The Footballers" Football Column – Frank McParland: Liverpool playing Real Madrid and Histon was a real experience

FRANK McPARLAND: Playing Real Madrid in Qatar was all well and good… but a cold, wet night in Histon is what really makes a Liverpool player


09:59 GMT, 20 February 2013



09:59 GMT, 20 February 2013

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Liverpool’s Director of Academy and Player Development Frank McParland returns for his second Footballers' Football Column. He and his young players have been on their travels – from a cold wet night in Histon to taking on the might of Real Madrid in Qatar. Having watched the likes of Andre Wisdom move into the first team squad , McParland is busy developing the next generation of Anfield stars.

It's been an important couple of weeks in the education of our young players. We took a group to Qatar for the Al Kass International Cup, we played Histon in the FA Youth Cup fourth round and tonight we face Sporting Lisbon in the NextGen Series.

Qatar was fantastic. Some of the biggest clubs in the world were there: Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Fluminense, Boca Juniors, Paris St Germain and we were playing at the Aspire Zone where Manchester United had been for their break the week before.

We were there for 12 days to play in the tournament and the facilities were superb with glorious weather.

The contrast with Histon last Wednesday night was stark but so important.

Meeting an old friend: Frank McFarland with former Liverpool striker Fernando Morientes

Meeting an old friend: Frank McFarland with former Liverpool striker Fernando Morientes

We made a real point on the night of
speaking to the lads about how much we do for them. How we take them to
places like Qatar, how we play in the NextGen Series against big-name
sides and in the big stadiums. But this, in the FA Youth Cup, this is
real football and, if you can't adapt for both, you are not going to be a
top player for Liverpool Football Club.

It couldn't have been a better
leveller to keep them grounded. It was a horrible night, absolutely
freezing and the pitch at the Glass World Stadium was really

Histon's first team had played on it the night before, there
were over 1,500 fans in the ground and they had some really good

The great thing for us was that the
lads responded to what we had said. They handled the physical side and
played like proper professionals with a good attitude and controlled the

We had a few Under 16s in there and it was pleasing how they came
through. Kris Peterson, Jerome Sinclair, Jack Dunn and Dan
Trickett-Smith got the goals an d we won 4-0.

Joining in: Liverpool academy players at the Shafallah Center

Joining in: Liverpool academy players at the Shafallah Center

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The aim is to keep educating and make these young players more rounded as men and footballers who will help the first team.

It was pleasing last month that when Andre Wisdom got his new long-term contract he came down to the Academy at Kirkby to thank the coaches and staff for their help in his development. It was a nice touch.

We take pride in the fact that as well as Andre and Raheem Sterling, Conor Coady is training with the first team – as is Suso – but they all take time to come across to the Academy not just to see their mates but to keep in touch with the staff.

We're still here for them if they need us and it shows they appreciate what we have done.

Qatar was a great learning experience on and off the pitch for the lads. There was a big focus on the Al Kass tournament and every game was live on TV.

They had to deal with different styles and approaches in the games. Against Esperance Sportive, of Tunisia, for example, Jerome Sinclair came in for a bit of rough treatment where one of their guys kneed him in the back three times. He didn't react once.

It's something we constantly tell them. It's not always easy in the face of provocation but teams from abroad will try different things.

Some defenders will spit at you, some will pull at you, block you, the important part is you have to stay in control.

The play-off games pitched us against Real Madrid and gave me a chance to catch up with Fernando Morientes who is part of their U17s coaching set-up now. I played a part in helping bring Fernando to Liverpool from Madrid and it was good to catch up with him.

We lost 2-1 to Madrid but Rodolfo Borrell, our head of coaching, was chatting to their staff afterwards and they were complimentary about our style of play.

We had given them their best game they said and they also believed we played more like a continental side than typical British one. It's always beneficial to hear that sort of feedback.

Tournaments often mean players have a lot of downtime and we've stressed how they need to be responsible in this time for themselves and the club. Liverpool are really powering forward off the pitch in terms of embracing new media and embarking on different commercial activities to spread the word about the club and the players got a taste of what may lie ahead.

Stepping up: Andre Wisdom has moved up into the first team squadStepping up: Andre Wisdom has moved up into the first team squad

Stepping up: Andre Wisdom has moved up into the first team squad

Doing their bit: The Liverpool players with disabled children at the Shafallah Center

Doing their bit: The Liverpool players with disabled children at the Shafallah Center

Dee Kundra, the club's PR manager, came with us. Dee was the only woman in the group and while the lads stopped short of calling her 'Miss', they were all on their best behaviour, no swearing and all putting on their best manners.

Dee co-ordinated with Standard Chartered, our sponsors, to set up a visit to the Shafallah Centre in Doha which is a place for children with special needs and some are severely disabled.

