Tuesday 05 March 2013
Liverpool's Academy youngsters came face-to-face with their heroes recently as the club's entire first-team and backroom staff paid a visit to the Kirkby complex.
Staff and players worked with every age group from the Under-8s to the Under-16s while manager Brendan Rodgers, who came up with the idea for the visit, and Academy director Frank McParland hosted a Q&A session with the U18s and U21s.
The aim of the visit was to help inspire and encourage the youngsters while also giving the senior players and coaches the opportunity to pass on their knowledge and advice.
And manager Brendan Rodgers, who was behind the idea, said the visit was a superb way of achieving his aim of having a 'one-club' mentality at Liverpool.
"I think we should do more things like this"
"Because we're not based on the same site, we never get the chance to see the young players on a day-to-day basis - but it's very important they feel part of the club," he told the club’s website.
"The youth is the heart and soul of the football club and it's great for the senior players to come down here and mix in. Overall, it'll give everyone a boost.
"A day like today, the parents and kids will remember it for the rest of their lives - they'll never forget someone as iconic as Steven [Gerrard] saying something to them. If they can take that through into their career, in 10 years' time Liverpool might have a player that goes back to what he said to them.
"My job as a manager here is to make it a one-club mentality and for the senior players to come here."
Liverpool's players got heavily involved in the action as the youngsters got a chance to play with and speak with their heroes.
Defender Jamie Carragher took part in an U12s match, Luis Suarez joined Pepe Reina and Sebastian Coates in training drills with the U9s, new signing Philippe Coutinho worked with the U10s while captain Steven Gerrard helped the U8s with shooting practice.
"I wish I could have had the opportunity to have trained with my idols"
"I've loved the event. I loved spending time with the kids - we've got some excellent players," said Gerrard. "I spent time with the U8s today and some of the touches and technique was magical. It was great to see and put a big smile on my face," said Gerrard.
"They asked me a lot of questions about what it's like to play for the first team and I think we should do more things like this - the first team coming down, spending time with the kids and giving them little bits of advice to help them."
And Reina said it was 'a pleasure' to have been part of an event that could play a pivotal role in the development of the Academy players.
"My advice is to try and work as hard as you can," he added. "It's important for them to realise how hard it is to reach the top but they have to try their best.
"There are a lot of talented players here and even in the nine-year-olds, you can already see the skills they have.
"I wish I could have had the opportunity to have trained with my idols when I was their age. It's great to see their smiles, effort and commitment."
(Written by James Carroll. This article originally appeared on Liverpoolfc.com)