15th November 2000
It was a cold November night in Bristol. I was at home, dressed in my full Bristol City kit, with shin pads and boots on as well. Today was my first-ever football training session with Ashton Athletic boys. I was five years old and hugely excited to be kicking a football, something which always greatly entertained me. Bristol City was my favourite club, obviously being from Bristol my Dad wouldn't let me support anyone else. Ashton Athletic Boys was essentially the feeder team for Bristol City, whose academy started with the U8's side. My Dad took me by the hand and led me out onto our driveway, before getting me into the car and buckling me into my seatbelt before reversing out of the driveway and down the road.
Bristol was usually a busy place come rush hour. But on this Friday afternoon, it seemed quieter than usual. My Dad was able to drive through the Bristol roads without any major distractions. Dad then pulled into the Ashton Athletic playing fields car park, which was a short 10 minute walk from Bristol City's ground Ashton Gate, and I jumped out of the back seat into a huge puddle next to the car, spraying my Dad with cold rainwater. He smiled at me before taking me by the hand and leading me toward the U6 coach, Bristol City left-back Brian Tinnion. "Brian. This is Liam. My son" my Dad said proudly. "Good to meet you, Liam" Brian said, ruffling my hair as I smiled shyly up at him. Brian then proceeded to lead myself and my Dad over to a small dugout at the side of the pitch before we sat down.
"So, Liam. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?" Brian asked me, attempting to coax me into an answer. I looked up at my Dad, Nigel, before clearing my throat. "I'm a Bristol City fan" I said as Brian nodded his head. "Good choice, young man" Brian said before turning toward my father. "Have you seen your son play much?" Brian asked him as Dad took a drink from my water bottle. "Yeah, I did" my Dad said as Brian noted things down on his clipboard. "Can you tell me what his attributes could be?" Brian asked my Dad. "Well, he's quite a nippy player. Quite fast when off the ball from what I've seen. But he's too young to really judge what assets he could have at the moment" my Dad said.
Brian nodded and smiled at my Dad before turning his head to look toward me. "Now, Liam. Do you understand the rules of football?" Brian asked me, continuing to show off his gleaming, white teeth. I smiled at him sheepishly before looking at my feet, swinging them as I sat still with the cold wind whipping against my face. Brain continued to write things down on his clipboard, occasionally glancing up at me, more like observing me, taking in my physique. When Brian was finished writing, he told us to stay where we were before walking over to get one of his fellow coaches, Syd. Syd was a slim but muscular person, who must have been quite a good player in his time. Syd had an aged yet cultured look about him, with slight wrinkles appearing across his face.
"Hello, Liam. I'm Syd. I'm one of the coaches here" Syd said, introducing himself whileshaking mine and my Dad's hand. I smiled up at Syd as he put his hands deep into his pockets, which to me was usually a sign of nerves. "So, Liam, today Syd will be helping you train with a small group of other players who are also joining. Is that ok with you and your Dad?" Brian asked us. "Yes. Yes, it's fine" my Dad said, with a hint of pride in his voice as he clapped his hand on my shoulder, making my knees buckle slightly. Brian then turned to look at Syd, who smiled back at Brian before looking down at me. "Come on then, kid" Syd said, leading me over toward the exercise that he had set up for us.
Over there already was a group of boys, who would be training with me today. The players were: Pat Keary, Wes Burns, Billy Murphy, Louis Perry and Tom Lockyer. Syd had penned out a little area for us with a goal at either end of the pitch. Syd then divided us up with myself being put onto a team with Wes Burns and Tom Lockyer. Syd then told us that he wanted to see how we all worked together with strangers so me, Wes and Tom were all madeto work together and win. Syd kicked the ball in from the touchline and I was first on to it. The first thing I did was immediately look for one of my team-mates and I found Tom with a pass to feet. Tom kicked the ball as far away from himself as he could but Wes was able to make it to the loose ball.
Wes crossed the ball in towards me but the ball hit Pat, with Billy picking the loose ball up. Billy surged through the middle of the park where I should have been. My little heart was breaking as I sprinted back to try and prevent my opposite number from scoring the first goal of the game. Billy swung his right foot back as hard as he could. However, I slid in and nicked the ball from his feet before taking a full whack to the face from Billy's right peg. I lay on the floor whereI I had taken the full force as I could hear Syd rushing over to me. The blood was pouring down the side of my face and I could feel it rushing through the fingers of my hand, which was pressed againt my cheek.
