In the next instalment of our #MyJourneySoFar series, midfielder Paul Anderson gives an in-depth insight into his career...
Developing a love for the game and idolising players…
“I was like most kids really, and even my little boy now is the same, kids just seem to love footballs from a very young age. I just loved it from there really, my Dad was half decent at football and so was my Granddad, so it ran in the family a little bit. I enjoyed the competitive side of it more than the game, I just loved competition and booting the ball about!
“I know I shouldn’t say it because of my connections with Liverpool, but I’ve had a massive soft spot for Manchester United as they were amazing at the time. David Beckham was my main idol growing up and I’d have loved to have based my game on him. He was a great leader, had a great delivery so he was the main one I looked up to.”
My earliest experiences in football, my first taste of Northampton Town and joining West Brom…
“I first started playing for a team called Melton Foxes, who are a Sunday league team around my area. It was a strange one really because I don’t ever remember being that good or standing out much as a player. My Dad possibly held me back a little bit because I played right-back for most of my youth, and although I could’ve played anywhere my Dad kept putting me there because I could do the defensive side of the game well.
“At the time I was possibly being sacrificed for the good of the team, but I think now looking back he’d admit that I probably should’ve pushed myself more and been more of a key man for the team, scoring the goals and things like that. I ended up doing well for them and then went to play for Welland Valley in Northampton, and got scouted by Northampton Town from there.
“I was nine or ten at the time and went to play for the under 12’s, so believe it or not the Cobblers were the first professional club that I played some academy games for. But it was quite far to travel at the time and because I was so young, I just wanted to enjoy football and go back to playing Sunday league locally with my mates. Then at thirteen, two or three of us from my team were scouted by West Bromwich Albion. We all went on trial and all of us signed, so we’d all do the journeys together and I was there until under 16’s.
“At the time I was half expecting to get offered a scholarship for the youth team, but instead I got released so that was a massive shame as I felt I did well.”
Dealing with rejection and having a second chance with my boyhood team…
“When I got released from West Brom, I was thinking ‘I’m only 15, is this something I really want to carry on doing after the knockbacks?’ I’d also previously had a trial to no avail at Leicester City and I had to do extra schooling because my school wouldn’t allow me to miss any classes because of the football, so I was wondering whether it was the right path for me to continue down.
“However, it just so happened that my uncle had a role at Hull City where he’d help look after the referees, so he used to speak to a guy called Billy Russell and former player/youth team coach Neil Mann, who I mentioned earlier. So when I got released from West Brom, who were in the Premier League, my uncle asked if they were interested in having a look at me because they were in League One at the time and so they wanted me to go and train with their youth team.
“It was half-term, so I went there for a week and played a game against Scunthorpe United at Boothferry Park, even before I’d trained with the team. We won 1-0 and I scored the goal. We played four games during that week and I managed to score seven goals, so after confirmation came through from West Brom about being released I signed for Hull’s youth team. I moved to Hull and lived in digs, and there was five or six of us all in the same house living with an elderly couple. We were all crammed in and I had to share a room with the goalkeeper, we had bunkbeds and I had to share a small room with the biggest player! I also have family in Hull as my grandparents, although my Granddad sadly isn’t with us any more, my auntie, uncle and cousins all live there as well so I had family around me which helped, particularly as it was my first time moving away from home."
Interest from bigger clubs followed…
“I had a good year with Hull and I was just about to turn seventeen. There was a lad from Liverpool in my team who was a year older, and the Liverpool scouts had come to watch him in our FA Youth Cup games. It just so turns out that in those three games, I happened to have particularly good matches and scored a good goal, so that’s how the Liverpool move came about. My number then got passed on to some agents and my Dad vetted two or three of them to help me sort out my future.
"I was only on a youth team contract at Hull earning around £45 a week and hadn’t been offered a professional contract at that time, so it was in my interest to try and sort a move which would help secure my future.
“The agent at the time was saying that Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool were all interested, but nothing really came about from the north London teams. The interest from Liverpool was much more concrete. At the time, Hull had John Welsh on loan from Liverpool, and they were trying to build a bit of a relationship between the two clubs. I went on a week’s trial and they were impressed with what they saw then a couple of months later the move was all sorted.
“Obviously a year or so prior to joining Liverpool, I’d only just been released by West Brom and I was questioning whether football was the right path for me. It is harsh, you do get treated badly and it must’ve been hard for my Dad when I was thinking about whether or not to carry on. I was given a second chance by Hull where Billy (Russell) worked really hard with me every day, and then for someone like Liverpool, who were the champions of Europe at the time to come in for me was surreal.
“I’m not sure what the set-up is like now, but at Liverpool you used to have the academy, then you’d have a reserve/development team based at the Melwood training ground alongside the first team. I was with the reserve team and we’d integrate with the first team at certain stages. If the manager at the time, Rafa Benitez, needed an extra player to fill in then I’d occasionally get that chance. Then when the FA Youth Cup was happening, I’d drop back down to the under 18’s and play for them, so it was a good experience to see all three sides of the set-up.
“I managed to play in all of the reserve games and win the FA Youth Cup in that first season, and then ended up going on the pre-season tour with the first-team. It was a really good learning curve for me and looking back now I wish I appreciated it a bit more as it was happening. At the time, as a 17-year-old you just think it’s the norm and I slightly regret that I didn’t take more of it in. I maybe took it for granted that I was at Liverpool and I possibly should’ve tried to make a little bit more from it.”
A loan move to Swansea City and winning the league…
“I’d been lucky up to that point as I’d won the reserve league with Hull City, the FA Youth Cup with Liverpool and we went on to win League One whilst I was on loan at Swansea. As an eighteen-year-old I’d only really had successful seasons, so it was what I was used to. Roberto Martinez was an up and coming manager and he had us playing good football within a really good team. Again, I wish at that point I would’ve appreciated some of the stuff he was doing with us, because if I was experiencing that now you’d take in so much more than I did as a teenager.
“It was an amazing opportunity because it was the first time I was able to go out and play men’s football, and I look back on that spell with really fond memories. We had a very good team at the time, the players and the coaches were all brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very difficult as a young lad coming from a Premier League team into League One and playing men’s football week-in week-out but I did well, played loads of games and won the league so it was a really good year for my development before going back to Liverpool.”
Stay tuned for the second part of Paul Anderson’s #MyJourneySoFar…