THEY are the words every youngster at Liverpool’s Academy fears: “We’re going to have to let you go.”
When they were uttered to striker Paul Mullin nearly two years ago it was a devastating blow. Then 16, the boyhood Reds fan from Litherland had spent seven years on the club’s books.
“At the time it was really tough to take,” said Mullin, who was in the same under-16s side as Raheem Sterling.
“All my family had put so much into helping me to do well there and when it didn’t work out everyone was down.
“My uncle sorted me out with a trial at Racing Santander and I stayed there for a month and a half that summer. But they were in administration and said they couldn’t afford to offer me anything so I came back.
“I was disheartened and was thinking ‘where do I go from here?’”
Mullin’s ambition of making the step up to Melwood may have been dashed but with the help of the Liverpool FC Foundation Football College his dream of a professional career was swiftly re-ignited.
He was encouraged to sign up for the college’s innovative full-time programme based at the University of Liverpool Wyncote Sports Ground where as well as training and playing matches, youngsters aged 16 to 19 work towards achieving GCSE, A-Level and FA coaching qualifications.
Under the guidance of coaches David Rowe and David MacDiarmid, Mullin blossomed. He fired 45 goals last season, including a hat-trick in the final of the National Colleges Cup, and his performances attracted interest from a host of scouts.
Back in September he signed a one-year pro deal with Huddersfield Town and he’s now a regular in their under-18 and reserves sides.
“It’s going really well at Huddersfield and I love it there,” said Mullin, speaking on a recent visit back to the football college. “I’ve scored seven goals in 16 games this season which isn’t bad and I’ve trained with the first team a few times.
“Hopefully towards the end of the season I might get a chance and then it’s about taking it. They’ve got the option to extend my contract for another year and I want to stay and push on.
“I owe so much to the college. I was close to going down another route like coaching or doing physiotherapy but they got me enjoying football again.
“They helped me forget the disappointment of leaving Liverpool’s Academy. When I came back from Spain, David Rowe invited me to come here and last season things just got better and better.
“The coaching is the same as what I had been used to at the Academy and the staff are great. Everyone loves playing football but the other part – the education – has to go with it. Even if I hadn’t got a contract at Huddersfield, I had got myself qualifications to do other stuff.”
The college, which currently boasts 65 youngsters, is a partnership between the Liverpool FC Foundation and SALT (Sport Art Learning and Training). It attracts teenagers from across the city and offers one-year, two-year and three-year courses.
Coach Rowe admits Mullin is an inspiration for his current crop.
“Paul shows what can be achieved,” Rowe said. “We are all so proud of him and all the coaches here use his name every day. It pops up somewhere, in the classroom or in team talks.
“Paul is fulfilling his dream. He stood out a mile at college level and Wigan and Barnsley were after him before Huddersfield snapped him up.
“He impressed with his football but he applied himself in the classroom as well. He’s from the other side of the city but had a 100% attendance rate and was a shining example to the other lads.”
There are big plans for the future of the college with a girls side set to be launched with the next intake in September.
They will also enter a team into the Lancashire Monday Night Floodlit League, playing their home matches at the Kirkby Academy, and take part in next year’s Dallas Cup in America.
“We’re got a waiting list for this coming September,” MacDiarmid said.
“It’s growing all the time in terms of what we can offer and we want to extend it to girls.
“We’ve got some lads on internships doing voluntary work with the LFC Community scheme and we’ve taken two boys on full-time as assistant coaches and tutors.
“It’s going from strength to strength.”
The Liverpool FC Foundation’s head of operations Mark Haig added: “The college provides a fantastic platform for young people to progress in football and life through studying and training.”
FOR more details about the college or to join the waiting list call 0151 7244983.