My Dad rushed over to me before helping me up to my feet. Syd and Dad carried me over to the Medical Area, and my Dad gently coaxed me to take my hand away form the cut. I didand my Dad must have made a hugh gasp as he saw how bloodied my cheke actually was. The kind woman on First Aid gently wiped the blood away from my face before putting a plaster over the cut on my face. Syd smiled at me as I looked at him. "I liked your commitment there, Liam. Took one for the team. Sign of a true great" Syd said ecstatically and my Dad was pleasantly beaming at me. I smiled back at my Dad and Syd as the woman threw my bloodied tissue in the bin. "I think it's best if you went back home, Liam. I'll see you on Tuesday for training" Syd said.
This is where my story began...
8th September 2002
I was now 7 years old. I had moved to Weston-super-Mare a year ago, with myself having been spotted by Weston's U8's coaches, Matt and Will, with the pair having decided that they liked my hunger in training sessions at Ashton Athletic Boys so had opted to bring me to their club. Despite Weston and Bristol only being 20 minutes apart via a short trip down the motorway, my parents decided to relocate down to Weston, where the quality of schools was much better and there was less violence amongst the streets, which made it a lot better for me to keep practicing and honing my skills in the local parks until late.
My Dad had kept his job up in Bristol as a full-time coach for Bristol Rovers, where he coached their full-time U21 side alongside their U21 manager. My Mum, however, had decided to leave her current job as a secretary at a big business and took up a post as a teaching assistant in the school I attended. I had already made some close friends at that school, namely with Year 2 student Jack Batten and Year 1 student Joe Morrell. These two were now my best friends in the whole town of Weston, I would say, and despite them being younger than me, they were the two people that I had found easiest speaking to.
These two were also keen footballers, who both played for the Priory Pumas U7 and U6 teams. The pair were also huge Weston-super-Mare fans, who went to every home game and travelled to as many away games as they could with their Dads and the travelling party. Me, Jack and Joe played in the parks as often as we were allowed by our parents, and we loved it. Ever since I had left Ashton Athletic Boys and joined Weston's academy, I had refound my love for football, with myself often going along to Weston games with my Dad, who had originated from Leeds and supported his hometown team, Leeds United.
Anyway, today was a breezy yet warm Wednesday evening. I ran down the pathway that led to the training pitches at Woodspring Park, Weston's ground, with a football at my feet. I was kicking the ball, laughing and screaming for the ball from my Dad. My Dad passed the ball to me and I kept passing it back first time. My passes were often miscued or sliced but they still reached my Dad's long legs, as he was able to control the ball with each pass and then pass it softly along the ground to my feet. I then ran onto the pitches, with the ball at my feet, and I could see the coaches Matt and Will at the far end of the pitch.
I sprinted over toward Will and Matt, who had led out a 40 x 32 pitch for us with goals at either end and then dummies in the middle and cones by the right and left touchline. "Hello Liam" Matt said, as he placed the last dummie in place before taking a proper football out of the ball bag and handing it over to me. I kicked my tatterred, old ball off the pitch and began to ran past the dummies before smashing the ball into the net. I picked the ball up from the back of the net and could see Will in deep conversation with Matt, with both pointing at me and then at some of the dummies and the squares marked by each touchline.
Will then marched over toward me before bending down to speak to me. "Liam. Can you try something for me?" Will asked, speaking cleanly and clearly to make sure that I heard every word coming out of his mouth. I nodded slightly and Will led me over toward the left touchline. "Right. So, Liam. This drill is about passing, ball control and dribbling. Now, me and Matt will show you how this drill works" Will said, as Matt marched out into a square marked where the halfway line would be. Will took the ball from my feet before placing it down on the floor.
"This drill works with the person in the square by the touchline passing it inside to the man in the square, roughly where the halfway line is. When the man in the middle controls the ball, the man who made the pass will then run into the crowd of dummies and attempt to defend from the person dribbling through the dummies" Will explained. "Me and Matt will now demonstrate" he said before passing the ball into Matt's feet. Will then sprinted round so he was behind the dummies as Matt brought the ball out of the box and began to dribble his way past the dummies.
