Jeers and boos have become part and parcel of Southampton and Liverpool fixtures in recent years, with what feels like an endless supply of ex-Saints making their return to St Mary’s year on year.
Dejan Lovren’s been crucified numerous times, while Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane have certainly received their fair share of stick. Rickie Lambert’s just about the only player to return home with a hero’s welcome.
It remains to be seen just what type of reception Virgil Van Dijk will receive this Sunday, but it seems rather fitting that he’s likely to partner Lovren at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
The £75M man came under fire from Saints fans after downing tools in a bid to force his ‘dream move’, despite holding the privilege of the captain’s armband at that moment in time.
Mauricio Pellegrino was quick to tell Van Dijk that no move would materialise, especially as he’d only played 18 months worth of football for the club. This approach appeared to work initially, but after the dressing room started to become a victim of the saga, action simply had to be taken.
Speaking to James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo earlier this week, however, the Dutchman claimed that his focus would be solely placed on three points and three points only.
“What can you do? Maybe they can boo the whole game. But what can you do about it? You can’t do anything about it. I made the decision, I have enjoyed every bit of it and I am very grateful for everything that they (Southampton) did for me. I have moved on, they have moved on.
“I know they are struggling and we need to win. I am going there with only one mindset and that is to win. Obviously, it will be nice to see the players I have played with and the friends I have there but, for me, it is going to be about one thing only and that is to win the game.”
These are stern words from the world’s most expensive defender, but it’s worth noting that Lovren was pulled off at halftime against Southampton in March 2016, for an overly emotional display.
Van Dijk is no doubt a level of class above his Croatian defensive partner, but it goes to show that a stadiums atmosphere and a players emotions are more than capable of blurring their focus on any given day. Food for thought?