When Alex Robinson heard his name called out, he was so shocked he needed encouragement to stand up.
The 12-year-old goalkeeper from Springwood already had a fantastic week at Liverpool FC’s first ever Sydney youth academy. It got even better when he won the ‘Liverpool Way’ award, complete with a retro jersey signed by Ian Rush – the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.
“I was shocked,” Alex said. “I want that moment to happen all over again.”
His dad Scott Robinson was on hand to see Alex awarded the honour. A fellow Red from a generation of Reds, his grandfather played for Liverpool’s academy back in the 1930s.
“Liverpool is in our blood, we don’t know any other way,” he said.
The pair travelled from Springwood for the three-day academy at The Hills Sports High School, Seven Hills. Others came from as far away as Victoria and South Australia.
It’s the kind of passion few clubs can conjure, but the NSW academy’s technical director James Gow said he’s not surprised by Liverpool’s worldwide fan base.
The native scouser worked with the first team and the youth academy in Liverpool before coaching in China, and now Australia, as the club extends its global development network.
“It’s a club steeped in tradition, but it’s also a club that a lot of people can associate with,” Mr Gow said.
“People see the fans, they see Anfield, they see the passion and elation the fans have and I think they want to be a part of it. There’s nowhere like Anfield, it’s an incredible place. When the fans are on point and the team are playing well, there’s no better place.”
The Robinson family had a chance to see Anfield for themselves last year, after Alex wrapped up a tournament in Portugal with his club Mount Druitt Town Rangers.
Sadly for them, Liverpool went down 2-1 to Crystal Palace, courtesy of two goals scored by former Reds striker Christian Benteke.
It was far from an unsuccessful trip though – Alex was invited to return next year and trial for the academy at Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon.
But he may yet have an opportunity with his favourite club closer to home, as Liverpool FC look to expand their Australian operations to Sydney. The club partnered with the football centre at Lismore’s Southern Cross University in June last year to form the Liverpool FC International Academy NSW.
The academy hit the ground running, with 1000 juniors reached and 300 on their development roster. General manager Scott Collis said it would make sense to carry the successful model into Sydney.
“It was really left-field for Southern Cross University, in a regional area, to be a partner with a football club. I think it was quite a surprise to people. But when we spoke to them about the university’s culture...it really seemed like we were on the same page,” Mr Collis said.
“We’re really hoping to come back [to The Hills Sports High School]. We’d like to start a full-time program in Sydney and we’re looking at a number of locations, but certainly western Sydney is very high on our wishlist because it’s such a strong area for football and the people are so enthusiastic.”