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Harvey Elliott signs first professional contract with LFC

Harvey Elliott signs first professional contract with LFC

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Harvey Elliott has today signed his first professional contract with Liverpool Football Club.

The forward has put pen to paper on a senior deal with the Reds having become eligible to do so after turning 17 on April 4.

Elliott told Liverpoolfc.com: “I think since the first day I’ve walked in, it’s been an indescribable journey so far.

“I think now to top it off with my first professional contract is a dream come true for me and my family. I’m excited to see what the future holds and I’m just excited to give everything to the club and the fans.”

Elliott joined the club from Fulham last summer and has made eight first-team appearances so far.

The lifelong Liverpool supporters’ debut came in the EFL Cup tie at MK Dons back in September, becoming the second youngest debutant in the club’s history.

Elliott’s most recent outing was as a substitute during last week’s 4-0 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield in the Premier League.

“I think when I stepped out on the Anfield pitch when I played Arsenal, I think it was an emotional thing for me,” he added. “To obviously be watching the players and to be playing them with them, honestly it’s a dream come true.

“To be in and around the fans as well, to hear them singing You’ll Never Walk Alone when you’re stepping out on the pitch, it did bring a tear to my eye. I just can’t wait to give everything back to them and just to show them what I can do.”

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LFC unites to support its local communities during COVID-19 pandemic

LFC unites to support its local communities during COVID-19 pandemic

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Liverpool Football Club, LFC Foundation and Red Neighbours have been working together since the outbreak of COVID-19 to support their local communities during these unprecedented and difficult times.

Following the postponement of the Premier League in March, LFC took immediate and decisive action to help those in need.

Through its official charity, the Liverpool FC Foundation, and its community neighbour team, Red Neighbours, three areas of support were prioritised for the club’s Unity Is Strength COVID-19 community response work – foodbanks and food, social isolation, and the NHS and key workers.

This was also supported by more than 100 volunteers who registered to lend their time to assist the club, LFC Foundation and Red Neighbours with the community response effort.

The club, which has a long-standing relationship with foodbanks in North Liverpool through its Red Neighbours team, immediately set out to enhance its support due to a sharp increase in demand for food across the city.

A few highlights from the assistance provided in this area to date includes £90,000 donated to the North Liverpool Foodbank, over £40,000 donated to the club’s Unity is Strength Emergency Foodbank Appeal to support the Trussell Trust’s Foodbank network across Merseyside, 1,000 free fresh meals per week donated to local residents in need, community groups, school hubs, the NHS and key workers, more than 25,000kg of food distributed from the North Liverpool Foodbank’s central hub and over 3,400 people provided with free breakfast hampers.

Social isolation is another key area of importance in response to the immediate crisis in order to support the elderly community and other vulnerable people who may be shielding and experiencing loneliness due during the lockdown.

A few highlights of the support provided in this area includes 950 calls made by the club’s LFC Connect phone call check-in service for those isolated members of the community, surprise calls made by Jürgen Klopp, Virgil Van Dijk, Andy Robertson and LFC legends, and LFC Foundation launched its virtual delivery for their regular participants with sessions including fitness, mindfulness and football.

Providing support to the NHS and key workers is another vital focus of the club’s COVID-19 community response work, to show our collective appreciation and acknowledge their dedication.

A few highlights from this area of support includes 25,000 protective face masks donated by LFC Foundation to Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to be distributed to Liverpool GP’s, over 3,500 cookies delivered to 327 pharmacies across Merseyside, over 300 goodie bags donated to frontline care workers, young people, new mums and families affected by COVID-19.

Matt Parish, director of LFC Foundation, said: “The past few months have brought uncertainty and difficulties for many people living in our local communities, so it was important from the outset that we had a clear plan in place of how we could provide the best support possible to make a real difference.

“To witness how the wider city region has pulled together to work collaboratively to support each other has been fantastic, and for us to be a part of that whilst continuing to extend our own work in the community is really inspiring.

“I am also incredibly proud of our staff and volunteers who to date have contributed over 750 hours to support our community response work. This demonstrates just how much people care about their local communities and are willing to help in whatever way they can.”

Forbes Duff, Red Neighbours’ senior manager, added: “I’d like to thank all the incredible people who are working so hard in our local communities to provide essential support to those who need it most and also our NHS and key workers who strive every day to keep us all safe.

“Their work is a constant source of inspiration to us and it pushes us to expand our community work further and further to help more and more people and for that we thank you.

“The impact of our work is great to see but it’s just the beginning, we have more work to do especially in relation to our COVID-19 recovery response work, which we will be working hard on in the coming months.

“I’d also like to thank our army of volunteers who have enabled us to amplify our community work and provide additional support within our local communities.”

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Football

Klopp: As long as you wear the LFC shirt, only 100 per cent is allowed

Klopp: As long as you wear the LFC shirt, only 100 per cent is allowed

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Jürgen Klopp is convinced the relentless performance levels Liverpool have reached in the past two seasons can be retained by the newly-crowned Premier League champions’ hunger.

Since the beginning of the 2018-19 campaign, the Reds have lost just two out of 69 top-flight matches, racking up a remarkable 183 points in the process.

