Returning Liverpool full-back Jon Flanagan claimed there was nothing personal in the crunching tackle on Raheem Sterling in midweek.
Flanagan, 23, who missed the whole of last season through injury, returned to the first-team fold in January and made his first Premier League start since May 2014 in the midweek 3-0 win over Man City at Anfield. And the local lad proved to be a key figure as his thunderous challenge on former Liverpool man Sterling set the tone for the rest of the match.
The full-back followed the tackle with a gritty performance that saw Sterling subbed at half-time and helped Liverpool keep a clean sheet – only their second in eight Premier League games.
But Flanagan insisted there was no malice in the challenge and that Sterling and himself have remained friends.
“I didn’t do it because it was Raheem. Him and I are still mates,” Flanagan told Sky Sports.
“The mentality’s the same every game. If the ball’s there to be won, you get there and win it.”
Flanagan is out of contract in the summer and a new deal is yet to be agreed with the club seemingly wanting him to prove his fitness after such a long spell out of the game
“I’m just concentrating on my football, leaving that sort of thing to my agent,” added Flanagan.
“I’ve got to do my talking on the pitch, there’s no point worrying or stressing about it,” he says, before confirming that recent encouraging words from his manager, on the subject of a new deal, have been “music to his ears”.
“It was great to hear. And I’ve heard other people [at the club] want it sorted, so hopefully that’s positive.”
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The one-club Flanagan says his spell out injured was difficult and is desperate to prove himself from now until the end of the season.
“I never thought I would be out for so long,” said Flanagan, whose problems began with a knee injury in the summer of 2014.
“The hardest time was after one operation, finding out you’ve got to have another one and it’s going to put you back six to nine months.
“It’s hard seeing the lads go out on to the training pitch when you’re stuck on your own in the gym, but you have to stay upbeat, you have to stay positive.
“Growing up all I wanted to do is play for Liverpool and now the days are here and I just want them to continue really.”