Jay Spearing began his career in the Liverpool FC Academy, where he was part of the team that won the 2007 FA Youth Cup. Despite his diminutive stature, the combative midfielder went on to make 25 appearances for the Reds senior team, including a start in the 2012 FA Cup final. His career ultimately lay in the lower divisions, playing for Bolton and Blackburn in the Championship before dropping into League One with Blackpool, and then League Two with Tranmere.
Now 33 years old, Wee Jay has made the decision to move on to focus on his next career as a coach. To do so, he has returned to the place it all started, the Liverpool Academy. He’s been given a unique opportunity, joining as a player-coach to help show the youth player the training standards required.
“The role is quite new to the game,” said Spearing to the Liverpool Echo.
“It has been something some clubs have done over the last couple of years and when Alex asked me to come and do it, I had no idea what it entailed. At the end of the day, I want to become a coach. Right now, I couldn’t have asked for a better transition as I’m still able to train every day, demand standards and show everything on and off the field that Alex [Inglethorpe - LFC Academy Manager] wants the boys to follow.”
“It has taken a while to get used to, having been in the professional game for so long. There are different ways of training, different patterns and different training times and I was just trying to get my body around that when starting out. The first couple of weeks for me was about breaking down walls with the boys and speaking to the lads to let me on their side and to trust me.”
“Once those barriers were broken, the football came easily, and I started to gain relationships on and off the field with the boys. We are now working on individual things and helping them get better.”
For Spearing, being asked to return to work with his boyhood club is something special.
“It has been an absolute honour to put on the crest and wear the red kit again. It just feels like home and there’s not one bad word I could say about it.”
Spearing is looking to follow a similar path as former teammate, Steven Gerrard, who also got his coaching start for his boyhood Academy.
“If I take a path similar to him, I would be very fortunate,” said Spearing of Gerrard.
“I will strive and work hard to go and get that. Right now, all I can do is concentrate on the journey and the opportunity I have been given. I will learn and see what comes. There is a lot of hard work ahead but the end goal is to get myself out there in the big wide world of the professional game. Steven was one of the people who passed on the message to say ‘Good luck and learn’ after I was appointed.”
As with anyone just learning the ropes as a coach, Spearing knows he will make mistakes along the way. Being able to work in an environment where he is comfortable, and with considerably less pressure than at the senior level, he feels it will be a good environment to learn.
“The Academy is a great place to learn but also make mistakes behind the scenes, without the cameras and pundits, where I won’t be crucified or sacked after five games.”