Such form resulted in the clinching of the title last week with seven games of the current term still to play – a new record – and brought a 30-year wait to be named domestic champions to an end.

Six days on from the coronation as title winners, Klopp spoke to the media as he prepares to lead Liverpool back into action, with a trip to Manchester City on Thursday night.

On fans ensuring they celebrate in a safe manner…

I hope so. I can say it again, it is a difficult time for all of us and I can really understand it that the emotions were all over the place. I get that, it’s not only about 30 years or whatever. Most of our supporters did what we should all have done, stayed at home, maybe in their back garden, front garden, in front of the door and had there a nice whatever they could do together with their families and maybe neighbours. The pictures we saw from the city centre were obviously not what we wanted to see. I’ve said that for the first time in my life because usually I love these pictures, but this is not the time for it. That’s what we have to make sure, that it will not happen again. I hope the people listen, honestly.

On what has allowed Liverpool to reach the levels of the past two seasons…

Sorry, I cannot speak about that because everybody would do it! It’s just the boys, it’s their focus, the concentration level, not thinking about the last game. It’s the club, it’s the pressure we get from the size of the club, it’s pretty much a mix of everything. It’s the desire to do something special, it’s a desire to create your own history. That’s what we wanted and we feel in the middle of something, not at the end of something. I’ve said that for a couple of years and it’s true. We consider the end of something when we finish our career, that’s the end of this period of our lives. Until we finish our career, we have to give our everything. I’ll say it again, I like to say it – as long as you wear this shirt, less than 100 per cent is not allowed. It is not my phrase, it came from the All Blacks. I saw it 15 or 16 years ago in a nice documentary about the All Blacks and I kept that always for myself. That’s for each LFC player the same, for me it’s the same; that’s what we try to live and that’s worked out sometimes. Unfortunately not all times because we are human beings.

On how Liverpool can ensure there is no let-up in their consistency…

I never stop wanting it. OK, I will say it like this, as long as we stay humble and greedy, we have a good chance to be a really uncomfortable opponent. When you are an uncomfortable opponent for each other team, you have a chance to win. And if you have a chance to win, you have to win. There are a lot of challenges – life is constantly a challenge – and our challenge now is being champions and playing seven games against teams who fight for everything. We can show we don’t run because we have to, we can show we run because we want to. Next season, you all will make stories of it – ‘the defending champion’ and all this kind of stuff. That’s why I say, we will not defend anything, we will attack. What we get for it, I have no idea, but nothing changed. I feel it now, it was one of the best moments in my life the second knowing we are champions of England, but it is not that I have it constantly in myself now. I don’t have to remind myself, but it’s not carrying me through the day. The last week after we had two days to make sure that we got it now, that we understood what happened around us, since then we have we prepared for Man City with full focus. That doesn’t mean we will beat them, it just means we will be prepared – and that’s what we will be for the next season as well. That’s how it works and I don’t know another way. If there is another way, then maybe people will tell me, but I have learned when you think you have reached the pinnacle, you are already on the way down. We don’t feel that, honestly. I can say 100 per cent, I don’t feel finally satisfied. It is just another step, it’s a big one – unbelievably big – but not the only thing I want to talk about with the boys when I meet them in 20 years’ time.

On how he believes Liverpool can improve…

We don’t have that long a time to talk about it [because] there are so many things! Where we can be more stable, where we can be more creative, where we can have solutions, where we can react quicker, where we can see more, where our awareness can be better – a lot of things we have to react on. On the development of other teams because we play one other team each three days or each week and each team has their own idea. How we react on that and how influential our game can be on them, we have to prepare that. When other teams change, we have to change. When other teams develop, we have to develop. The best way you develop is before the other teams develop, but it is difficult. The good thing is the consistency level we showed so far and now the challenge is to keep that. That would be already development to keep that over such a long period. There are a lot of things which we can do better, what we can do different, which is sometimes better as well, and what we can do even more consistent. That’s what we have to ask ourselves for. We are all very demanding with ourselves, so that will not be a problem. We are not tired. We are just in the middle of something and we want to go.

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LFC International Academies unite during pandemic

LFC International Academies unite during pandemic

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

As organised football steadily returns across our International Academies, we can all look back on this period of instability with great pride in the collaborative response to this huge challenge.

Since the beginning of 2020, lockdown restrictions due to the global COVID-19 pandemic have had a profound impact on all LFC International Academy staff, players and parents. 

The activities our Academies provided have varied in content and delivery, leading to an unprecedented level of engagement and interaction between players and the club. This has been demonstrated by nearly a million people viewing content on social media, over 1,500 videos submitted by players and participation from youngsters in over 40 countries.

In addition to these tasks, our players used the time to continue their education in the rich background of LFC with access to view and reflect on some of the most historical moments in the club’s history.

Content across the ITP was broken down into sections covering ‘watch, analyse, practise and challenge’ with the likes of individual skill and ball manipulation demonstration videos, fitness and injury prevention activities and skills challenges.

Each LFC head coach was responsible for the specific programming of the schedule of content to ensure it was structured and delivered appropriately for each group of players. 

