Liverpool legends and the Lion City Cup
James, thank you for your time. Let's start with how you got into coaching?
I was playing up until about the age of 16 at Chester City and then went to play non-league football, so semi-professional. At the same time I tore the ligaments in my ankle. Came back to play again and did the same injury, so it was basically a write-off and I decided to go into coaching.
I stared off volunteering with Liverpool with the community programmes, so disability programmes for kids and adults, going into areas with disadvantaged kids and putting on coaching sessions. At the same time I started doing my coaching badges and went to university to study Science and Football at John Moores. Then I moved into the Academy to do performance analysis, while working with the first team. I could have stuck with analysis at the end of my degree or go into full-time coaching and for me coaching was the thing I’m most passionate about. I enjoyed analysis and it was a good way to learn, but as a football fan you want to be on the pitch as much as you can. So I decided to make coaching my main emphasis. I went full-time with Liverpool as a coach, doing international academies abroad but also working back at the academy with different age groups. Then I got an opportunity to head up our academy in China as the head coach and I couldn’t pass that up. I spent a year in China which taught me a lot. We went from nothing to building up a group of players and having 10 coaches. The idea was to take the Liverpool way of working and development to other countries. I then had a couple of offers to go back home or stay abroad with ESPZEN and the role here excited me and was a challenge I wanted to take. Here right now I think it’s quite exciting.
So you were a Liverpool fan growing up?
Yes. I went to my first game at four or five years old and I remember Liverpool beating Middlesbrough 5-1 and Robbie Fowler scored a hat-trick. Ever since then I was a big football fan. With my brother and my dad, we’re all Liverpool fans. Growing up in Liverpool you have to choose Liverpool or Everton and I chose the red side.
You said volunteering was your avenue to work with Liverpool. It must have been a dream when it started to work out for you?
It was. Liverpool do so much work in the community and have some great initiatives and take Liverpool to people who usually can’t afford to go to a game or play at the top level. It also gave me an opportunity to put the Liverpool crest on which for the first time was unbelievable and it taught me a lot in terms of humility and the values that Liverpool stand for. Eventually I had opportunities while I was doing analysis on certain game days where I’d be in the changerooms with the first team putting up the set pieces or the instructions for the match ahead. So I’d see Steven Gerrard there or a Pepe Reina, who was there at the time. I’d been seeing Gerrard my whole life and to see him preparing for a game was unbelievable. I got to see the Liverpool that nobody really gets to see. It sure was an eye-opener for me.