In this insightful new book, Mike Yates, who now works for the LFC International Academy, tells a story that will probably resonate with thousands of young footballers, as well as their families. Mike is one of many youngsters who spend the majority of their early years coming through an academy, only to be told at the last minute that his dream will not come true and that the powers that be deem him not good enough to make it as a professional player at their club.
In a way, the ‘Me’ in the books title could refer to any youngster as there’ll be many a player who has risen through youth set ups alongside those who are now household names, only to fall that bit short while the now professionals continue to climb the ladder to success.
It would have been easy for Mike to use this platform as a way of expressing a ‘hard luck’ story, but that is the exact opposite of what he’s done with this book. Sure, he obviously expresses his disappointment of not making the grade at a club he spent his formative years dreaming of playing for, but Mike uses the book to offer young players and perhaps, more importantly, their parents, advice on what to expect at an academy of a club the size of Liverpool.
While the book obviously focuses on the Liverpool FC academy, it isn’t just aimed at Liverpool fans or those at the club’s academy. It really is something that would engage and appeal to fans of any club, and its story will ring true for youngsters at any academy. There’ll be me. Who didn’t make it at say Manchester United or West Ham United, and this story will ring true with them too.
Containing an excellent foreword from former Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, this book provides a complete opposite narrative to any other football autobiography/biography that I’ve read before. All the books I’ve previously read obviously focus on players who fulfilled their ambitions of playing professional football for both club and often country.
Although Mike did sign professionally for Dundee FC in 1998 – where he played in the Scottish Premier League for three years – he never made the step up to play for Liverpool at a young age, yet his story is equally fascinating.
Like I mentioned earlier, reading the book makes it clear that Mike isn’t after any sympathy from the reader, instead he is just passing on his experiences as to provide a peek behind the curtain to fans who don’t really understand what it takes for a player to ‘make it’ at their club.
Throughout the book, I constantly found myself admiring the strength of character that Mike undoubtedly possesses as he is confident to share the story of what some might call a ‘failure’.
Obviously, Mike has gone on to have a successful coaching career, so of course, he isn’t a failure, but he didn’t achieve his early ambition of becoming a Liverpool player and for some who’ve been in this position, they attach a stigma to themselves and often feel hard done by, and possibly even quite ashamed.
Mike, however, is quite clearly comfortable in his own skin, and this, combined with his openness, honesty and straight forward method of portraying his message make this book a fantastic read, and one that I highly recommend.