David Ridler, head coach at LFCIA Egypt, said: “The response from players has been incredible. Their commitment to LFC and our values has been a real positive during this difficult time.

“The players have adapted and we have received hundreds of videos where the players are demonstrating their dedication to the skills challenges and the fitness program, which means we can be confident returning to team practice and matches so we can pick up where we left off.

“It’s been important for our coaches that we have been able to continue the players’ development and education, and the ITP has enabled us to do this. Overcoming challenges with dedication and commitment is The Liverpool Way.”

The video above, which has now been viewed over half a million times on social media, is a fantastic demonstration of unity across our academies. Over 300 personal videos were submitted by our players, each narrating the famous lyrics of our anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Dan White, head of Liverpool FC’s International Academy program globally, commented: “During challenging times, the dedication and commitment from both the coaches and players has been inspiring.

“We have managed to create content that allows our players to continue their development while team training and matches have been cancelled and at all times ensure it is authentic and consistent with our principles and values.

“We have worked hand-in-hand with the coaches delivering the ITP to ensure they are supported through the process. To see so many great examples of players working on their game is a great credit to them, their parents and the staff at our coaching programmes around the world.

“The You’ll Never Walk Alone video is something we are all extremely proud of as it brilliantly demonstrates the passion in the players and just what it means for them to be part of Liverpool FC.” 

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Behind the Badge: The physicist who leads Liverpool’s data department

Behind the Badge: The physicist who leads Liverpool’s data department

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

A desire for change led Ian Graham to conclude that a life in academia wasn’t for him.

The conventional career path open to a doctor in the field of theoretical physics – a title he’d earned by completing a PhD at the University of Cambridge in early 2005 – was not one he wanted to follow. 

“Originally, I thought I would be a scientist,” Graham tells Liverpoolfc.com. 

“After doing my PhD, I started a two-year post-doc – which is basically your first job if you’re going to stay in the university sector – in polymer physics at Cambridge.

“I was a year into it but slowly came to the realisation that maybe that career wasn’t for me.”

A decade-and-a-half later, Graham is Liverpool FC’s director of research; the leader of a six-strong data analysis team that has a remit encompassing pre and post-match work, sports science, the Academy and, primarily, recruitment. 

His journey here began when an exciting alternative to his scientific pursuits presented itself through a combination of chance and fortune. 

“My girlfriend worked at the exam board in Cambridge at the time and the head statistician there sent around an email with a job advert to do football stats for a living,” Graham recalls.

“It was just luck really that she forwarded me that advert and I applied for it and got the job. It was a very sudden thing – the career didn’t really exist at the time in the same way that it does now, when if you graduate from uni with a numerate degree then you can get into the sports industry in various roles. 

“It wasn’t something I was looking to do, but when I saw the job advert I thought, ‘This would be a brilliant thing to try.’”

That switch in focus afforded lifelong Liverpool fan Graham an opportunity to professionalise two interests that had captured his imagination since childhood: football and data. 

“I’m from the top of the Swansea Valley and in South Wales in the 1980s it was all rugby, so even just being interested in football was not the ‘normal’ thing,” he says.

“When I was a kid I loved Sensible Soccer, building your own squad and that sort of thing, and also I was into American football. I liked the way you could see all the stats for it – cricket is similar – and that just didn’t exist in football. 

“So as a football fan I’d do Fantasy Football but I didn’t realise that data existed. Back in 2005, Opta existed and had been doing football stats for a while but the detailed data just still wasn’t there.”

Graham’s new employer, Decision Technology, had branched out into sport-related data and he was tasked with managing one of its contracts.

“They had a deal with The Times to do this weekly sports stats column called The Fink Tank. I ended up doing the work for that for six-and-a-half years.”

Graham’s first experiences of working on the frontline of football’s burgeoning data analysis subsector arrived in late 2006 and 2007, when Damien Comolli – then director of football at Tottenham Hotspur – commissioned Decision Technology to complete various one-off projects.

He picks up the story.

“Damien liked what we did and we’d also signed a deal with Castrol to do The Castrol Index, a player ratings system which we did from Euro 2008 to Euro 2012 while I was there.

“We’d done some player analysis for Damien before, but I think he’d seen the Castrol stuff and we went back for another meeting with him at the end of the 2007-08 season. In that summer, we signed on with Spurs on a long-term deal, which basically paid for three days a week of my time.

“It was a consultancy deal where we’d do mostly player analysis, giving recruitment advice and that sort of thing, but there were other bits and pieces too. It was kind of like whatever they needed from us, they could ask and we’d try to apply our data analysis to it.”

It was Harry Redknapp’s appointment as Tottenham manager in October 2008 that precipitated the start of a working relationship that would come to shape the course of Graham’s career.

“A few weeks after Harry came in I met Michael Edwards, who was Portsmouth’s head of video analysis and was brought in to do the same role at Spurs,” he remembers. 

“Damien had left the club by that point but straight away I could tell that Michael had an interest and aptitude in data and data analysis and he became our main point of contact there.”

Graham continued working with Tottenham until 2012, but his eye had been drawn to developments elsewhere a couple of years earlier. 