It was an incredible experience for the lads and they got really involved. They helped out not just in the sports classes but the music ones.

We were actually due to leave when one of the children started playing a Justin Bieber song and Jordan Rossiter, one of our 16-year-olds, made sure everyone waited until the song was finished and all the players stood and gave a round of applause.

It underlined to the lads how important a role they can play in other people's lives.

Guitar hero: Justin Bieber performs in Oakland, California last October

Guitar hero: Justin Bieber performs in Oakland, California last October

We spent an evening with the supporters club out there also and gave them official status as the Qatar Reds with a little certificate presentation. Even the British ambassador Michael O'Neill professed to being a Liverpool fan.

He went to our first game and asked us to put on a coaching session for Doha College at the embassy.

Myself and the lads also had a little treat as Spain were over playing Uruguay so we took the chance to get our pictures taken with the World Cup and European Championships trophies that they had brought over.

There's no harm in dreaming – even for me.

Different ball game: The players join in with a game at the Shafallah Center

Different ball game: The players join in with a game at the Shafallah Center

Frank and the Liverpool FC Academy support the Seeing is Believing campaign

Media training is something that has become pivotal to our young players' education and we work hard on that. Being
prepared for what questions they may face as they develop is another
facet we have to take care of and they got some good experience after
the games.

There was one particularly where Jerome Sinclair, Jordan Ibe, Dan Trickett-Smith and Cameron Branningan had to deal with answering questions post-match on their headphones and wait for the translation from Arabic.

They handled it brilliantly.

Liverpool has also launched 10 new international Twitter feeds, which means we have overtaken Barcelona as the most globally active club. The idea is to interact with fans more so we have feeds in areas such as Bahrain, India, Turkey, Spain and Thailand and we use local people on the ground to bring conversations from fans to the club.

I'm not sure I believe all the lads though. Jordan Ibe said he wanted to be a maths teacher in one of his Twitter questions… I didn’t even know he liked maths.

Time for a photo: The team pose with chairman Hassan Ali Bin Ali

Time for a photo: The team pose with chairman Hassan Ali Bin Ali

Doing it for the kids: The Liverpool players put a smile on the faces of the children

Doing it for the kids: The Liverpool players put a smile on the faces of the children

Pass and move: The players teach the children the Liverpool way

Pass and move: The players teach the children the Liverpool way

Supporters would have been aware that for the West Bromwich Albion Barclay's Premier League game last Monday, the first team wore shirts with the 'Seeing is Believing' logo as part of Standard Chartered's campaign. The shirts have been signed by the first team and are to be auctioned off on e-Bay to raise money for the charity. It's also something we got our lads involved in at the Academy.

A week before we went to Qatar, we had a few young people from Royal Society for the Blind down and got involved in some coaching sessions.

Again, it was rewarding how the lads responded. They really looked after the people they were paired with and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did.

The downside to a footballer's life was brought home when Marc Pelosi suffered a bad injury against West Brom on Sunday as the U21s won 2-1. Marc is 18.

He is a versatile midfielder who had been playing really well of late but a tackle two minutes from the end broke his leg in two places.

He spent the night in hospital for his operation but he will be looking at around six months out.

It's not been a great month for injuries with Brad Smith our Australian left-back and Sami Yesil, the German striker we bought last summer, both injuring anterior cruciate ligaments also.

A young footballer's life isn't always as perfect as it seems and it's important at this stage we give them plenty of support. We obviously wish them all a speedy and full recovery.

Jordan Ibe’s responses to questions from the Turkish Twitter feed @LFCTurkey
Jordan Ibe

How did you feel in your debut with LFC
I felt quite nervous and it was a lot to take in as I didn't know I was starting

What's is your favourite food Do you have a special food pre-games
Food before a game is usually pasta and mince but my favourite food is macaroni cheese!!

How does it feel to be a part of LFC How did it happen
I was playing for the first team at Wycombe Wanderers at 15 then LFC came for me and I've never looked back

Who is your best mate in the team
Ryan McLaughlin…we're the youngest in the reserves so we get along well

How do you describe the fans
Fans are amazing! I'm always impressed with the support they give us young players

If you weren't a footballer, which profession would you choose If you we're to be a coach, which team would you like to coach
I love maths so would've been a maths teacher. I'd coach Chelsea for sure!

How is it like to be in the same team with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher
They are both really supportive and encouraging of young players and make us feel welcome in training

What are your future plans with LFC Can you tell us about the first moment he heard LFC's interest for him
Hope to stay here as long as I can. I was excited about a big club showing interest in me

Who is your idol in football
Brazil's Ronaldo!!!

What type of music and which artists do you enjoy listening to
I like all music apart from opera and rock n roll. Listening to Chris Brown and Drake at the moment