Matt made his way past the last dummie before being squared up by Will, who attempted to force him to go to Will's right. Matt shimmied to go left but dropped his shoulder and went the other way before seeing his shot blocked by Will, who slid in at the last minute and deflected Matt's shot high and wide. I took what they did in through my tiny eyes and fixed it into my tiny head. Matt rolled the ball into my square on the halfway line before I sprinted through the dummies and reached Matt as the last person. I fired the ball toward the goal but fired wide. I was determined to keep improving.
19th November 2002
I was back on the training ground, with a football at my feet and my team-mates screaming for the ball out of my ears. I looked up and played a pass which cut through the defence for my strike partner, George, to latch onto and slot home past Will, who was stood in the goal. I did a small fist pump as I wheeled around to see Matt stood in our goal, with his arms crossed, possibly pondering how good me and my team-mates could be in 10 years time when we would hopefully be contesting for first team places. I turned back around to see Will roll the ball out toward his defender, Chester, and I immediately went to close him down.
It was another couple of minutes before I got a touch of the ball again. And this came from a moment of brilliance by myself, if I do say so. Matt rolled the ball out to our defender, Harlow, who played the ball back to Matt. The coach then passed me the ball and I escaped the attentions of midfielder Sol before driving through the centre of the pitch. I used my pace and low centre of gravity to sprint past two defenders before putting my shot just wide of the far post. I was left ruing this in a few minutes time when the other team equalised, giving Matt no chance in our goal.
The rain began to hammer down as the pitch got wetter and wetter. I found myself slipping over on a few occasions, once of those occasions being when I was clean through on goal but slipping as I went to take my shot at goal. I laid on the grass with the raindrops slowly falling down my face, before I sat up and pulled my socks up so they covered the full amount of my shin pads and I then picked myself up before jogging back to retreive the ball from the opposition midfield. I managed to put a few tackles in on the slippery surface, only to see the ball skid away from me and off the pitch on every occasion.
Matt called us in as the rain began to subside a little. "Right, boys. Me and Will both know that it's wet out there and that's why we need to have a little chat about the surface. When the grass is wet, that means the ball is more likely to move a lot faster and to skid across the surface, like when Liam was tackling earlier, the ball always got away from him. So when you're playing now, keep that in mind and try to keep the ball close to you and when you make a pass, its best to underhit it more than anything" Matt said before sending us off and a throw-in was taken on the far side.
The rain slowly stopped altogether during our training game and I realised that it was easy to play to your advantage when the surface was different to what I've played on before. Every time I made a pass, I always made sure that the ball went to the person's feet and not in front of them or into space where the ball could easily skid away from them. I looked over at my Dad, who put his thumbs up, which was him acknowledging that I had done well to adjust to my new surroundings. The opposition, however, were struggling to learn what I had figured out and I was using this to my advantage.
When I got the ball in the middle of the park, with George on the left, and a lot of space available to him, I opted to play the pass to his feet instead of passing it forward into the space. However, George was able to charge into this space, unchallenged, and reached the box before pulling the ball across to myself, and I fired home past Will off the top of my boot. Matt ended the training session there and I was particulary happy with what I had achieved, having gotten to grips with the challenging, slippery surface, which Will and Matt both congratulated me on as I walked off the pitch toward my Dad, who was beaming proudly toward me.
17th December 2002
It was the Christmas Holidays. I had just broken up from school, and I trudged into the house with my shoes wet from the torrential rain that had been falling over the past few days. I put my schoolbag at the foot of the stairs before taking my stairs off and throwing them onto the shoe rack in the conservatory. I then opened the living room door where, for the first time this year, I saw our Christmas Tree, all alight with bright lights and topped by an angel carrying a wand on top.
There were little chocolate balls wrapprd in paper hanging from the branches. I went to take one from the tree until my Mum entered the room. "Stop right there. One chocolate from the tree per day. Just like your advent calender" Mum said and I quickly picked a chocolate from the tree, unwrapped it and stuffed it into my mouth before eating it whole. "Where are all the baubles?" I asked timidly. "Ah, yes" Mum said as she pulled a box from the corner of the room. "I thought you would like to decorate the tree" she said.
I quickly hurried over to the box before picking it up and carrying it over to the tree. I placed the box on the floor before begining to place the baubles on the tree. My Mum bustled off into the kitchen and left me to decorating, which I had enjoyed doing every year since I was about 2 years old. Of course, in the house move, we had to get rid of our old Christmas tree and get a new one, but in all honesty, I preferred this tree to the old one because it was much bigger and nicer.