“I was really excited at the time to be working for Spurs, but when I heard the news that John Henry had bought Liverpool back in 2010 I thought, ‘Liverpool is the place to be.’”

Comolli took up post as Liverpool’s director of football soon after Fenway Sports Group – then known as New England Sports Ventures – had completed its takeover of the club in October 2010.

The Frenchman immediately sought to bring Decision Technology into the fold at Anfield, but that intention was precluded by the company’s obligations with Tottenham.

Nevertheless, Edwards’ suitability to the new owners’ methodology soon came to Comolli’s attention.  

Graham explains: “Part of Damien’s first attempt to build something at Liverpool was to get someone in who could do the football interpretation and video side, but also understand the data side and make a judgment on whether the quality of the analysis is any good or not.

“He asked us if we knew anyone who could do this sort of job and we mentioned Michael’s name as a possibility, given that we’d worked with him at Spurs, and he took Michael to Liverpool in late 2010 or early 2011 or something like that. 

“It was only after Damien left that Michael and the owners decided that rather than trying to get Decision Technology to work for Liverpool, because they couldn’t make that happen, instead – as a second choice, if you like – they could ask me if I wanted to work directly for Liverpool, which happened in April 2012.”

Graham did, of course, want to work directly for Liverpool.

“It was absolutely surreal!” he exclaims. 

“I was disappointed that Michael had left Spurs because he was really good to work with. He’d properly interrogate and ask the right questions about what we were doing and would accept that there are certain things you do see and certain things you don’t see in the data.

“So it was exciting to be going to work for Michael again and obviously the owners too, with the whole Moneyball story.

“In effect Michael has been my boss since I started at Liverpool. At the time he was responsible for advising on recruitment, the Academy and video analysis for the first team, so he was already involved in all aspects. 

“I think he saw the value, as Damien did, in having someone in the club rather than consulting. At Spurs it very much was ‘can you tell us your opinion on these players?’ and we would rarely work on anything else, but I think with being inside the club you can help out with different departments, it’s not just recruitment.”

From the small-scale beginnings of Graham operating alone under Edwards’ supervision, Liverpool’s research department now consists of six full-time staff members. 

Tim Waskett – holder of a first-class honours degree in astrophysics – was hired by Graham in August 2012, with former junior chess champion and energy industry professional Dafydd Steele and Will Spearman – who worked for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research after completing a doctorate in high-energy physics at Harvard – joining later.

“The four of us work on the stats side, but also we’ve got people who were originally in the technology department but I brought them into the research department, Mark Howlett and Mark Stevenson,” Graham details.

“They are responsible for the technology side of it – so maintaining the database for us, building our research website and so on. They do all the tech stuff and that lets the four of us focus on the data science part of it.”

Recruitment is, in Graham’s words, “the reason I was brought in”.

But while that represents their principal point of focus, his team also play a part in match analysis. 

“Pre-match, there’s a set of reports that James [French] and Greg [Mathieson] put together and then post-match there’s a similar thing that Harrison [Kingston] and Mark [Leyland] put together,” he describes. 

“What we’ve built is a platform where the analysts can either look at the opposition analysis or post-match analysis from our point of view, so we’ve got expected goals models and expected possession value models that are linked to video to say: ‘This is what we thought was a dangerous situation.’

“We rarely work directly with the coaches, but the analysts’ department have got access to all of our stats resources and they use those in their reports and meetings.”

But while they may not share regular, day-to-day contact, those in Graham’s department feel connected to the coaching staff – thanks in no small part to Jürgen Klopp’s open-minded, inclusive style of management.

“Jürgen is very open and receptive to our area,” Graham notes.

“In terms of our week-to-week relationship, I don’t have very much interaction with him, but that’s not a bad thing because he knows the analysis we do and how it feeds into the various reports and the weekly work that him and his team do. 

“Just the fact that he is open to it and intuitively understands the numbers, that’s enough. And if there is anything in particular that needs addressing, we’re there for the coaches. We’ve done one-off bespoke pieces of work where they’re concerned about a particular area of play or want to know something about travel before a game and whether that affects performance. 

“They’re aware that we can help out with stuff and give an opinion on it, which is great. Jürgen is really open to it and understands it. He doesn’t work too much with it day-to-day or week-to-week, but that’s not a bad thing at all.”

Graham grew up idolising Ian Rush and his all-conquering Liverpool teammates while creating virtual squads on Sensible Soccer

Today, he heads up a department at the club he loves and has contributed to the assembly and success of the elite, record-breaking side Klopp has led to Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup glory.

Surely that must provide an immense feeling of professional and personal pride?  

“Yes, definitely,” he agrees. 

“In the early days it was difficult at times. To come through that and have some success, to have some evidence at least that what we are doing isn’t completely stupid – that’s a nice feeling!”

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LFC Foundation donates 25,000 face masks to support local GPs

LFC Foundation donates 25,000 face masks to support local GPs

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Liverpool FC this week delivered 25,000 protective face coverings to the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) headquarters in Liverpool city centre.

The club’s official charity, LFC Foundation, donated the masks to the Liverpool CCG – the organisation responsible for planning health services for the city. 

