Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina has been convinced he still has a future at the club by the turnaround effected by Kenny Dalglish, who yesterday signed a three-year contract to become permanent manager.
When Dalglish was brought in on an initial temporary basis on Jan 8 to replace the sacked Roy Hodgson the situation at Anfield looked bleak.
The team were 12th in the Premier League, four points off the relegation zone having already spent time in the bottom three, with disaffection stretching from the team to the terraces.
Unhappy star striker Fernando Torres was angling for a move – which he eventually got with his £50 million transfer to Chelsea – and it appeared Spain team-mate Reina would be next out of the door.
But in just over four months the 28-year-old goalkeeper has been persuaded purely by results on the pitch and a change in atmosphere he can still fulfil his ambitions at Anfield.
“I am looking forward to next season. I have always said that – of course there was a bit of doubt back in December and January because we were not even close to where we are now,” said Reina.
“We have had excellent news on Kenny’s contract, Steve Clarke’s (who also signed a three-year deal) and all of the technical staff.
“We are heading in the right direction and we are optimistic.
“I think by making the right steps and taking them, we can all see the difference between now and then.
“That’s why we are now optimistic about the future and are looking forward.”
Liverpool are now fifth in the table and victory over Tottenham on Sunday at Anfield will secure Europa League football.
Their current five-match unbeaten run has seen them pick up 13 points and go on a goalscoring spree with 17 for and only three against.
It is form which has prompted premature talk of Liverpool being able to mount a title challenge next season – a scenario which would have been met with ridicule at the turn of the year.
Reina is confident they will improve but will not get carried away.
“We have to be calm because we know how hard it is to compete with the big teams out there,” he added.
“Fifth position is not the one that belongs to Liverpool, we aim higher and hopefully next season we can finish higher.
“We are all looking forward to next season, but we have to finish the job on Sunday.
“By winning we will mathematically be sure of fifth and that is our target – to be beat Tottenham, make sure we get into Europe for next season and then get some rest, which I think we deserve as well.”
Although Dalglish and Clarke have had a major influence in the turnaround, a key player in recent months has been Luis Suarez, a £22.8 million January signing from Ajax.
The Uruguay international, scorer of four goals in 11 matches but architect of many more, praised the approach of the Liverpool manager since he took over.
“He has worked very hard with us and our relationship with him is great,” said the 24 year-old.
“It has been great over the last couple of months. Kenny has given me all my confidence, he trusts me.
“I think all the team feels like this, they all have this confidence because Kenny is the kind of manager that does that.
“We like him very much and hopefully we can keep doing what we’re doing.