InterviewTom Hill | The feel-good story of Liverpool's pre-season tour
Tom Hill's cameo against Manchester United in Bangkok was 20 months in the making.
It was a deserved and inexplicable high in nearly two years of pain, frustration and early starts for the Academy prospect.
Hill is undoubtedly the feel-good story within Jürgen Klopp's squad on the Asian pre-season tour, now fit again after injury troubles that began in September 2020.
In just his second game back, the 19-year-old joined Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez in the forward line for the final half an hour of the meeting with United in front of more than 50,000 spectators.
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"It was boss," the Formby-born Red tells Liverpoolfc.com in Singapore. "Walking out with some of my idols and the team that I was in was pretty strong, it was unbelievable.
"I just had my head on the game and then afterwards I just let it sink in and realised, 'That's a pretty good achievement, considering how long I've been out.'
"It was like I've worked the whole 20 months for that moment, and hopefully it just keeps going on from here."
Hill found out two days before departure that he would be part of the 37-man travelling party for the tour.
The 12-hour flight to Thailand was 'a bit emotional', he admits, as it offered him the chance to reflect on his painstaking journey up to that point.
He says: "I was training with the first team early on in the week, so I had a little idea but I didn't want to get my hopes up for anything.
"I was made up and straight on the phone to my family, telling them about it. They're all made up for me. They've all been close to me through the tough time I've had and made up I've had some good news and been able to come out and experience this whole tour.
"The coaching staff have been really supportive, telling me to enjoy it and don't put too much pressure on myself because obviously I've been out for a long time."
The start of Hill's troubles was an ACL injury – one that would already require patience and plenty of rehabilitation. But repeated setbacks with shin and back issues delayed and delayed his return.
His days began at 9am and involved treatment and gym work until the early evening. He could see his teammates' training sessions from the gym at the AXA Training Centre.
Lonely, you begin to question whether it's all worth it.
"It does cross your mind," he acknowledges. "But that's what my family was for. I could always open up to my family and go home and speak to my mum. She's always had my back, and so has my dad and my brother.
"I'm quite lucky that I've got quite a strong family and I'm not like staying with house parents or in digs."
The odd spot of fishing also helped him stay on track mentally – "It stinks your car out, but every now and then I don't mind a bit of fishing."
Hill could be in line for his second outing of the summer on Friday when the Reds take on Crystal Palace at Singapore National Stadium.
He's looking to impress Klopp and his staff again but is setting himself manageable expectations for the season ahead, given all he's been through.
"I just want to get some game time under my belt," he finishes. "And be able to have a run of games and get back to full fitness and where I was before my injury.
"I've obviously been close to coming back a few times and then had setbacks, so you don't realise how quickly things change.
"You feel like you're getting back and then [clicks fingers] something changes straight away. Obviously being able to come back, get fit and then come on the tour, it's a surreal experience and unbelievable.
"I've not set too many goals. Just focus on the day by day pretty much."