Jay Spearing has made it another season representing Liverpool this term, and has explained what it is like playing for the U21s as a 34-year-old.
After rejoining his boyhood club as an academy player-coach last year, Spearing has extended his stay for another campaign this time around.
While working daily with Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s U18s on the training pitch, the former first-team midfielder is also part of the U21s squad.
That has, so far, brought three appearances for the young Reds this season, coming off the bench against Southampton and Middlesbrough‘s U21s in the league and Morecambe’s senior side in the EFL Trophy.
He has already matched the number of outings he made in 2022/23, which comes despite his 35th birthday coming up in November.
More than twice the age of centre-back Carter Pinnington – one of the 16-year-olds in Barry Lewtas‘ squad – Spearing admits it is “fantastic” to be still able to play for Liverpool.
“Any time I can get out on the pitch, get my boots back on and help the boys out, it’s an absolute pleasure and it’s good fun,” he told the club’s official website.
“I enjoy it and I enjoy helping the boys and guiding them in any way that Alex [Inglethorpe, academy director], Barry or Bridgey want me to do.
“It’s fun and that’s part of my role as well to still play – whether that be on the training field or playing for the U21s.
“It’s been a really enjoyable time so far.”
Spearing left a first-team role at Tranmere to move back to Liverpool in 2022, after a 14-year-old senior career that began with the Reds in 2008.
Spells with Leicester, Bolton, Blackburn and Blackpool made him a seasoned veteran of the Football League, and he is now able to impart his wisdom on the next generation.
His role at Liverpool is not unique, of course, with many Premier League clubs now employing professionals in their 30s as player-coaches due to rules allowing over-age players at U21s level.
But it is one that clearly satisfies both parties when it comes to the right fit, with Spearing still able to scratch his playing itch while predominantly focusing on coaching the Reds’ youngsters.