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31st Mar 2019

Jonathan Walters on how he used to wind up Virgil van Dijk

Patrick McCarry

The former Irish international used to relish coming up against the big Dutch defender.

Whenever he saw Virgil van Dijk’s name on the teamsheet – be it for Southampton, Liverpool or The Netherlands – Jonathan Walters knew he would be in for one hell of a tussle.

The recently retired Ireland forward was on BBC’s Football Focus, on Saturday, and was helping to preview Liverpool’s mammoth Premier League encounter with Spurs.

The topic of the imperious van Dijk, whom no player has been able to dribble past ALL season, came up. Although he heaped praise on the former Celtic and Southampton defender, Walters insisted he loved playing against him.

(Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile)

“When you come across a player like van Dijk,” Walters began, “you’re not really going to out-run him.

“He’s so good on the ball, he’s good in the air… although I won my fair share of headers… You’ve got to get into his head a little. The dark arts come into force.

“Giving him a bit off the ball and when he’s running up for corners, blocking him. Just getting into his head a bit.”

Walters says van Dijk has ‘probably grown up a bit’ over the past few years. He was more susceptible for the wind-up in his first couple of seasons in the Premier League, after his move from Celtic, and Walters says he did get into his head on more than one occasion.

“I enjoyed playing against him as well,” he said.

Irish fans that were at the Aviva Stadium in 2016 would certainly tell you that Walters enjoyed himself in Ireland’s 1-1 draw with The Nerherlands, in their friendly encounter. Both men played a full 90 minutes and Walters managed a couple of attempts on goal while teeing up Shane Long for an effort that tested Jasper Cillessen.

Here’s that full Walters chat here:

He was as niggly and combative as they come, and that is why Irish fans loved him so much.

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