Christmas music began to blare through the house from the kitchen radio and I smiled as I started to dance away to the music. I pulled the couch over toward the tree so I was able to reach the upper branches, not to much success, which almost ended in me knocking the tree over three times in succession. I emptied the box of decorations before calling for my Mum to come and inspect the final product. "That's very good. Well done Liam" she said, beaming with happiness as she helped push the couch back into its usual position.
"Can I go and practice football in the garden?" I asked my Mum politely, looking up at her as she stood up straight, rubbing her back at the same time. "Of course you can. Be careful outside" Mum said. I rushed into the conservatory, quickly slipped into my trainers before rushing out into the garden and picking my football up before heading out the back gate. Beside my house was a tunnel with access to the garages, but I always liked to practice playing in the tunnel.
I threw the ball down onto the ground and began to hit the ball against the wall. I aimed to continue improving my right foot, as that was my weaker, and I had been working on this for the past few weeks whenever I have had the chance. The ball bounced off the wall as if it was one of my team-mates knocking the ball down for me or the defender heading clear or one of my passes hitting the defender and richochetting back to my feet. I liked to kick the ball against the wall as it imrpoved my reactions as well.
Based on the way I was kicking the ball and the direction it went in with each kick allowed me to determine where the ball would be going when it came back off the wall. After I had improved the use of my weaker foot ever so slightly, I then picked the ball up in both my hands and threw it against the wall, then heading it back onto the wall. Even at a young age, Matt and Will insisted that I try and use my head as often as possible to try and keep moves going when they would appear to have broken down.
I practiced this until my Dad arrived home from work at 6:30PM, where I headed inside with him as tea would be ready by now. Mum handed me my plate of pasta with tomato sauce and I began to eat it like I had never seen food before in my life. I finished my food before carefully placing my plate in the soapy washing up bowl, where I left it to stay before heading into the living room where I turned on the tree lights and stood back as I admired my handiwork. This was going to be a Christmas I would remember for sure!
21st August 2003
It was the summer holidays, and this week my Mum had signed me up for the Weston Academy Development Days. These Days were arranged to help the academy kids develop their skills throughout 5 whole days of football and these were something that I was keen to improve and I wanted to work on the things that I had been practicing over the last six months with the wall back at home.
My Dad parked in the stadium carpark before taking me into the bar, where all the other players who had signed up were assembled. A short while after I had arrived, Matt walked through the doors and began to bark out instructions. "Can the U6's-U8's follow me please?" Matt said and I took my small backpack with me and began to follow my coach out of the door and out through the first team tunnel before emerging onto the first team pitch.
"Right. Ok. This is where we were going to be based all day" Matt said, turning and smiling at us all with his arms spread wide as if to announce the Woodspring Park as a fortress.I looked around to see the main terracing was on the left of the tunnel, with a few hundred seats lining the stand that were behind the dugouts. Matt led us onto the pitch before taking us over toward the goal in front of the smaller stand.
"Right everybody. First things first, we are going to test your shooting. I'm going to get you to pass the ball to me before I pass it back to you then I want you to shoot either with the first or second touch. No more than that" Matt said. He turned and emptied the ball bag before handing us all footballs. "Liam, you're up first" Matt said, and he motioned for me to begin.
I breathed in heavily as I stepped to the front of the queue and passed the ball to Matt. Matt passed the ball back to me quickly and I was on to it in a flash. I drilled a shot using all the power in my little 8 year-old legs to put the ball into the corner before I took my place at the back of the queue. I watched my fellow counterparts do the same drill before Matt instructed us all to go and take a drink.
During our drinks break, Matt returned with Will and the pair heaved two five-a-side goals onto the pitch before laying out a pitch, which was measured as 32 x 40. Matt laid out cones, which were acting as the touchline and the byline, before we were divided into teams of 5-a-side. Matt then laid out another pitch, with the 4 teams divided out as part of a tournament.
My team won the first game 2-1 before losing the 2nd game 3-0. However, a result in the other game, which ended at 0-0, ensured that we went through to play the final. I had scored our only two goals in this tournament and I was determined to make sure my team won. The rain had begun to fall just before the final started, so I decided to use the surface to my advantage again.
As the surface got wetter and wetter during the final, every pass I made went to my team-mates feet and never in space for them to run onto. Matt and Will quickly noticed what I was trying and were instantly impressed by my endeavour and brain that I had. However, my boots were yet again struggling to hold up and I slipped when running past an opponent. However, I kept going and crossed the ball for George to tap in.