The Liverpool CCG will distribute the medically approved face coverings for free to local GPs initially and will identify further need in the health system to donate any remaining masks to. 

Matt Parish, director of LFC Foundation, said: “We are delighted to donate these important face coverings to the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, which we hope will make a difference locally.

“We, like so many, are so proud of the work that the NHS does for us all 365 days of the year and it’s important to us that we help wherever possible. 

“It was a pleasure to meet with some local GPs on Tuesday and I hope these masks will help to support their vital work.”

Jan Ledward, chief officer for NHS at Liverpool CCG, added: “On behalf of the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, I’d like to thank LFC Foundation for this generous donation, which will be used to protect local NHS staff and patients from COVID-19. 

“During these difficult times it’s more important than ever that local organisations and individuals come together to support their local community to make a real difference.” 

The club has also launched a range of LFC face coverings for supporters. Proceeds from the sale of these products will continue to contribute to LFC Foundation’s support of the local community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These face coverings are now available to pre-order and are washable and reusable. Please note, these coverings are not medically certified for professional use.

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Behind the Badge: Basketball, teaching and becoming Academy jack of all trades

Behind the Badge: Basketball, teaching and becoming Academy jack of all trades

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Andrew Powlesland is, proudly, a jack of all trades. “I think it’s a good thing to have multiple skills and while I know the saying is ‘master of none’, I hope I have a few high-level competencies as well!”

Now Liverpool’s head of Academy business operations, most of his career, until he was hired by the Reds in 2014, was a multi-functional combination of semi-professional basketball, coaching, and education.

So while the man himself was modest enough to think “Liverpool Football Club wouldn’t want me” when a recruitment agency sounded out his services six years ago, his CV suggests a perfect fit inside the philosophy at Kirkby.

Almost two decades as a semi-pro in the top two divisions of the National Basketball League – in addition to a stint as a professional and some successful spells as a coach – give him a deep understanding of competitive sport.

Running parallel to his passion for basketball – the result of “a very tall individual” attending a school where both PE teachers were involved with the England schoolboy set-up – was a lengthy career in education, providing a wealth of knowledge that complements the Academy’s goal to mould people as well as players.

He has, essentially, seen it all; from working with amateurs playing sport as a hobby, to leading a basketball team to the British University Championship, to helping Olympians prepare for the greatest stage.

“I can talk to the coaches because I have coached, I can talk to the players because I’ve played, albeit a different game,” Powlesland, who previously served as director of sport at London South Bank University before joining the club, tells Liverpoolfc.com.

“I’m a big fan of developing empathy and if people think you understand them and you understand where they’re coming from, then they’ve got a little bit more time to listen to you.

“If you want to get messages across to players, certainly in player care terms, empathy and relationships are important – and common sporting backgrounds are part of that importance.”

Powlesland draws on his experience across those fields of top-level sport and secondary school and university teaching to manage the operating processes and procedures in Kirkby.

In conjunction with the assistant Academy director, Nick Marshall, his chief objective is to connect the various departments at the complex in their pursuit of developing young people and ensuring progress on and off the pitch under the guidance of Academy director Alex Inglethorpe.

“We have an Academy director who is very coaching-focused and wants to be out on the grass as much as possible and I try to support him so he can be out there as much as possible,” explains Powlesland of the working relationship.

“So, I pick up the operational and administrative things that at many other clubs the Academy director would be doing, such as the budget. Alex trusts me to get on with these responsibilities and I make sure he is kept in the loop.

“He has obviously always got the final nod, but I represent him on a number of those club-facing meetings and responsibilities in order to allow him to be on the grass as much as possible.

“Alex very much steers the Academy philosophy in the direction he sees is the best one for us.

“He’s always open to be challenged. He is the ultimate decision-maker but he does listen to those around him. Nick Marshall and I, I would like to think, certainly influence him sometimes.”

The organisational side of Powlesland’s role encompasses responsibility for finances, administration and business strategy.

One example of the system being put into practice, among many, would be facilitating an Academy tour; laying out the logistics of the trip once a decision has been agreed by Inglethorpe and Marshall on the who, when and where.

Budget is calculated, venues risk-assessed, travel planned. Each box ticked to allow those on the football side to better focus on their priorities.

“The games programme is really where we as an Academy try to have our USP,” he notes. “The games programme is very, very important to us, so tours form a massive part of that.”

Other elements of Andrew’s task list have been naturally accrued over time, assigned to him partly by virtue of his previous experience.

He was recently appointed the safeguarding lead at the Academy and, as part of the fulfilment of Premier League regulations, heads up a team of three in that area alongside Phil Roscoe (head of player care) and Caitlin Hawkins (head of education).

“The three of us have quite a lot of experience across this field and it’s a really good team,” says Powlesland.

“I don’t think there was ever any intention that [safeguarding lead] should be me when I first started. But I think that has probably come to me because I’m best placed, I have quite a bit of experience in that area.

“I think the club has also evolved its safeguarding provision over time; and my role is just how the Academy has responded to that restructure.

“In splitting education and welfare – which we had to do, so there are now two post-holders in my team – safeguarding also came up on the left flank as important and I thought, ‘I’ll do that.’

