“A lot of people write ‘throw-in coach that’s marginal gains’ no for me that’s the biggest mistake, there are normally between 40 to 60 throw-ins in a match, 15-20 minutes of a match are directly influenced by the throw-ins.”
I bet you have never thought about throw-ins in football like that before.
One person always has, and he goes by the name of Thomas Gronnemark.
He is quite literally one of a kind being the only throw-in coach with such knowledge in football.
His passion began in 1984.
“I was like eight, nine years old and I saw my big cousins they were eight, ten years older than me they could do long throw-ins and that was just like… totally cool.
“So as a teenager I tried to be better at them myself, I talked about throw-ins all the time, I looked at throw-ins at matches, I did it a lot myself so that was the start of my passion.”
The main aim for Gronnemark though was to become a professional footballer, which set him on his journey across many sports before finally becoming a specialist throw-in coach.
“I played at a really high level in Denmark, also played against really good players for example Thomas Gravesen but I wasn’t good enough to be a professional football player.
“I was also really fast, never lost a running duel in my football life and I had that long throw-in too so in the mid 90’s I went too athletics and in the first year I was training I came on the Danish national team.”
The 45-year-old would go onto do athletics for the Danish national team for six years before changing sport again in 2002 to join the Danish bobsleigh team for four years.
During that period, it hit him that he could go onto use his skills in the footballing world.
“In 2004 I thought hey, If I can make a good throw-in myself can’t I teach football players to do it, so I went down to my local library and I just wanted to find a book about throw-ins but there was none, so I used approximately six months to make a throw-in course.”
Fast forward 14 years to 2018 and Gronnemark was in the headlines with his ‘big breakthrough’ after joining one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
After improving Danish Superliga teams Viborg and Midtjylland someone else had finally taken notice and that someone was Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp who embraced Gronnemark’s ‘long, fast and clever throw-in philosophy’ so much he rang him personally.
“It was a really big shock” Gronnemark explained with a smile on his face.
“Not because I didn’t have ambitions, in 2005 with an interview I said my ambition is to coach some of the big clubs and then I mentioned Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in that interview so right from the start I had the ambition.
“Back to Jurgen Klopp, yeah he left a message on the voicemail I turned my phone off because I was on a family trip so I was totally in shock when Jurgen Klopp called, obviously it was a positive shock.“I tried to call him back, but he didn’t answer, it was actually good that he didn’t answer because my heart was just going boom! Boom!
“So, I thought hey, I was on a trip with my family and my two kids so I better go back to my own home and take perhaps the most important call of my life in quiet surroundings.
“So I was driving the car with my wife beside me with the kids in the back and suddenly the phone rang, my wife picked the phone and goes It’s Jurgen! Then I just drove the car directly into a grass field and took the phone and it was Jurgen Klopp.”
Klopp got in touch with Gronnemark due to the fact Liverpool were the third worst side in the Premier League in the 17/18 season when it came to throw-ins under pressure, with a success rate of 45% according to Tifo.
To put in simpler terms like Klopp said on the phone to Gronnemark ‘our throw-ins were just so bad.’
After just one meeting Klopp was so convinced by Gronnemark he got the chance to coach 21 members of the squad the day after, then one week on he signed an official contract with the club.
The former Danish athlete was delighted with how things started at Liverpool.
“It was fantastic, I only had positives from the players you know in the first training session I said that there are normally 40 to 60 throw ins in a match most teams are losing the ball in 50% of them, if you do the same with your feet in the middle of the pitch you will only be playing Sunday league football and that’s the truth.
“I spoke for 45 seconds or a minute and then Jurgen Klopp came and said yeah this is Thomas he is a throw-in coach it’s a special job to have here in the football world but we had challenges last season with the throw-ins we tried to do something about it, but it hasn’t worked and I’m 100% sure that Thomas can help us improve.”
All the players took to it well according to Gronnemark showcasing their ambitious desire to be the best at everything.
“If you’re asking about motivation, do they have a will to be better I see that from 99% of the players.”
Two players who got specifically mentioned were Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez.
“Most players I’m coaching in the long throw-ins they’re improving their throw-in by five or fifteen metres just with technical training.
“Even in Liverpool where we don’t use the long throw as a set-piece weapon the full-backs can throw to many more teammates, for example Andy Robertson when I came before we started the throw-in coaching, he could throw 19 metres now he is throwing 27 so even though Robbo will never be one of the best in the length he now has many more options around the pitch.”
It became noticeable in the 18/19 campaign that Joe Gomez had been practicing long throws, Gronnemark said that he worked on it when he first joined.
“We worked in the start and he obviously developed a lot, he has a world class long throw. We used it a little bit in the start but not much, you can see he assisted that goal for England against Croatia in the really important Nations League final game.”
“The club (Liverpool) could easily score ten long throw goals a season, no problem, I know it is not every game that Joe (Gomez) is there but when he is we could use it.
“Some people say hey why don’t you? Well, it’s because to do that you have to take 10 to 12 long throws a game, do we want that we are using 30,45 seconds every time at Anfield bringing the tempo down, bringing the speed out of the game, the intensity out of the game, no!”
Things have been to put it lightly pretty good for Gronnemark since he started at Liverpool which he is of course grateful for.
“Since I had my breakthrough with Liverpool, I have been coaching like ten professional clubs all around the world every season for example this season I am at a club in Italy, two clubs in France, I have been at Pachuca in Mexico in July, I have also been coaching the Mexican national team in September and of course still Liverpool, so it has helped me a lot with my career too.”
He is now in his fourth season at The Reds, and he will be doing all he can to help the team with his ‘long, fast and clever throw-in philosophy.’
One of the most standout lines from Thomas Gronnemark in the zoom call though was: “I absolutely love this life.”
And so he absolutely should.He has earnt every right to love the glorious career he has earned through his own hard work and knowledge.