In a sit down interview with Liverpoolfc.com, Frank McParland spoke about everything from footballers on Twitter to his “ultimate” ambition of getting a Scouser into the first team.
But it was his glowing comments about Rodgers — and how close an interest the boss takes in goings-on in Kirkby — that will perhaps be of most interest to supporters.
McParland also explained how the emergence of Suso, Andre Wisdom and Raheem Sterling into regular first-teamers is a priceless asset when competing for top talent with other clubs around Europe.
“If a player wants to come to us just for money, we don’t want them,” he said. “That really is the truth.
“What we can offer them is a pathway. We’ve got a manager who’ll play them, we’ve had three regulars this season aged 17, 18 and 19. When kids speak to the manager, they want to play for Liverpool.”
Jerome Sinclair, Adam Morgan and Samed Yesil are other Academy regulars to get senior recognition since Rodgers arrived last summer, and McParland explained how the boss is eager to unearth even more young talent.
“The manager is down here frequently, he wants to see how we’re working with the players and he’s really keen on finding the next one,” he said. “Three or four times a week we’ll speak. He’s very focused on the young players, he loves working with them. Sometimes we’ll send an U-15 to work with the first team and he loves having them.
“The dialogue [between the Academy and Melwood] is as good as it’s been. Brendan is really refreshing to speak to and he has a massive passion for the club as well as for football. He loves the place.
“He’ll come down here and talk for an hour and a half to the coaches and part-time coaches, not just the top end people but the people who work with the kids every day — and without them we are nothing.”
Club owners John Henry and Tom Werner have made no secret of their belief that developing players through the Academy is key to their vision of a successful future for Liverpool, and McParland is pleased with their input to date.
“The new owners have been very supportive of the Academy,” he said. “They’ve been down here quite a lot and their focus is on youth football. They’ve been really proactive with us and we’re really pleased about that relationship.”
McParland was brought back to the Academy by Rafael Benitez three and a half years ago alongside Rodolfo Borrell and the now departed Pep Segura.
Their work has helped transform the standard of talent in Kirkby, with the number of youth internationals swelling from a handful to well over 40 on last count.
McParland knows that he will be judged on the number of players he and his team nurture into Barclays Premier League players, and things could not have gone better on that front in the last six months.
Youngsters born in Cadiz (Suso), Kingston (Sterling) and Leeds (Wisdom) are on their way to becoming household names, and the academy director doesn’t believe it will be too long before a player born right here in Liverpool joins their number.
“It’s the ultimate,” said McParland. “You’d love to get a [Steven Gerrard] or a [Jamie Carragher] through, and I can assure you that we’re working really hard to do that. I don’t think it will be too long before that happens.
“If you don’t have good scouts, you don’t get good players. It’s not like 15 years ago when you’d go to a park in Liverpool and hope to find five or six players who are going to play in the first team.
“We may not have a scout in every single country in the world but we have a contact in most. So scouting is really important. We have scouts at home and abroad, and we scout in Liverpool. I still want the Scouse kids here.”
Gerrard and Carragher are the benchmark for McParland and his colleagues, but the former spoke recently of his belief that it is harder for youngsters to make the breakthrough today than when he established himself in the late 1990s.
Gerrard talked in particular about how the spotlight is put on youngsters at a far younger age these days due to TV coverage and the Internet — and how this can raise expectations too high.
McParland thinks the club captain is on to something.
“That’s the modern way,” he said. “When I was young we never had Twitter and I didn’t even have a TV in my bedroom. Now they’ve got computers, the world has changed and we’ve got to change with it.
“One or two do get carried away with it. We haven’t got a perfect place where there aren’t kids who think they are Steven Gerrard when they are in the U-15′s. It’s our job to educate them, work with them every day and keep them grounded. I don’t think we’re doing a bad job.
“I have seen some absolutely wonderful footballers who at 15 or 16 decide they are the next superstar, and very few make it.
“People like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are real winners, and when they were growing up they had that desire to be top players. There is talent, and then there’s determination. If you can match them, you’re going to have a good chance.
“But I agree with Steven. We don’t want to make anyone famous before they’ve done anything and we try hard to keep their feet on the ground.”
On the specific issue of Twitter, McParland and others in his position have had to respond to the fact that it is now the norm for young players to have accounts and, often, significant numbers of followers.
Occasionally, things go wrong, but McParland isn’t one to advocate any kind of ban on its use.
“We deal with the lawyers all the time on Twitter because we want to make sure the players and staff use it properly,” he said. “I haven’t got a clue how to use it and I don’t want to use it either. As long as they are responsible with it, and we educate them on it, then I’ve got no problem with Twitter.”
One advantage Liverpool have in the battle to keep young players on the right track on Twitter is the amount of time invested in education at the Kirkby base.
“The education and welfare part with Phil Roscoe is a massive part of it,” said McParland. “Working with them every day on life skills, things like making sure they can cook and fix their car and loads of little things. We also do work in the community with them, at Alder Hey and other places.
“It’s not just about playing football — we’re teaching them to be decent people as well as decent footballers.”
Photo via Liverpoolfc.com