The Cross Word: The power behind Anfield throne with a Pompey past

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp
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Jurgen Klopp is the new king of the Kop.

The Liverpool boss arrived with great fanfare as Brendan Rodgers’ successor on Friday.

Michael Edwards is a name unlikely to register on the radar of most Blues followers.

Promises of a league title in the next four years and the good times returning to the red half of Merseyside have generated excitement.

To make that happen, though, the German is going to have quickly build a relationship with the power behind the Anfield throne.

And that person is a figure few realise had a lengthy connection with Pompey.

Michael Edwards is a name unlikely to register on the radar of most Blues followers.

He is a man, however, who spent nearly six years at Fratton Park in the Premier League glory days.

In that time, Edwards – or Prozone Eddie as he was known – came to be a crucial member of the club’s backroom staff.

Now he is a key player in Liverpool’s infamous transfer committee and a trusted lieutenant to their American owners.

After arriving in December 2003, it was Edwards who became the force in implementing an analysis department at Pompey.

Harry Redknapp may been seen as a manager from the old school, but that masks an ability to see the benefit of new innovations.

And he was quick to embrace analysis of statistics and the monitoring of performance – a field which is very much Edwards’ stock-in-trade.

From a cubby hole at the club’s Eastleigh training base, Edwards quietly became an influential figure in on-pitch affairs in a halcyon period.

In the prefabricated offices there, he would be seen slaving over a screen and gleaning information to give his team an edge over the opposition.

Players would often be seen loitering around the room garnering tit-bits on their performance or how to best deal with their opposite number in the next game.

A disciple of Moneyball – the principle which took Oakland Athletics to success in baseball on the basis of using computer analysis in recruitment – Edwards picked up many of his own supporters in his time at the club.

David James was one of his staunchest backers, while Svetoslav Todorov was a recent visitor to Edwards in Liverpool as he makes in-roads in management.

Despite not being from the area, Edwards – as it always seems to be with the club’s staff – was soon bitten by the Pompey bug.

Never was that more evident than when he was informed of Redknapp’s departure for Spurs on a night out in 2008, his face a picture of shock.

It was Redknapp who eventually lured Edwards from Pompey a year later.

Four years on and he was on his way to Liverpool after being head-hunted by their director of football Damien Comolli – much to chairman Daniel Levy’s chagrin.

His growing status and influence could be seen by him turning down an offer of a £250,000 salary to stay put.

A highfalutin position as the Reds’ director of technical performance – on a reported £300,000 a year – lied in wait for Edwards instead.

And it’s there where he has come to hold sway on Liverpool’s controversial transfer committee.

Edwards’ relationship with former boss Brendan Rodgers is said to have become strained as his power grew.

But as Rodgers fell on his sword, the former Pompey man’s star has continued to rise with Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group, his data-driven approach aligned perfectly with their baseball background.

The mysterious figure from Pompey’s past now has his place assured as one of football’s most influential players.