Matt ended the game shortly after, and U8 player George had sealed the game from my cross. The rain began to hammer down and we quickly fled into the tunnel where we found tunnels in the kit room to dry ourselves off with. I dried my face with the towel before handing it to an U7 player. "Well done everyone" Matt said before letting us head off toward our parents. "Did you enjoy yourselves?" my Dad asked. "Yes" I replied, happy at how today had gone.
12th July 2005
The fight had left me. I heaved myself up to the ground, pushing hard off the floor, before pulling my socks up. I shook my head vigorously before heading back toward my own half. Today was the regional cup final for the U10's. And here I was, a 10 year-old trying to fight his way past the opposition defence to try and score as manay goals as I could. But, with them being stronger than me, I was getting barged off the ball far too easily.
The referee blew for half-time, and I trudged off toward our coaches, who were stood on the touchline. I jogged to catch up with my team-mate, George. "What's going wrong?" George asked me as he caught sight of me. "I don't know" I replied sarcastically. I knew full well what was going wrong. I was too weak to be competing in a cup final like this. The defenders had found my weakness and was using this to their advantage.
"Liam. Come over here" Will said, beckoning me to move aside from Matt's instructions and to receive my personal instructions in private. I moved aside to Will, around 15 feet around my team-mates, who were huddled around Matt, and Will sat me down before joining me on the floor. "The defenders know your weakness. They've picked you out as the weakest of the team, physically. Don't let it affect you mentally either".
"You're a good player. You can do anything we ask of you, at any given moment. So this is what I want you to do, Liam. I want you to drop into the midfield, but not too much. Drop in between the centre midfield and George. Get the ball. Then if you've got time to run, do it. Get at their defence. They can't barge you off the ball when you're running at pace. That would force them into conceding a penalty" Will explained.
I nodded my head before he slapped me on the shoulder. "Good man" Will said before sending me back onto the pitch with the rest of the team. I ran over to George and whispered into his ear "I'm dropping off you. Make the runs and I can get the ball to you". George acknowledged this fact and with us being 1-0 down, we had everything to do to make sure we came away with the trophy, and that started with sticking to the coaches instructions.
We kicked off and the first thing I did after receiving the ball from kick-off was to try and find George, whom I could see out of the corner of my eye, was sprinting toward their goal already. Despite the pass being cut out, I heard a shout from Matt telling me that it was the right idea. I mouthed the word "sorry" to George, who told me it was ok. But the game was about to change.
Five minutes after kickoff, I controlled a clearance from Harlow and with nobody behind me, I turned and ran. I ran straight at the defence, before sprinting past the defender who forced me to the byline. The defender stood me up as I was unable to get a cross in. However, I managed to get a yard of space on the defender's outside and my shot hit the base of the post before George fired in the rebound for 1-1.
My team was on a high after that goal, however the opposition weren't giving up so easily and I was even forced to defend on a couple of occasions. We also had a few chances when myself and George had half-chances from the edge of the box go high and wide or straight down the keepers throat. Will and Matt were encouraging us to keep possesion and to tire the team out so we could take a breather on the ball, but this wasn't working.
With one minute left in the game before extra-time, Chester swung a ball into the box. The opposition goalkeeper flapped at it but managed to push it clear of any immediate danger. All I could remember was the ball falling to me on the edge of the area. I took one touch, before hearing the shouts of "SHOOT" from Will and shoot I did. The ball whistled into the top corner and I was in ecstasy. As the ref blew the final whistle, my goal had sealed us, the Weston U10's, the U10 regional cup.
14th March 2009
The wind whipped against my face as I brushed my long, black hair out of my face. "GET BACK" I shouted out to my team-mates as they were strolling back to defend this corner. "Harlow. Harlow, get front post" I said calmly, pointing at him before motioning toward the front post. "This goes straight away boys. No f*****g about" I demanded to my team, as the opposition No.11 tussled with me.
Today was a league encounter for Weston, where we were playing the Forest Green Rovers U14 side. The FGR No.8 strolled over to take the corner as the No.11 continued to barge into me to try and stamp his territory and authority on me. "Ref. Oi, ref, are you watching the game?" I screamed at him. "He's not done nothing wrong" the Ref replied and I turned back to face the ball.
