Ex-Liverpool throw-in coach lifts the lid on Klopp and secret to his technique

Thomas Grønnemark is the world's first throw-in coach and has worked with top teams across the world including at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp.

The 45-year-old is also responsible for the world's longest throw-in and has competed internationally as a sprinter and a bobsledder.

He has also discovered the secret to a perfect throw-in – liquorice.

The freelance coach works with around eight teams a season including the likes of Ajax, RB Leipzig, Liverpool, Genk, Flamenco. There are others, but these do not wish to be named publicly.

The season before Grønnemark joined Liverpool's coaching staff, they retained fewer than half of all throw-ins while under pressure (45.5 per cent) according to independent analysis, 18th in the league for doing so.

The next season Liverpool retained 68.4 per cent of throw-ins while under pressure, becoming the best in the league at doing so.

In Europe Liverpool were behind only FC Midtjylland, another of the teams Grønnemark works with.

With roughly 40-60 throw-ins a game, and most teams keeping possession about only 50 per cent of the time, the throw-in is a surprisingly long ignored facet of football.

But it all began for Grønnemark when he was just a child.

“I always loved throw-ins as a kid, I watched my big cousins Bent and Jonny who were 8-12 years older than me, it was so cool they could throw those long throw-ins," he told Mirror Football.

“It was like a superpower, they weren’t professional players, but when I saw them throw-in the crowd were like whoa! And you don’t get that for a corner kick!”

Grønnemark played football until his late teens, but took his talents to athletics, becoming a sprinter, running 100m, 200m, 400m and relays.

The father-of-two progressed to the national team and won the 4x400m European club championships in Paris, with his team Aarhus.

A few years later, Grønnemark fell in love and moved west to a small town called Skive with his now wife, and decided to change sport.

Having crossed paths with the Danish bobsleigh team before, he decided to take up the sport.

Grønnemark made it to the 2006 Winter Olympics, but, it was during training one day that the idea of being a throw-in coach solidified in his mind.

“We had a good relationship with the German bobsleigh team and we were training with them in 2004, and we were warming up playing a football game against them," Grønnemark continued.

“I threw the ball the length of the pitch and they couldn’t believe I could do it so far, I thought if I can do a good throw-in why can’t I teach others to do so.

“I had the background in athletics, in bobsleigh, we used video analysis too, so I went to the local library to try and find a book about throw-ins, but I couldn’t find anything.”

It was at this moment that a lightbulb turned on for Grønnemark, and he took it upon himself to write one.

The Dane took six months out to create a course, focused first on the long throw-in – he would later introduce the clever, and the fast throw-in.

Grønnemark could have tested his technique out on youth and Sunday league teams, but he went to Viborg FF, a Danish Super League side, who agreed to put his work to the test.

The technique was a success, and Grønnemark went on to work with a number of other Danish teams.

An example of the coach's work in action is the distance of Andreas Poulsen's long throw-in improving from just under 25m to 37.9m during his time at FC Midtjylland.

Grønnemark finally got his big break during the 2018/19 season when was in the car with his wife and two children and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp phoned him for the first time.

“It felt really unreal, even though I’ve always dreamed about coaching, but up to Liverpool I’ve primarily coached Danish Super League clubs," Grønnemark said.

“I first got a voicemail and I didn’t know it was Jurgen, I saw the +44 number on the phone and didn’t know it was him until I heard it, it was shock and unreal, but I got the feeling that this was an amazing chance.”

The next week Grønnemark was at Melwood meeting Klopp, and the next day he started out with 21 Liverpool players – and he’s been there every season since.

Around the same time as joining Liverpool, Grønnemark was also approached by RB Leipzig, who he worked with on their long throws.

At Liverpool, there was less interest in long throws.

Like Klopp’s tactics on the pitch, Grønnemark helped the Liverpool players manipulate the space on throw-ins to their advantage.

This was more often than not the fast, or clever throw-ins.

The long throw-in is self-explanatory, a feature in England in some form since Rory Delap was at Stoke.

But the fast throw-in can be key in counter-attacks, utilising the lack of off-side from a throw-in, it seeks to exploit teams before they’ve set up defensively.

The clever throw-in is about a precise throw to feet, not the hips or chest, and movement of those looking to receive it, not standing about statically.

Grønnemark coaches the team on their movement, offering blueprint patterns but encouraging them to be creative and come up with their own as well.

He said: “Bobsledding was light years ahead of football, we were used to analysis and video analysing small details and I came to the football club it was like going 50 years back in time.”

Across his work Grønnemark has drawn on the technical and innovative approach in his sporting career and otherwise as a public speaker.

The Dane also holds the world record for the longest throw-in ever at 51.33m.

But this came about by chance after his daughter's hands, sticky from sweets, gave him an idea on how to grip the ball better. Liquorice provided the perfect grip, and he eventually smashed the world record.

As for his book, which helped Grønnemark on the path to becoming the world’s first throw-in coach, the talented Dane is in the process of writing it, to make his unique knowledge accessible to all.

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