Jacob Lawton is a talented 16-year-old footballer from Belle Vale, Liverpool, who has been attending LFC Foundation’s Premier League Kicks football sessions in Anfield for the past three years.
Premier League Kicks - delivered by LFC Foundation - is a flagship community programme, which works closely with young people and authorities in their local area to deliver free sports sessions and workshops.
Jacob joins in on the action every Wednesday evening at Anfield Sports and Community Centre, training with the PL Kicks Representative team - a squad he made the leap to this season after impressing LFC Foundation coaches.
For what started out as a socialising opportunity, Jacob’s participation has now become a steady constant, as he began to realise just how many opportunities can come from being involved in the LFC Foundation's PL Kicks Programme.
"It made me focus on football in a different way," says Jacob.
"I initially started attending the project for a bit of fun with friends but listening to the coaches and their inspiring career journeys, like going to work in North America, have been really inspirational.
“It’s made me think about my own career path and the possibilities of becoming a coach myself or even a physiotherapist."
As well as providing a platform to socialise, the PL Kicks programme offers opportunities and support for young people to achieve their full potential, while creating stronger, safer and more inclusive communities.
Neil Walsh, LFC Foundation coach, said: "We've guided Jacob through the Kicks Representative Team, but in that time, he himself has become a real role model and one that his fellow teammates look up to.
“Throughout the years, Jacob has improved his skills as a footballer, while maturing as a teenager and focusing on planning out his career aspirations, one that he envisages will be in sports.
“Looking at him playing, he's enjoying himself, with a big smile on his face. That’s the key for me. That's what Kicks is all about."
Jacob has competed on a national level with LFC Foundation, representing Liverpool FC in numerous PL Kicks Regional League fixtures across the North West.
Last year, the Representative Team were edged out on penalties in the semi-finals of the PL Kicks Cup, a tournament which hosted hundreds of teams across the top English football leagues.
Following his success in the PL Kicks programme, Jacob will now go on to make his mark in the Robbie Fowler Education and Football Academy (FEFA) this September– a football program with an outstanding academic curriculum designed to prepare youngsters for their next career step.
PL Kicks Manager, Tony Cosgrove, has also witnessed the progression that Jacob has made, both on and off the field.
He says: “He was a bit apprehensive at first. He didn’t know many of the participants at our sessions, and a lot of the boys were a little bit older and physically stronger than him. But he never showed any fear and quickly gained confidence through playing.
“He won't mind me saying this, but he's a bit of a ‘Jack the lad’ character. He's very likeable and we knew straight from the start he had something special about him."
Beyond the football, Tony also noted one of the challenges that youngsters looking to join up can face.
He said: "One of the biggest successes in this story was actually getting Jacob to the session in Anfield. He made the decision to leave his local area, at an age group where postcodes can often be a barrier. I think the future is really bright for Jacob."
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, LFC Foundation made the decision to postpone its Kicks programme, as well as all other community and school sessions delivered, to adhere to government guidelines and social distancing rules.
For more information relating to the LFC Foundation’s PL Kicks sessions, click here.