"Come on then. Play" the ref said, blowing his whistle, and the FGR midfielder floated the ball into the box. "Get up" the keeper, Daniel, shouted at us all and our centre-back, David, powered a header clear, which soared out of the box. The right winger, Tyler, who had been left upfield, reached the ball ahead of the defender and flicked the ball on to me, after I had surged clear after the ball.
I used all the power I had in my legs to surge forward after the ball. "PASS THE BALL, LIAM. I'M IN" I heard our striker Raul shout from my right. I looked up and saw Raul speeding away through the centre of the pitch. I curled a pass into Raul's path, where he was free of any defenders, and Raul took a touch before slowing his run and cutting inside on his left when reaching the edge of the area. Raul looked up before curling a shot out of the keeper's reach into the far corner to put us 2-1 up.
"GET IN. LIAM, EXCELLENT PLAY. RAUL, SUPERB RUNNING MATE" I heard the coach Matt say. I ran over toward Raul, and upon reaching him I could see the sweat pouring down his face onto his shirt. I patted him on the back of the head before running back to my half.
It was another ten minutes before any action really happened. "Liam. Move up front with Raul" Will said to me. So I did as asked. The first thing I did while up front was leap as highest as I've ever lept before and head a David cross narrowly past the keeper's far post. And being one of the smallest and less stocky players on our side, I was usually targeted by the opposition as someone who could be bullied easily.
But I wanted to prove this wasn't the case. When the ball was next fired up towards me from the defence, I felt a push in my back. Instead of going over completley, I somehow kept my balance and kept the ball close to my feet. I instantly turned and began to charge toward the opposition defence. I strode past the defender as easily as you like but he was able to keep up with me.
With the defender breathing heavily down my neck, there was only one thing for it. I gently tapped the defender on the leg with my boot and with the pace he was running at, he went flying. The ref didn't see my little kick and I found myself one-on-one with the keeper. I gave him the eyes, feinted to shoot toward his near post to send him to ground before curling into the far corner.
I had won the game for Weston. I whirled away in celebration and glanced a look back at the way I had ran. The defender was back on his feet, his legs covered in grass and mud, complaining to the referee that I had kicked out. The ref wasn't having none of his complaints though and the goal was allowed to stand. I recieved the applause of the watching parents, my coaches and my team-mates. The defender's complaints were music to my ears.
The game was over and I walked off the pitch on cloud nine after having cheated to get the winner in the game.
I trodded off toward my Mum, who handed my drink. I took a huge sip before gulping my powerade down to try and quench my thirst after an exhausting game.
"You played well today, son" Mum said. I spat my drink out onto the ground. "Thanks, Mum" I replied, looking up at her and smiling.
Will, dressed in his white Weston tracksuit with his intials implanted on the jacket, strode up with me, joined by a man dressed in a suit.
"Well done today, Liam. I want to introduce you to Brian Tinnion. He's Head Of Youth at Bristol City" Will said, introducing myself to Brian.
"I know Brian. He used to coach me when I was with the Ashton Athletic Boys. Nice to see you again, Brian" I said, extending my hand for Brian to shake.
"Hello, Liam. It's good to see you again. How have you been doing?" he asked me. "I've been doing good thanks Brian. Spent a few weeks out of the game because of an injury" I replied.
"What was the injury?" Brian asked me.
"Just a niggling knee injury that kept holding me back. That was around a year ago. I'm all fine now" I said, smiling up at my former youth manager.
"That's good to hear, Liam. Listen, can I have a talk to you in private please" Brian asked me, before I turned to look at my Mum enquiringly.
"I'll be waiting in the car" Mum said, heading off toward the gravel car park on the other side of the pitches. Brian led me over toward a fence, out of the earshot of everyone else.
"I've been keeping tabs on you for a few years now, Liam. I've been in contact with Will and Matt about how you've been doing" Tinnion announced quickly.
"Really? I don't know what to say to that, Brian" I responded, astounded that Brian was talking about me in this vein as if I was on a par of other players at high-level clubs.
"The real reason why I've come here today, Liam, is because since you left Ashton Athletic 8-9 years ago, we've missed somebody with the commitment on the pitch".
"The main nucleus have stayed with the club since you left and now play for Bristol City U14's People like Pat Keary and Wes Burns are still there".
