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Chris Oldfield EXCLUSIVE: Liverpool was everything - I was lost after axe

This week young players up and down the Premier League will have their lives changed forever.

July 1 is a confusing time for a footballer. Your confidence is being challenged, feelings of doubt and anxiety surface and pessimism slowly starts to creep in. I know this, because when I was released by Liverpool in 2009, I experienced it all.

My career begun as a starry eyed Merseyside lad dreaming about playing for my favourite club, the mighty Liverpool FC.

I was playing for my representative team, which is like the best team in my county, and we played a game at Melwood, Liverpool's training facility.

After the match, Reds goalkeeper coach Billy Stewart came up to my parents and said to them, does your son want to come on trial at Liverpool?

I then trialled at Liverpool when I was 11, I trained for a few weeks and then I trained with Everton straight after for a week or two under Kevin O'Brien.

Both teams were interested, but straight after I finished training at Everton, Liverpool called us and said we would like to sign Chris. Can you come in for a chat?

I signed my contract for two years, which took me to Under 14's and then I signed my first scholarship contract, which was a full time contract, when I was 15, a year earlier than the standard age.

I was in and out of school at that time. I'd get phone calls every now and again saying come train with the U18's, because they're full-time, or come and train with the reserves, and when I was 16, I was lucky enough to train with the senior team for the first time.

I still remember it, I was in geography class when Billy Stewart called me and said where are you? I said school; he said could you get out? I asked why? And he replied: because the first team need a goalkeeper, can you come in? Obviously I was like yes, so I dropped my pen and got up.

The teachers tried to stop me from leaving the classroom, and I said listen it's best you just get out of my way. I left the classroom went straight to training and trained with the first team.

It was quite an experience for me as I was a young kid. I was quite nervous but excited all the same. I was lucky to train with my idols that I'd seen on TV. Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Dirk Kuyt, Pepe Reina, all of them.

So the next day, the headmaster pulled me in and he goes you know why you're being pulled in right? I replied yeah because I left school. And he's like yeah, but I'm not here to speak to you about that…

How were the players? Did you enjoy it?

He wasn't too bothered about me leaving school early; he was more concerned with how the players were.

The whole concept of my high school was I was the kid growing up who had the big ambition, the big sporting ambition, that's why everyone looked after me.

Looking back maybe they should have pushed me academically too, because maybe then I would of learned a lot more that would have helped me out now that I'm older.

If I would have had better schooling, maybe I would of had better chances as an adult. But it was brilliant and I wouldn't change anything.

When I was growing up, all I lived for was football. All I would think about was how well I performed in training. If I had a bad training session, it would bug me the next day in school. If I had a good training session I'd be on top of the world. My life was football and I used to love it so much, I used to live it, watch all the games, it was everything for me.

I pushed my schooling aside. Mum and dad said to concentrate on school but all I could think about was football. The teachers really didn't push me as much, so I had kind of a nonchalant attitude towards school.

The teachers didn't punish me as much because they knew one day I might be someone and they knew where I was going.

Bare in mind I signed my contract at 15, so I was in my last year of school knowing that my job when I left school, I wasn't going to go to university or college, I was going to be playing football for two years.

When I signed that first contract I felt a lot of hope, I felt like one day I could play for the senior team. Your full of enthusiasm, you just feel like you want go and train, and train hard.

But that moment is fleeting. You only feel great momentarily.

And then it's back to training, back to worrying about if you trained poorly and then you think you're not going to get picked, and it'll effect the next day, but then you have a good session and you feel on top of the world.

You know, signing a professional contract with Liverpool was a big ambition for me. It was brilliant.

It was because I was a big fan and I was from the city, but again, it goes away, the whole 'I'm a professional footballer thing', it goes away because you have to perform every day or else you don't play and if you have a bad week, you know, its the end of the world for you.

People don't realise this. People say players get paid to much money but the amount of pressure players are under every day to perform to act well, to speak well, to eat well, you don't realise that, you don't realise all that stuff can make them feel upset and down for weeks, months or years.

A lot of people don't know this, but I actually first got released by Liverpool when I was 18. Soon after I went and trialled at Hearts in Scotland and they offered me a contract and they were going to sign me.

I had the contract written up and I was going to go down to Scotland the day before to sign this contract. Liverpool rang me the day before I was going to sign the contract and said 'listen, I know you're not apart of the team anymore but we need a first team keeper to train with the first team'.

I thought it might be good to get some practice so I went in and trained with the first team again. Billy Stewart calls me when I'm on the way home and, obviously the first team manager Rafa Benitez was there watching training, and Billy goes, 'Rafa's just seen you training and he asked why were we releasing you and he wants to resign you for the next year and a half.'

I said hang on I'm signing for Hearts tomorrow, he said 'I know, at least come in and see our offer and then you can pick'. So I rang my dad and the agent looking after me at the time and went in to talk with Liverpool.

Looking back I should have gone to Hearts because it may have helped my career but being a Liverpool player and fan, the first thing I thought was Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool, so I went back there and signed my first professional contract.

I made a decision, but I never regret it because I enjoyed every bit of my year and a half with Liverpool.

However, you know maybe my career would of gone in a different path if I went to Scotland.

When I left Liverpool, I thought I'd have plenty of clubs wanting to sign me but it wasn't the case.

You go on trials, but trials are a very scary to do…

You're there for a week and if your nervous for those three days, you're going to perform bad and then it looks bad on you and you don't get signed.

And then you go to the next club, knowing you haven't been signed by the previous club and it's just a snow ball effect from there on.

I don't think people realise what players go through when they get released, it's a very, very hard time for them.

It was one of the hardest times of my life. You live in a bubble. You train every day, you're in such a routine that you don't have to think and then all of a sudden, it gets taken away for you, your life crumbles around you. But that's not even the worst part; it's what comes next that is truly frightening.


Look for Part Two of my story on Monday at Tribalfootball.com

Chris Oldfield
About the author

Chris Oldfield

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