Being: Liverpool – Not How It Used to Be!
I have been watching the new show Being: Liverpool on the FOX Soccer Channel. I was very interested to see what the 2012 professional soccer player is all about, and this gives us the behind-the-scenes tour that most soccer fans never get the chance to see.
I was personally interested, as I wanted to compare the professional scene with the years I had played as a professional back in the 60s and 70s. I am sure many of the ex-professional players locally were also making comparisons.
|Bolton Wanderers on a training run in 1965 - John Napier is fifth from left. The team included English Internationals Freddie Hill, Francis Lee and Eddie Hopkinson. Lee later played for Manchester United, became a millionaire after his playing career and owned Manchester City for a short time in the 1990s. Newspaper clip provided by John Napier.
Being a professional soccer player with a top club in 2012 is a different world to many of us. Make no mistake, these guys have worked hard to be where they are and sustain the level of play in a sometimes very short period of time. (As the old saying goes, you are one tackle away from a career-ending injury.)
The English Premier League, or the EPL as it is better known, is in my opinion the top soccer league in the world. I know that this is a debatable argument across Europe, especially in Spain, Italy and Germany. But the multi-national players from all over the globe make it what it is – exciting, fast, skillful and unpredictable.
As I watched the players and their routines and tried to compare generations, it was almost impossible – the amount of medical recovery equipment, the tremendous training facilities, the high standard of nutrition, the player lifestyle. Then there is the travel involved, and so much support away from the playing field with special fitness coaches, tactical coaches, goalie coaches, player agents, television cameras everywhere, etc. Players do need to have friends within their club, as being out in public could be a disaster waiting to happen, (as many players have learned by being in the wrong place at the wrong time).
But at the end of all that, it is still about the players and what they bring to your team.
When I look way back, the differences are legion. We just did not have today’s technology; we trained hard, sometimes not in the best conditions. We thought we knew what we were eating or drinking was good for you back then, but not of today’s standards, not even close. We would be eating steak for a pre-match meal (considered a disaster today), and many players would light up a cigarette as a stress reliever! Even before a game! Recovery time after a game for most was probably going to the closest watering hole!
The equipment was so different as well – 100% cotton shirts that when wet probably weighed 10 lbs heavier. The ball was as hard as a rock, and the shoes were so heavy that they dragged your energy!
I remember in my early Bolton Wanderers days, the guys would hang out after practice; we had a snooker and dart room where we would go and have tournaments, play all day and into the evening. Our eating habits were probably not the best, and there was an aroma of smoke filling the air. How times have changed for the best!
Some of the old-time professional will know what I am talking about (not today’s players).
We had some great players way back then, and some who would surely be able to compete at the top level today. Just to mention the great Pele and my favorite, fellow Northern Ireland great George Best; those two would have strived today!
I admire the longevity of the modern player – Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at Manchester United, Frank Lampard at Chelsea, to name a few. To have played as many years as these guys and still be in tremendous physical condition, they must have been doing something right with their lives. They are an example for the younger generation.
I will continue to watch this amazing series as it develops. I admire the Liverpool club for what it has achieved in world soccer. I only got the one chance to walk out at Anfield Stadium as a 19 year old with Bolton Wanderers way, way back, but it was a memory!
Related Articles: John Napier on SoccerNation