"But, I'm here today because I want you to rejoin us at Bristol City. Would you come on trial with us for a few weeks and see if you want to return?" Tinnion asked me.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'll come back on trial. When and where do you want me, Gaffer?" I asked him, with myself now beaming with pride at having got this opportunity.
"Are you sure, Liam? Because at Bristol City, we don't want players wh won't want to impress and break into the first team there" Brian demanded with a steely glint in his eyes.
"No. I'm sure. I want this chance, Brian. I won't let you down" I replied, speaking so quickly I'm not sure if Brian picked my speach up.
"Good. Be at our training ground on Monday please. And don't be a minute late. We try to avoid all puncuallity issues at City" Brian said, before getting up and walked away.
I sat still at the table for a while, rocking backwards and forwards, not realising what was going through my head at the moment. This was my chance to go and impress!
21 November 2010
The rain hammered down on the turf, along with the running steps of the 20 outfield players. I slowly combed my long, lanky black hair out of my eyes with my hand to avoid it getting in the way. "DROP BACK. MIDFIELD, DROP" I shouted at the top of my voice as we were under constant pressure.
However today I wasn't playing in my favoured central midfield position. I was being played at left-back, with Brian attwmpting to stop all the attending scouts from seeing my real skill in my usual position.
The cross came in from the opposition left-hand side. The ball soared over the central defence. "AWAY, LIAM" our keeper, Chris, shouted. I rose, unchallenged, to nod the ball clear.
The ball fell to the Yeovil midfielder though, and he put the ball back into the box first-time. I backpeddaled in an attempt to clean up any danger and after a knock-down was put my way, I hammered clear with my right foot, only to be bundled over by Yeovil's striker.
The Yeovil striker fell with me, and while falling, his flailing arm hit me on the side of the head. Even though it may have been an accident, it was with enough force that it may have been deliberate.
"What was that for?" I immediately asked the striker, as we both lay on the floor following our collison. "Shouldn't have been in the way then should you?" the Yeovil striker responded as he pulled his socks back up to its normal height.
I pulled myself back up to my feet before jogging away from the Yeovil striker and rejoining my defensive backline. My centre-back pairing of Pat and Tom cleaned up a clearance from Yeovil before laying the ball off to me.
I recieved the ball from Dave before assessing my options. I had my striker, Wes, pointing into the left channel which was clearly where he wanted me to play the ball. I could pass into central midfield where there was space. I had the centre-backs to pass to as well.
"MAN ON. RIGHT SHOULDER" central midfielder Billy Murphy shouted. I could feel the hammering of a Yeovil player's footsteps while running pounding in my ears. I immediately felt a clip of my ankles as I jinked to the left to try and escape.
I lost my balance slightly before managing to regain it. I kept the ball under control before looking up and seeing the same striker who had battered me down the other end stood in my way. "LIAM. PLAY IT INSIDE" Pat shouted at me. But I wasn't willing to do that.
I moved the ball ahead of myself slightly to try and tempt the striker into making a tackle. I could see that the striker was keen on dispossessing me so I continued to try and tempt him.
I could see that Billy was offering an easy option for me in the centre of the park. I knew the striker was fast but I risked it. I played the ball inside to Billy before getting on my bike and steaming ahead of the ball.
"BILLY. PLAY ME IN" I shouted as the striker was desperately trying to keep up with me. Billy turned and played a beauty of a ball over the top toward me. I brought the ball under control with my right foot before looking for Wes in the box.
However, the ball hit the striker and he was first onto the ball, which had richochetted well for me. The striker began to surge away up the pitch, with all my energy having been used in my last run.
Luckily for me, Billy had came across the cover the space that I had left open and slid in on the striker to result in a Yeovil throw-in. As I jogged past my coaches Brian and Syd, they didn't look best pleased with me.
"Liam. Concentrate on your defensive duties. If other players have the ball further up the pitch, then go and join them. But when you go forward and are 50 yards ahead of your team-mates, then that's not alright. It leaves us far too open at the back then" Brian said.
I shook my head as I took up my position to defend the throw-in. This time, I avoided the striker to make sure I didn't do anything rash as I could sense my blood was boiling inside of me, like a sleeping dragon that wanted to roar and lash out.
I could see the striker glancing at me as I marked one of his other team-mates. "The first ball's ours, boys. The second ball has to be ours as well" I said, looking around at my team with the Yeovil right-back wiping the wet ball with his top.