“The three of us – I’m the designated safeguarding lead; the head of education; and the head of player care, we’ve called it player care instead of welfare – now work very closely together to make sure we’ve got all of that covered: education, player care and safeguarding. That’s an example of how things have evolved.”

The Academy’s commitment to developing rounded individuals ready and able to make contributions to society, through football or otherwise, is well documented.

That, of course, extends to equality and diversity as an ever-changing world is reflected in the backgrounds of the youngsters coming up through the ranks.

As you might expect for a long-time educator, it’s a subject very close to Powlesland’s heart as well.

“We’ve started to recruit from further afield, so we’re getting an awful lot more Manchester-based players and players from outside of Merseyside,” he states.

“That has increased our diversity in a number of fields – not just the region they’re from, but also ethnicity and religion, and yet we still have a very similar staff profile as when I started.

“There’s definitely a challenge in communicating and engaging with people from different backgrounds than yourself and developing empathy. That’s an evolving challenge and one I’m beginning to get to grips with and looking forward to making far better.

“I spent a lot of my teaching career in the multi-cultural parts of a very cosmopolitan London. I’ve had teacher-parent conferences with people from all walks of life. I have also played with and coached some very diverse groups and I am well placed to help upskill and support the current workforce, who might not have had as much experience in those environments.

“Relationships with parents are really important in our work because obviously they are the key influencers in a young player’s world.

“If you look at the diversity of the players Ian [Barrigan, head of pre-Academy recruitment] is bringing in, it’s vastly different to what it was six years ago and that now obviously has been reflected through our foundation phase and is moving up through our age groups.

“We subscribe to all the Kick It Out sessions we can, but then I support this education to make sure there’s a balanced approach, making sure unconscious bias is addressed amongst other things.

“We celebrate Black History Month in the Academy now, which we didn’t do before I started; and I must admit I was surprised, but I suppose I looked at it through London-centric eyes. Now the club has embraced it, we celebrate it and all the boys get a lesson with me in October.”

The Academy will soon enter a new phase as the club prepares to combine its first team and youth operations on the one, expanded and refurbished, site in Kirkby.

The designs for the state-of-the-art facility feature a new 9,200m² building with three pitches measuring approximately 32,000m², two gyms, a full-size sports hall, pool, hydrotherapy complex and specialist sports rehabilitation suites.

Powlesland predicts the merger will have a hugely positive effect on the Academy players aiming to emulate the seniors, particularly given the potential layout of the site.

“Having the first-team building at the end of the horizon 400 yards away is quite inspiring,” he says.

“The plan is to rearrange the layout of the Academy pitches so that the oldest [age group] pitch is next to the first-team building, with the U18s being the next closest and so on. So you have a bit of a bridge going towards the first team.

“I do think the idea of having the building visible and tangible is good from a motivational point of view, but also just logistically; the players will have more chance to be watched by key people from the first team. But also, there is always the potential to learn from other staff and the exchange of ideas and good practice just has to be helped by being on the same site.

“I’m excited about how we can work with them and how we can gain opportunities to learn and help each other as a staffing group. For example, I would like to think that a shared training ground will give us more opportunity to do things like having Q&As with a first-team player or taking an age group squad 400 yards up the pathway and to do a training session on a first-team pitch. Those kinds of things are quite exciting.

“I do think we’re going to have to let the dust settle and find where we can get those opportunities. But there’s got to be lots of opportunities and ways that this will make us better. It’s partly my role to make sure we maximise those.”

To the final – and perhaps biggest – question, then.

With so many strings to his bow, which gives Powlesland the greatest satisfaction?

“I go back to my teaching roots,” he replies. “I like to take parent education sessions when I can. I like to take player education sessions and it’s good when you then meet a parent six months later or 12 months later and they bring those things up. It helps with the empathy and especially if they thought the session was good.

“I do really think the parents are aware the Academy and the Academy staff really do care about them and their son(s) and it’s not just always about football – we are trying to make them the most productive young people ready for society, whether that’s as a footballer or in another career pathway.

“That’s what I’m quite proud of, I think I’ve had an influence in making them good people or certainly trying to make them as good people as they can be and we really do try to bring the parents along on that journey as well.”

Categories
Football

The story of Jordan Henderson’s nine years with LFC

The story of Jordan Henderson’s nine years with LFC

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Jordan Henderson’s Liverpool story officially began nine years ago today.

On June 9, 2011 the Reds completed a deal to sign the midfielder from Sunderland, who would go on to become the club’s fifth European Cup-winning captain.

So far, Henderson has played 359 games, scored 28 goals and lifted four trophies – including three, in 2019, as skipper.

On the anniversary of his arrival, we look back at the No.14’s Liverpool tale to date…

2011-12

Henderson makes the move to Merseyside after two seasons of Premier League experience with Sunderland, becoming Kenny Dalglish’s first signing of the summer.

The No.14 debuts for the club against his former team in the campaign opener and then registers his first Reds goal a fortnight later, a cool finish past Bolton Wanderers at Anfield.

