You are currently viewing ‘Football is ruthless’ – How Liverpool are helping former youth team prospects become ‘Cyber ​​Stars’

‘Football is ruthless’ – How Liverpool are helping former youth team prospects become ‘Cyber ​​Stars’

Jack Dunn, Josh Dobie and Josh Sumner talk to BUT about the ‘ruthless’ side of the game and the need for a plan B

A well-timed run and a perfectly weighted ball. A quick glance before a smooth right-footed finish inside the near post. A punch and a smile that could have lit up all of Dublin.

Jack Dunn remembers the moment like it was yesterday, and why wouldn’t he? It might not have been the most important goal ever scored – the fourth in a sleepy season-ending friendly win over Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium – but for a boyhood Liverpool fan it was it. .

“I was living the dream,” says Dunn OBJECTIVE now, more than eight years later. “I had been at Liverpool since I was seven, and all I ever dreamed of was playing and scoring for the first team. When it happened, I felt like the world whole was there for me.

At this time, Dunn was seen as a potential star for club and country. A technically gifted left-footed striker, he shone for Liverpool at youth level and played alongside Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford, Eric Dier and Patrick Bamford with England’s U17 and U19 sides.

In 2011 he played in the U17 World Cup in Mexico, but despite promising loan spells at Cheltenham, Burton Albion and Morecambe, he would never play a competitive senior game for Liverpool, and his professional career would be over at age of 24.

These days, he works full-time as an online personal trainer while playing for Marine in the Northern Premier League, the seventh tier of the English pyramid.

“I like it,” he says, but that hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, he admits, football was anything but fun.

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Dunn’s story is banal: the dedication and dreams of a young man, the disappointment of rejection, the difficulty of accepting his fate and then the fear of starting a new life.

Recent figures show that only 0.01 per cent of the 1.5 million players who play organized youth football in England will make it to the Premier League, meaning the onus is on clubs to provide support, pathways and a follow-up to those who fail.

Liverpool, it must be said, have become something of a standard bearer in this respect. While much of the focus is on those who succeed at Anfield, like Trent Alexander-Arnold or Curtis Jones, the Reds’ real success stories are found everywhere, and not just in professional football.

Dunn, for example, is one of three former Liverpool prospects to have recently completed PSM’s first ‘Cyber ​​Stars’ Digital Academy programme, an initiative aimed specifically at helping current and former players build careers in the industry. of cybersecurity.

“Everything comes from [Liverpool’s former head of education and welfare] Phil Roscoe,” he explains.

“He started an ‘alumni’ email, which is sent out to former players quarterly, and he and [education manager] Caitlin Hawkins, always keeps in touch with all of us and is really helpful in directing us to different courses and opportunities.

“It’s (cybersecurity and technology) something I’ve always been interested in, so when I saw this program on the email, I jumped on it.”

The “Cyber ​​Stars” course, Dunn admits, was tough, consisting of five months of intense online training. Not easy when you juggle between a full-time job, a career as a semi-professional footballer and, above all, a young family too.

Complete it, though. He, along with fellow ex-Reds Josh Sumner and Josh Dobie, attended a graduation ceremony at the AXA training center in Kirkby last week, where they received their qualifications from former Liverpool stars John Barnes and Michael Thomas.

“It’s a much more comprehensive industry now in terms of considering ‘the human being’ as opposed to the ‘player’,” Barnes says.

“Whereas years ago footballers were the ones clubs cared about and cared for, but if you didn’t manage that, you were on your own.

“Years ago, when I was at a club, if you couldn’t do it, you couldn’t do anything else. And while that may be a cybersecurity opportunity in particular, there may be other opportunities to pursue studies, so that’s a good thing.

Dobie, who played alongside Alexander-Arnold as a teenager and now works full-time at Ashworth High Security Psychiatric Hospital in Maghull, as well as doing part-time scouting for Liverpool at young people, is certainly grateful for this opportunity.

“It’s been a blessing, to be honest,” he said. “The support from the club, especially Phil and Caitlin, has been brilliant. It’s just good to know they’re still interested in their former players.

John Barnes Michael Thomas Josh Sumner LiverpoolLFC

After leaving Liverpool aged 18, Dobie admits he fell “massively in love” with football. It tells a familiar story, that of falling levels and struggling to adapt.

“You’re a kid, and you get kicked and nudged by all these old guys,” he laughs. “You want to play at the back and you can’t do that.

“And because you’ve been at Liverpool, you’re also a target. People expect things from you, and it’s hard to understand.”

Fortunately, love has returned in recent years. Dobie played for Prescot Cables last season and would like to return to a club this season, schedule permitting.

Dunn has signed permanently to Marine, while Sumner, a midfielder who spent 10 years at Liverpool before being released in 2012, is one of the stars of the Sunday League’s competitive scene on Merseyside, contributing regularly to spectacular goals for the AFC Bull, many of which were captured by the brilliant Twitter account @MOTJGOALS.

All three talk about the dangers of pursuing a career in professional football and the pitfalls that await those who don’t plan or prepare for the worst-case scenario.

“You’re in a bubble,” says Sumner, who now works as a mechanic. “You don’t think it will ever end, but it can end quickly, trust me.”

Dunn can certainly relate to that.

“When I was young, I had blinders on,” he says. “There was no doubt in my head that I was going to make it. I was progressing through the age brackets, doing well, playing a year later, training with the first team.

“It never occurred to me that I could be fired.”

The message of all three is clear: think ahead, have a backup plan, learn and develop skills that can help you no matter where your career goes.

“Football is ruthless, ruthless,” says Dobie. “You always have to have a plan B.

“I tell my little brother Zach now. He’s in a similar situation to mine, but I tell him to always have something in mind in case the worst happens.”

Dunn nods in agreement.

“I didn’t see any other avenue,” he said. “There was no backup plan.

“Then when I was playing semi-professional and working as a PT, the pandemic came and all of a sudden the football stopped and the gyms closed!

“So those are two income streams that come to a screeching halt, and as a new dad, that was just…wow!”

He adds: “What I would always say to any young player is learn as many skills as possible, give yourself as many opportunities as possible, because you never know. You think it’s going to last forever, football, but that’s not the case.

“And when it’s over, what are you going to do?”

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