"Come on then. No time wasting" the referee said, demanding the Yeovil player to throw the ball in. The Yeovil player threw the ball in toward the striker who had been contesting with me all game, who was fighting with Pat to win the header.
Pat's hands were all over the Yeovil striker. The striker was determined to fight Pat off of him but to no avail. Then, the striker swung his elbow with full force and Pat fell to the floor, holding his face on the ground.
I sprinted over to the striker before going face-to-face with him. I could feel his hot breath on my skin as I bore into his shallow, grey eyes. "What was that for, eh? He did nothing wrong" I said to him, practically shouting.
"He had his hands all over me, mate. I wasn't going to just stand there and take it" he replied. "So, you just decided to elbow him in the face and send him to the ground then?" I questioned him.
I then moved my head forward a few inches and hit the striker on the head. I had headbutted him. The ref ran over toward the pair of us and flashed the red card twice in both directions. I walked off the pitch in anger and got a small consolation from Brian.
"Unlucky Liam. It was reckless but try to control your anger in future" Brian replied. I looked across at the striker, who had thrown his drink bottle to the floor in anger. But, unknown to me, the Yeovil striker I had clashed with was Mark Beck.
4 December 2010
The frosty grass crunched under my feet as I chased the long ball out from defence. I took the ball under control before putting my cross into the box.
"GET UP, WES" I heard Brian scream from the touchline. The lone striker today, Wes Burns, leaped above the two defenders but his looping header settled on top of the goal net.
"Unlucky Wes. Keep going. Good chasing, Liam. Keep going, mate. The first goal will come soon" Syd said, trying to encourage us all to keep going in the freezing cold.
I jogged back toward the halfway line where the front three, which consisted of me,Wes and David, sat, waiting for the goal kick to come our way.
"Win the first ball and get onto the second ball" Brian said, with his arms crossed by the sideline, dressed in full tracksuit, with his gloves covering his hands.
The Swindon goalkeeper's foot hammered through the ball, with the sound reverberating through the air. "PAT'S BALL" central defender Pat Keary shouted through the air.
Pat got the leap on the small central defender, who got stuck under the ball. Pat headed the bal forward and Wes flicked the ball forward in between the Swindon right-back and a central defender.
I raced onto the loose ball and found myself in the clear. I was bearing down on goal when a central defender came racing out of nowhere. I cut inside and put the defender on his ass.
I looked up and saw David driving into the area with all the power in his legs.
I dug my foot underneath the ball and clipped it into the diagonal path for David to race onto. The small frame of David stooped to get his head to the ball.
David's header wasn't very powerful but he nodded the ball as far as he could into the corner, across the keeper to give us a 1-0 lead.
I ran up to David before congratulating him. "Cheers for the cross, Liam" David called to me. "No worries. You were in a good position" I replied.
The game petered out with not too much to talk about and I ended up trodding off the pitch with euphoria spreading through me after my assist got us a 1-0 win.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned around to see a man wearing an England jacket staring down at me. "You played well today, Liam" the man said.
"Thanks. How do you know my name?" I replied, shocked that this man, who I had never seen before in my life, knew my man and had decided to approach me today.
"I'm Adrian Boothroyd. I'm Head Of Youth Development at the England setup. Would you like to come and train with the U16's in the next few weeks?" Adrian asked me.
I stood up at Adrian, dumbfounded, not knowing what to say next. "Ummm...Yes. I would love to, Mr. Boothroyd" I replied, pinching myself as hard as I could.
"Call me Adrian, please Liam. I don't like my players to call me by my surname. It doesn't feel right" Adrian said, his white teeth on show as he smiled down at me.
"Thank you for this opportunity, Adrian. I won't let you down" I said. Adrian nodded at my words. "Glad to hear that, Liam" Adrian said.
"You won't regret this. I'm going to take this opportunity" I said, not knowing what to say to end the conversation with England's Head Of Youth.
"Now, onto where and when we want you. Come down to Wembley next Tuesday and we can accomodate you for a few weeks to see how you do".
"I will introduce you to all the important people who can help your career grow and I want you to meet some people within the U21 and senior setup".
"Don't be late, Liam. I want you to be there" Adrian said before walking off toward the car park. I stood still in numbness at the conversation I had just had with Adrian Boothroyd.
I shook my head to try and rid myself of the emotions I was currently feeling. But this was my dream. It was about to be fulfilled.
Liam Drury was about to become an international player...
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