Often used on the right-hand side of the midfield throughout his opening year, Henderson goes on to feature in all but one Premier League game as Liverpool end up in eighth.

It’s a more prosperous story in the cups, though.

He starts both the League Cup final – won after a penalty shootout against Cardiff City at Wembley – and the FA Cup final, which Dalglish’s men narrowly lose to Chelsea.

Appearances: 48
Goals: 2

2012-13

The summer of 2012 sees Brendan Rodgers appointed Liverpool manager and speculation ensue regarding Henderson’s future, but he is unequivocal about remaining on Merseyside.

That decision proves pivotal and the subsequent season proves a turning point for him as he claims a regular starting position by the campaign’s conclusion.

“That was a crucial period in my career. Not only my Liverpool career but my career in general,” he later explains. “I thought that moment was big, and it was a tough moment, but one that I feel helped me, looking back now.

“I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have that moment. It was tough at the time but thankfully it worked out OK in the end.

“To be fair to Brendan, he was brilliant with me after that point; he helped me grow as a player and as a person, and I really matured under him. It was a blessing in disguise really.”

Appearances: 44
Goals: 6

2013-14

Henderson’s influence continues to blossom into 2013-14, with his energy, athleticism and touch becoming fundamental to Rodgers’ system.

By now deployed predominantly as part of a central midfield three, he visibly grows in confidence as the firepower of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez catapults Liverpool into an unexpected title assault.

Such is Henderson’s consistency, he starts 35 of 38 Premier League fixtures across the season, missing the other three due to an untimely suspension.

Agonisingly, it’s during his absence from the XI that the Reds drop vital points in the title race and have to settle for a second-place finish behind Manchester City.

Appearances: 40
Goals: 5

2014-15

Henderson’s stature is recognised in his appointment as Liverpool vice-captain, supporting Steven Gerrard, early in the following season.

Statistically, it’s the England international’s most productive single campaign for the Reds, with 54 appearances in all competitions and seven goals.

As a collective, however, Rodgers’ charges are unable to build on the progress of the previous year and drop down to sixth in the Premier League standings.

Hopes of an FA Cup triumph to mark Gerrard’s final year at Anfield are also extinguished at the semi-final stage due to defeat by Aston Villa at Wembley.

Appearances: 54
Goals: 7

2015-16

Henderson takes the captain’s armband permanently in the summer of 2015.

“I’ve learnt a lot off Stevie and how he conducted himself as the captain of this club both on and off the field,” says the midfielder upon the announcement. “You’ll always learn from top players – and Steven was exactly that.

“I’ll use what I learnt from him to help me, but I also have to do things in the way I think is right.

“I’ll carry on from what I was doing last season and I’ll also try to take on more responsibility for the team and my teammates. We all have the same goal – and that’s to bring success to this club and our incredible supporters.”

Soon there is a change in the dugout, too, as Jürgen Klopp takes the reins from Rodgers, though injury limits Henderson’s availability to the new boss and, with Liverpool having already lost the League Cup final, he remains on the bench as the campaign concludes with defeat in the Europa League final.

Appearances: 26
Goals: 2

2016-17

The skipper switches to a deeper-lying role in Liverpool’s midfield as the foundations for the club’s return to Europe’s elite are laid by Klopp in 2016-17.

A strong start to the Premier League season – including a sumptuous long-distance strike from Henderson at Stamford Bridge – sees the Reds match the early top-of-the-table pace.

Their form plateaus in the New Year, though, and a foot injury means Henderson’s final contribution to their quest for a top-four finish comes in mid-February.

Klopp’s men go on to get the job done, a 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough on the last day of the season securing a much-coveted return to Champions League football.

Appearances: 27
Goals: 1

2017-18

Liverpool’s upward trajectory is maintained as they combine another positive Premier League season with an unforgettable surge to the European Cup final.

Henderson leads the side through an exhilarating continental campaign – including knockout victories over FC Porto, Manchester City and AS Roma – to set up a showdown with Real Madrid, while once again ensuring a top-four finish domestically.

Heartbreak follows in Kiev, a 3-1 defeat again denying the Reds at the last hurdle, but the captain strikes a determined – and significant – tone in his post-match debriefs.

“We’ve got to be proud to get here. We got beat by a fantastic team,” he reasons. “We have got a fantastic team and hopefully we can keep going in the Premier League, the Champions League and the cups as well.”

Appearances: 41
Goals: 1

2018-19

Henderson’s objective is emphatically accomplished when the Reds navigate their opening 20 league fixtures without defeat and progress from a tricky Champions League group containing Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain and Red Star Belgrade.

Now into his eighth season at Anfield, Henderson further consolidates his commitment to the club by penning an extended contract a month into the new term.

The captain is unleashed into a more attacking role in the second half of the campaign, with summer signing Fabinho established as Klopp’s midfield shield, and he thrives throughout a run-in that sees Liverpool accumulate a club-record 97 points but still finish second to City.

Compensation comes in the form of a magnificent sixth European Cup.

Back from the brink to overturn a three-goal deficit against Barcelona in the semi-finals – a 4-0 win at Anfield immediately taking up residence in Reds folklore – redemption awaits Henderson and his friends in Madrid.

