NewsAcademy column: A special tribute to Stephen Packer and Jürgen Klopp surprise

STEPHEN PACKER
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By John Thompson

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In our latest Academy column, head of coaching for the Foundation phase John Thompson tells us about a special tournament that took place in Kirkby in memory of Stephen Packer.

The Academy is always a very special place and over the last two weekends we have paid a very special tribute to a young boy who will never be forgotten.

Stephen Packer touched the hearts of everybody he met during his sadly-too-short time at the Academy.

Stephen was popular with players and coaches alike for his enthusiasm, sense of humour, his humility and, above all, his ability to play the game so well. He was a very talented forward who was exceptionally quick – with and without the ball.

He was a huge LFC fan and his favourite player was Luis Suarez, who he would watch while attending games at Anfield.

Sadly, Stephen fell ill shortly before the 2012-13 season and sadly passed away on November 25, 2012.

Stephen’s legacy at our club may be different to the legends who had the chance to fulfil their potential, but his influence is no less significant due to the courage and strength he displayed in the face of his illness.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Stephen, but my dad – who was a scout at the Academy – knew him and his family really well.

In his memory, we held the Stephen Packer Memorial Tournament, which was played over two weekends with three separate tournaments at U9, U10 and U11 level.

We try to do this tournament every year along with the Ian Frodsham Memorial Tournament to remember players who will always be part of the LFC family.

For the U9 tournament, we played against Burnley, Blackburn Rovers, Hull City and Sunderland. On the second day at U10 level, we had Burnley, Blackburn and a couple of teams from Ireland in Corduff FC and Cherry Orchard, plus Arsenal and Celtic.

It was really nice having Celtic along because the whole motto of the tournament was encapsulated by You’ll Never Walk Alone and it was nice that both clubs have that as their anthem before every game.

Last Saturday we had the U11 tournament, and we welcomed Burnley, Blackburn, Sunderland, Hull City and Belvedere from Ireland. The main pitch we used was the one in front of the Stephen Packer Stand and that is something we will be looking to use all the time now.

Unfortunately, due to the thunder and lightning we couldn’t play the final, so we had a penalty shootout in the Ian Frodsham indoor arena which the boys really enjoyed. It put them under a bit of pressure that they are not used to, so if we can try to help our kids have these opportunities on their way to wherever they end up in their footballing journey, it will help them along the way.

The boys also had the fantastic opportunity to meet our brilliant manager Jürgen Klopp.

It just worked out that the men’s team were doing their fitness testing on their first day back in for pre-season on the opposite pitches, and the manager came across and watched our U11s playing against Blackburn, which was nice for the boys. I don’t think anybody expected that and you could tell how excited all of the players were. It gave them all a huge lift.

Everyone was a winner and that was the key message from the tournament. It was a fantastic two weekends of football and we wanted everyone to play the game the way that Stephen played the game – which was really passionately and desperate to win, while also being respectful of the opposition and respectful of your teammates. I thought that definitely came across in all three of the tournaments.

Stephen just absolutely loved the game of football and that is something we are desperate to try to make sure all of our kids here do as well.

It was an honour for us at the U9 and U10 tournaments to have Stephen’s family with us at the Academy. They are always very welcome here. Stephen’s mum and dad, his sister and her boyfriend came to the U9 one, and his grandad came to the U10 tournament.

Stephen will never be forgotten. This is a family club with a family feel to it and we hope we can help these people in any way we can do.

Stephen Packer, YNWA

John Thompson was speaking with Liverpoolfc.com's Steve Hunter

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