Courts opened up space for Nigel Chin to understand what goes into making a top Premier League footballer.
Having never experienced professional football coaching before, FFT jumped at the chance to join up with Liverpool International Football Academy to take part in the football clinic held for Meridian Junior College’s football team.
It was weird being among a group of boys - players who were at least 7 years younger than FFT was - but football replaced any awkwardness the moment the session started.
The training, christened the ‘Liverpool Way’, unsurprisingly focused heavily on passing and movement off the ball - the fundamentals of modern football.
Drills not only emphasised the quality of our control, but the eye contact and communication between players as well.
Our coaches - Fraser Ablett, Anthony Owens and David Kirner - addressed us at the start, making it clear an easier session was not in store despite the hot afternoon weather (we started at 2pm).
First up was a drill compromising 4 stages that aimed to improve an individual's first touch and ability to play one-touch passes.
We were separated into two groups, differentiated by our bibs. One group stood inside a square marked by cones, while the rest were positioned a fair distance away around the square.
The instructions were clear. Those inside the square were to move around before making a run out to receive a pass from one of those outside.
The first stage was to control and return the pass first-time. The second stage was to return the ball while it was in mid-air. The third was to chest the ball before sending it back, while the last was most challenging, when we had to control the ball with our chests, cushion it with our heads and then returning it when it fell.
Something dawned on me by the end. The drill not only emphasised the quality of our control, but the eye contact and communication between players as well. It was certainly chaotic with 10 of us running inside a square, but the process was made easy enough when someone made eye contact and called for the ball.
We were separated into groups of 4 for the next routine. It was another passing drill that not only affirmed, but built upon, the lessons of the previous one.
This time round, the focus was to look over our shoulders before receiving the ball and turning round to pass it. Once again, what I had thought was a basic fundamental turned out to be much harder than initially expected.
Many a time, FFT failed to look over my shoulder before calling out a pre-determined number, one of the requirements, before passing it to my mate. It was then that FFT realised that the exercise was again not aimed merely at honing technique or skills, but to introduce that little voice in the back of our heads to always seek passing options before receiving the ball.
The third component of training targetted the improvement of our off-the-ball movement, specifically the movement into space to receive passes. This was where FFT's conserves of energy was sapped. Running around while constantly calling for the ball is more tiring than it appears to be.
The last segment of the session involved a mini game – the type of which FFT has noticed professional clubs employ in training sessions. One team had to score by putting the ball in the back of the net, while the other gained points for dribbling through cones set up in three areas on the halfway line.
Training have been intense and tiring, but it was definitely joyful and enriching.
Our concluding exercise aimed at putting whatever we had learned from the previous drills into practice, with coach Owens constantly reinforcing the lessons during the game.
The two-hour session was over in a flash. Sure, it might have been an intense, tiring session, but it was definitely a joyful and enriching one.
FFT would like to specifically thank the coaches - particularly Owens - for guiding us through with the constant pointers they gave.
Now it’s time for FFT to head back to my social games and dominate by applying the ‘Liverpool Way’ of playing!
All images: Kamthorn Pornsakulpaisal/FourFourTwo