Tottenham Hotspur are edged out on Liverpool’s second successive Champions League final appearance and the No.14 becomes just the fifth man to lift Old Big Ears for the club.

Appearances: 44
Goals: 1

2019-20

He’s soon lifting silverware as skipper again, the Reds beating Chelsea on penalties to clinch the UEFA Super Cup in the first month of the new campaign.

By December, with Klopp’s men still undefeated in league football and building a healthy lead at the Premier League summit, Henderson dusts off his trophy shuffle once more.

Flamengo are defeated 1-0 in extra-time in Qatar – Henderson playing a key role in setting up Roberto Firmino’s winning goal – and he becomes the first Liverpool captain ever to collect the FIFA Club World Cup.

Back on home soil, they power towards their goals relentlessly and while Watford halt their remarkable 44-match run without a loss in the top flight, a 25-point lead is held when the season is paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He and his teammates now know they are set to restart their title pursuit on June 21, with six points required for Henderson to get his hands on the Premier League trophy.

Appearances: 35
Goals: 3

Categories
News

LFC teams up with Pearson to offer leading global sports education

LFC teams up with Pearson to offer leading global sports education

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Liverpool FC has partnered with the world’s leading education company, Pearson, to offer international sports industry qualifications designed to provide pathways to careers in sport, fitness and physical activity for young people and adults.

Through its LFC International Academy programme, the club will work with Pearson to create co-branded BTEC sport, fitness and physical activity sector qualifications, available to overseas learners from September 2020.

The new qualifications will combine the LFC International Academy’s experience of delivering an authentic club coaching programme to young people around the world, with Pearson’s global expertise in developing high-quality qualifications that meet the needs of the industry and employers around the world.  

Young people and adults wishing to pursue and progress their career in sport will acquire up-to-date industry knowledge and skills that will open doors to a range of roles, such as coaching, management, facilities operations, and fitness instruction. 

The easy-to-access modular BTEC qualifications will enable learners to engage in bitesize learning, take short courses or complete a full two-year programme. Units include health and wellbeing, sports psychology, and nutrition and fitness.

Billy Hogan, managing director and chief commercial officer at LFC, said: “Pearson is a global leader in the education industry, helping young people and adults get their foot on the career ladder by creating pathways into the workplace.

“We’re looking forward to working closely with them to develop these new sports-specific BTEC qualifications to open up new global career opportunities and develop sports education around the world.”

Cindy Rampersaud, senior vice president, BTEC and Apprenticeships, at Pearson, said: “The sport and physical activity sector offers a wide range of exciting and rewarding career opportunities.

“Through our collaboration with Liverpool FC, learners will benefit from the most cutting-edge knowledge and skills they need to build a career in this industry and gain a BTEC qualification that is recognised as relevant and high quality by employers around the world.” 

For more information and to register your interest, click here.

Categories
News

Red Neighbours supports local families with half-term breakfast parcels

Red Neighbours supports local families with half-term breakfast parcels

Courtesy of liverpoolfc.com

Liverpool FC’s community programme, Red Neighbours, has delivered hundreds of food hampers in support of vulnerable families struggling throughout the national lockdown.

The delivery, which is part of Red Neighbours’ ‘Breakfast Clubs to You’ initiative, provided families in need with essential food items and some goodies during the May half-term break.

Over the course of the half-term holiday, 220 food parcels were delivered to community centres, school hubs, foodbanks and local charities throughout Anfield and Kirkby areas – each containing enough food to feed a family of five for up to three days.

Food poverty – an issue greater than ever – has been identified as one of the club’s three main pillars of need during the current coronavirus pandemic alongside support for the NHS and key workers, and social isolation.

The Trussell Trust – a charity providing emergency food and support to people living in food poverty – reports that in the first two weeks of the pandemic alone, foodbanks in their network reported an 81 per cent increase in need compared to the same period last year. This equates to more than 6,250 food parcels every day, with close to 3,000 of these required for children.

With some schools still closed, vulnerable families need the help of food donations to feed their children who are at home.

In recognition of this, the Red Neighbours team plans to continue the ‘Breakfast Clubs to You’ service throughout the holidays to support local schools and families.

Jan Berrington, representative of Centre 63 in Kirkby, said: “Centre 63 would like to thank Liverpool Football Club’s Red Neighbours team for their wonderful support to our Food Parcels Project, supporting families in Kirkby who are struggling through these hard times.

“The ongoing support and donations have enabled us to help more families and young people here in Kirkby. The kindness and generosity shown is overwhelming and very much appreciated.”

The breakfast parcels – each containing staple foods such as eggs, cereal, fruit and more – have been distributed and fed up to 1,100 people during this half-term period.

Jen Austin, Red Neighbours co-ordinator, said: “Throughout these testing times, it’s essential now more than ever to support families who are struggling to put food on the table.

“This pandemic has placed hundreds of families into a vulnerable position due to school closures, meaning families must provide more meals for children at home.

“Our team will continue to offer our support throughout this crisis, and we look forward to welcoming back members of our local communities to enjoy breakfast clubs at Anfield in the not-so-distant future.”