A cold winter morning at Liverpool’s Academy in Kirkby. Dark and gloomy, rain the air and frost on the ground.
It’s 7.30 and a group of Reds coaches are preparing for their morning five-a-side in the Ian Frodsham Indoor Arena.
It’s a regular game, but this one isn't. Not today.
Because this time, a living legend is joining in. Better bring your A-game.
Steven Gerrard’s return to Liverpool last month caught nobody by surprise. It was on the cards from the moment he called time on his illustrious playing career that he would go back to the club. His appointment in a wide-ranging coaching role at the Academy felt, Gerrard said, like “completing the circle.”
But what is less well known is that Gerrard prepared for his new role by travelling to Kirkby for those morning games, for weeks before his appointment was finalised.
The aim was to get to know the staff at Kirkby. The likes of U18s' manager Neil Critchley and Tom Culshaw, the U13s coach, play in the games, along with other coaches and members of the club’s scouting and recruitment team.
They’re competitive, and of a more than decent standard.
"They're a proper game, very competitive. It could be the Champions League or the World Cup final as far as Stevie is concerned, it's a good game" joked one Kirkby source.
The games also meant early starts for Gerrard, who would be showered, changed and heading home by 9am while the rest prepared for a day’s work. Weeks later, he would be joining them on the staff. He has been working predominantly with Barry Lewtas and his U16 side so far.
The five-a-sides continue though.
Gerrard announced his retirement from playing in November, after two years in America with Los Angeles Galaxy. The 36-year-old made 710 appearances for Liverpool across 17 years, scoring 186 goals, captaining the club between 2003 and 2015. He also captained England at two World Cups, winning 114 caps for his country.
So one imagines he has raised the standard in those Kirkby kickarounds somewhat...
Source: Liverpool Echo
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