FeatureMeet the Academy: The humble and inspired Michael Laffey

By Liverpool FC


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As Jayden Danns' eyes lit up, one Liverpool supporter in the lower Main Stand knew exactly what was coming next.

"I just went 'dink'," says Michael Laffey, reflecting on his Academy teammate's big Anfield moment, that first senior goal in front of the Kop during the Emirates FA Cup victory over Southampton last month.

"I knew what he was going to do," 18-year-old midfielder Laffey tells Liverpoolfc.com. "I've seen him do it so many times before, so to see him do that right in front of me, and then celebrate like he did, it's just mad.

"I've grown up with Jayden since we were 10, we were playing [for the] 18s earlier this season, and now he's doing that at Anfield…"

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Danns, of course, isn't the only Academy prospect to make his mark in Jürgen Klopp's team in recent months.

Lewis Koumas, another who Laffey counts as a friend, also netted in that Southampton game, Jarell Quansah and Conor Bradley have emerged as senior regulars, while the likes of Bobby Clark, James McConnell, Trey Nyoni, Calum Scanlon, Mateusz Musialowski and Luke Chambers have all been used at various points this season.

For Laffey, a lifelong Red born and raised in Fazakerley, the message is clear: keep working, because you never know what's around the corner.

"It's definitely inspiring," he says. "Jayden and Koumas, they were playing with us, you know. Macca [McConnell] last year, I was playing midfield with him.

"When you get the chance, you've just got to try to impress. If the opportunity is there, you've got to take it. Those lads have, so fair play to them."

Laffey himself has enjoyed a stellar season at youth level, playing regularly with Marc Bridge-Wilkinson's U18s and recently making the step up to Barry Lewtas' U21s.

A combative midfielder with an eye for a pass, the young Scouser says he is pleased with his development after a difficult end to the last campaign.

"I did my ankle and had to have an operation," he says. "So I missed all of pre-season and I was playing catch-up for a little while after that, getting up to speed.

"As it's gone on, though, I've been pleased with my progress. I think I've kicked on this year and done quite well. I think I've got stronger and stronger and fitter in each game, so I think it's gone well."

Laffey joined Liverpool as an U10 player, having initially been at Everton. His allegiances, though, have never been in question.

"I've always been a Liverpool fan," he says. "Even when I was at Everton, me and my dad used to have Liverpool scarves hanging out of the car and that!"

His dad, Mick, has been a key influence on his career, rarely missing a game home or away.

Praise, though, is not something that is dished out regularly in the Laffey household.

"In my dad's eyes, I've never had a good game!" Laffey says. "Whenever someone asks him how I'm getting on, he'll only ever say, 'Oh, he's doing alright.' He never goes overboard. It's always, 'Stay grounded and keep improving.'

"I used to get in the car and think I'd had a boss game and he'd go, 'Well you should have done that better…' and that'd be it!"

He continues: "But he's been all over the world to watch me. We had one game in Russia, Zenit away when we were U12s, and he was there. He's been to Lithuania, everywhere. Sunday mornings as well, Middlesbrough away, Stoke away, and he was there rain or shine.

"I think he enjoys it, like, but I appreciate it. To have that support everywhere has been massive for me. My sister, she comes to games now as well, even the away games. To have family there at every game, it means a lot."

Laffey also singles out key figures from the Kirkby Academy – coaches Michael Yates and Anthony 'Tosh' Ryan – as big influences, and remembers working with the legendary Steve Heighway too.

"It was the little things with Steve," he says. "Like basic stuff, but where maybe another coach might overcomplicate things, he'd just get to the point. He was old-school, but it was good.

"The sessions may seem basic, but we were like, 'This is what [Steven] Gerrard and [Michael] Owen have done.' So if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us!"

He adds: "Tosh was massive for me. We had about four seasons with Tosh and nobody else. We won the national cup, we won a tournament over in Spain. Yatesy and Tosh were there all the way when we were growing up. We had them for a long time.

"Then Phil Roscoe when he was here, he sorted everything, school-wise, transport, whatever you needed. Especially going to Rainhill, he sorted everything. Now Ted [Smith] and Caitlin [Hawkins], they've taken over and they do so much for us."

Laffey, of course, still gets to Anfield as often as possible, but says he looks at games through a different lens these days, using them as scouting missions to see what the likes of Wataru Endo and Alexis Mac Allister do.

"They're the main ones," he says. "Even when the ball's gone or we're attacking, I'll still look at what they're doing off the ball, see where they are standing, ready to press.

"In the back of my mind, I'm always thinking, 'What do these top players do to be playing in the Premier League for Liverpool?'

"It's the little things that make the difference at that level, and they just know when to press, when to sit off and then go, when to push forward.

"Obviously I'm watching as a fan so sometimes I follow the ball, but I do try my best to keep my eye on what's going on with them."

The goal in the future, he adds, is to one day be training and playing alongside them.

"That would be everything," he says. "Most young lads in Liverpool would dream of that.

"To get even this far is something, but if and when that opportunity comes then I've just got to try to take it.

"To play at Anfield would be unbelievable, what I've worked all my life for. Hopefully I'll get there."

He adds: "Even my dad would be made up there, [getting] everyone back to his pub [the Glenbuck Hotel on Walton Breck Road] after the game.

"Imagine that after I'd played! I'd still go back and show my face."

And who knows, maybe he'd even get a 'well done' then, too.



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