Behind the BadgeFrom LFC hopeful to karaoke star: The story of Yinka 'Ice Ice Baby' Ademuyiwa
'Alright, stop, collaborate and listen...'
That was the moment Yinka Ademuyiwa knew there was no turning back.
It was his time to take the spotlight during Liverpool's traditional initiation night on the recent pre-season trip to Austria, and so he chose a classic.
The evening took place in a picturesque restaurant on the top of a mountain, only reachable via cable cart. But the reaction of the crowd to Yinka's rendition of Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby could probably have been heard at the base.
It was so well received he was called upon – and duly obliged – to perform an encore.
"I never thought that it would go the way it went," he laughs during a conversation with Liverpoolfc.com a few weeks on. "But they enjoyed it, everyone was smiling. I think I'm known as 'Yinka Ice Ice Baby' now!
"My other one was The Fresh Prince [of Bel-Air]. But what happened was they changed the words, so the words that they normally had on the television, there were some more words that I'd never heard before.
"I should’ve just stuck to the first song, shouldn't I?"
Regardless, the Reds' squad and staff now knew exactly what their friendly, likeable kit assistant was about.
In his second season in the first-team set-up, the Scouser can't quite believe his fortune.
"I was at Liverpool when I was a kid. I wasn't good enough, so then you think, 'What can I do in football?' You don't realise there's so many jobs in the industry that you can go for," he says. "It's amazing. I still think I'm dreaming at times.
"As a Liverpool fan, for me it's the best job in the world and it feels a privilege to be here.
"I never dreamed of it but it's come true. I love watching the training sessions, seeing how brilliant the players and coaches are. It's another level that I've never seen before.
"I have to put my hands behind my back sometimes because you want to clap at some of the stuff that you see."
Yinka's journey towards a full-time role at the AXA Training Centre involved a spell at Liverpool's Centre of Excellence and then two decades of coaching youngsters in the city.
The undoubted highlight of his time as a player involved a fortnight training with his hero John Barnes while on the books at the club.
"I played at the Centre of Excellence from the U13s to the U15s," he recalls.
"I did OK there. I wasn't probably the best player, there were a lot of really, really good players – Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, they were there at the time. Gerrard was playing a few years up.
"I used to play Sunday league then and then I used to come and train with Liverpool. I did that for three years.
"I played a few games, never all the time. It's a bit different now because I think every kid plays. But back then it was only the main team that played, so I was on the boundaries.
“I trained in the mornings for two weeks with the likes of John Barnes, Michael Thomas, [Stig Inge] Bjornebye and that was amazing. John Barnes was my idol.
"I remember going in and one of the first days when he came in he was singing a rap song and I was like, 'There's John Barnes!'
"It never went the way I wanted it to be but to have that experience was unbelievable."
When dreams of being a professional footballer began to dissipate, he stayed in the game and made a switch to coaching.
His passion would see him eventually form his own company, Y-Sports Coaching, that provides clubs and camps for kids in the city of Liverpool.
"We had sessions for areas where they had a lot of social problems," he says. "We used to go and put these street cages in these areas and used to invite kids to come and play. Obviously it was football but then we used to try to engage them and try to help them.
"Some of them were going through really bad times – being like a father figure to some of the kids and just showing them that there are people who care. I did that for 10 years and I loved that.
"We've got six coaches who go around the schools and four of them I used to coach. We've got kids off the streets who are actually working for the company, which is unbelievable."
The coaching work in the community led to an opportunity to join LFC's Academy. First it was with the pre-Academy stage before taking charge of the U9 and U10 teams.
He then earned the chance to travel with Jürgen Klopp's squad on their training camps to Austria and France in the summer of 2021. And when a role in the kit room later opened up, he was encouraged to apply and landed it.
"It's different. You're in an elite environment now, so everything's got to be perfect and perfectly run," he compares with his previous roles. "It's just preparing everything so that there's no failure, so that everything's done and the coach and players don't really need to ask you for anything.
"If they don't need to think about anything else by us doing our job properly, we're on to a winner. It does involve sacrifice but it's a good sacrifice."
Inside Liverpool: Incredible parade scenes through the city
It was only when on one of the buses for the parade through Liverpool at the end of May, having been part of a slick operation that supported a 63-game season, that Yinka truly realised his own rise.
"It was through the areas where my schools were," he smiles at the end of the chat. "It was amazing.
"I think they [the kids] were pointing up at me and they couldn't believe it, 'What are you doing there?' It was just amazing to see where I've come from and followed my dreams. That day was just the best day of my life.
"When you've got a kid who doesn't really engage with sport and then after two or three years, they're really engaged and enjoying it, that's brilliant for me. And the same here – when they're winning stuff and doing really well, it's a brilliant feeling.
"It's the same sort of feeling but at a different level."