compete with a signing of that intent?
"Chelsea obviously tried when they broke the bank for Romelu Lukaku and obviously Haaland was the one they should've signed but it was always going to be hard to trump Man City, Liverpool or a team like Real Madrid so he was never going to end up at Chelsea.
For a club like the Blues, I think they need to sign Robert Lewandowski. He is a more realistic signing, but these top, world-class strikers are hard to find, but for his age and the possibility of the deal actually happening, I'd say Chelsea should sign Lewandowski."
With Anthony Rudiger set to leave the club, Chelsea will be looking to recruit a defender. Do you think buying back someone like Tomori is a good idea? If not, who else should they go after?
"I think you have to be careful with defenders in the Premier League. You have to be careful because as we all know, the Premier League isn't easy as you're playing against the best attacking players in the world.
For me, I'm not sure who, but they need somebody to come in with Premier League experience. They don't have to be the biggest name in football, but they need to sign somebody who knows the Premier league."
Should Chelsea keep hold of Connor Gallagher next season?
"Right now, I'm not sure if Connor Gallagher would get in Chelsea's team, but as he's been doing so well out on loan, if I was Chelsea, I'd be keen to give him another year on loan which would give him another year to develop further, enjoy the games, learn the trade and then start smashing the first team door down the season after, but a lot can change in football.
I like Gallagher a lot, but if he goes back to Chelsea, I don't think he'll play and you don't want to stall the progress that he's already made."
Should Liverpool win the FA Cup, it could signal the start of a quadruple winning season. How likely do you think that is and do you personally think they will win it [the FA Cup and quadruple]?
"Technically right now, the quadruple is possible but no, I can't imagine they'll do it. It's so tough.
To perform at that level in every competition in every competition is going to be so hard, especially when you have to pull back this Man City team. I hope they can do it, it's still possible but I think Liverpool will fall short in one of the competitions."
Jurgen Klopp has recently signed a new contract at Mellwood, how important is he to the club?
"He's been world-class and I think that shows by the amount of supporters of other clubs that love him.
I think it's the way he is. The way he is with his players, staff and the press. What he's done with Liverpool you don't even need to explain as everyone can see it. Every can see how good they've been and everyone can see how much the players love playing for him so I think he's the main man and the most important person at Liverpool at the moment"
If Liverpool win the quadruple - or even treble - do you think Klopp should be considered the best ever Premier League manager?
"I'd say best ever is hard to say as it's still only been a short period of time, but in terms of the way he does things, how enjoyable the football is to watch, for sure he's up there as one of the best.
It hurts me to say it, but Sir Alex Ferguson was a superstar. Whether we like Man United or not, he was a superstar and he won everything with them consistently so I think to be the best you have to compete the way he did, but Liverpool will.
You can't say Jurgen Klopp is the best yet, but certainly in time if he stays for another five years, with the success Liverpool will have, then I'd say he will be the best ever, yes."
Liverpool are still locked on points (depending on City’s game tonight) with Manchester City, do you think the Reds can take the advantage and win the league?
"It's tough because I just can't see Man City losing. If you just look at the table and see that there's only a point gap then of course they can catch them, but this Man City team is just relentless, even with Wolves showing a bit of a glimpse last night and similarly to Liverpool, they just always just seem to find a way to win so I don't expect Man City to drop any points."
Pep Guardiola recently claimed that everyone supports Liverpool and wants them to win the league over Man City, what do you make of Pep’s comments?
"It's really good managerial skills. Pep has done it before; he's taking the limelight off his team and putting it on himself - I don't think he actually believes what he's saying.
It's smart tactics to make his team feel relaxed ahead of the run-in"
Liverpool are set to face Real Madrid in the Champions league final, how difficult do you expect the game to be?
"I think it'll be really difficult. Both teams deserve to get to the final and Real Madrid have players that, maybe wouldn't get into the Liverpool team, but they know how to win and they know how to break the game up and keep the ball - it's going to be a tough game and anyone who manages to get past Man City deserve a chance of winning, especially the first leg, that's what got them to the final. To score three goals against Man City with ten men is seriously impressive."
Will Liverpool’s unfinished business against Real Madrid inspire them in the final?
"Yeah, it will definitely inspire them. Especially because the way Real Madrid won it last time was down to Liverpool's errors, and they were bad errors so Liverpool will know that if they don't make those mistakes, which I'm sure they won't, they'll be a lot closer.
There's definitely unfinished business, but these are two galacticos going at it. It's going to be a great game, I just hope the occasion doesn't get the better of Liverpool because of the last result.``
Would missing out on the FA Cup or Premier League demotivate Liverpool in the Champions League final?
"If they miss out on both the Premier League and FA Cup then of course it will demotivate them and they might start to pile more pressure on themselves. Of course, momentum in football is underrated and I think if they keep winning and keep the morale high, I expect them to go into the game a lot calmer. If they lose the other finals or both of them, they may go into the Champions League final a bit more nervous."
Do you think Liverpool will win the Premier League?
"Unfortunately I don't. I think Man City are going to win the league - I don't want them to of course - but now they're out of the Champions League, they can rest players and I think they're going to be too strong, but of course I hope Liverpool can do it."
What have you made of Declan Rice’s rise to the top? Is he worth £150m?
"I think he's been great. I don't think there's anything he can't do, but I don't think anyone should pay £150m, especially when you're seeing Haaland move for £60m-65m. You can't say Rice is worth that price.
I think even West Ham don't think he's worth that much, I just think they know they're only going to be able to sell him once and they know there will be at least three massive clubs that want him.
I expect Declan to leave, but probably for around £80/90m."
Can he be a future West Ham legend or do you think his future lies elsewhere?
"As a West Ham man, I'd love him to stay, I just can't see it happening. The best players in the world want to be in the Champions League final and go deep in those competitions as well as fighting for the Premier League title.
The West Ham fans love him anyway, and they appreciate what he's done, I just think if he wants to win medals then he has to go to one of the top two clubs."
West Ham have been linked with Ollie Watkins, do you think he’d be a good fit for the team? How good do you think he is?
"I like Ollie. When you sign strikers from the Championship, nine times out of ten it doesn't work because the Premier League is such a better league, but fair play to him, he's stepped up and scored goals and he never looks out of place.
I like him a lot and he's definitely the sort of player that West Ham need."
Who's your Premier League player of the year?
"For me, I'd go for Mason Mount. I wouldn't say he's gone under the radar because he's been great, but everything Chelsea do well, Mason is involved and even though they've not hit the heights they are capable of this season, he's always performed. He always works his socks off, he's always involved in chances and goals so I'd probably go for Mason Mount."
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