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As Liverpool close the gates on their Melwood training ground for the final time next week, one player above the rest will be tinged with sadness.
As a kid, Trent Alexander-Arnold lived just around the corner from the fabled training base, and used to clamber up on the imposing concrete walls to get a fleeting glimpse of his heroes on the pristine turf beyond.
It was Melwood, he says now, after making his 100th Premier League appearance for the Reds at the weekend, which proved his real motivation, as he day-dreamed of one day emulating the first team stars who gathered there.
“Melwood was the place that I always wanted to get to. It was the day-to-day basis (where it all happened),” he explained.
“I’d see the cars going past my house on Queen’s Drive and into Melwood, and it was somewhere I always wanted to be and to achieve getting there.
“Anfield was always a special place for me to go and to experience the atmosphere but, for me, that (Melwood) was always my motivation, Melwood more than Anfield itself.”
The England star stayed in the family home within a long free kick of the training ground, long after he was given the call up to get a taste of first team training by Jurgen Klopp, soon after the German arrived at Anfield.
Now, four years on from his Liverpool debut, and many awards later, he is widely regarded as quite possibly the best right back in Europe, if not the world.
Long before Klopp though, he’d see those glamorous cars sweeping by, and know he somehow had to get beyond the walls he would often stand by, peering through the cracks in the panels at the training routines, and dreaming just a little.
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It’s been an extremely interesting start to the season for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
They got their title defence off to a shaky start as they edged out a seven-goal thriller against Leeds, before going on to conceded seven in a hammering by Aston Villa.
Virgil van Dijk’s season was ended by injury in the 2-2 draw at Everton, leaving the title favourites looking far less secure at the back – especially with Alisson’s injury worries too.
But there’s no slowing down in what is going to be a busy campaign – with Klopp ensuring his men continue at full pace as they bid for more title glory.
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“I knew if I made it to Melwood that would give me an amazing chance. That really was the motivation,” he explained.
“I always had that vision of what it must be like inside – how it would be, who would be there, what were the staff like? That motivated me so much. It was an amazing place in my childhood for me.”
During the upcoming international break, Liverpool will move their first team into a newly developed £50 million training complex in Kirkby next month, which will accommodate all playing levels down to academy.
It was at Klopp’s behest, the manager wanting the next generation, the young boys still dreaming, to see the likes of Alexander-Arnold and what they have achieved – to understand what is still possible at Liverpool.
That idea of being a role model is an attractive one to the defender, whose century of Premier League appearances takes him beyond a “youngster”, towards a maturity where he feels he must take responsibility for leadership, especially in the long term absence of Virgil van Dijk.
“It’s something I have thought about myself – showing more leadership and stepping up. I’ve had enough appearances now and enough experience to not class myself as a young player any more and class myself as someone who needs to step up in moments like this,” he explained.
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“When you miss such a leader – the captain of the back four really in Virgil – then it gives the rest of the back four an opportunity. (Not doing) exactly what Virgil does, because we are not the same type of player and it’s not easy to do something like that.
“But if the players who are really consistently in the back line can step forward and come together and make sure Virgil’s presence isn’t missed as much as possible, then I think that puts us in a good place. So far we have been able to do that.”
That new level of maturity will be none more important in Italy against Atalanta, where victory would put Liverpool within touching distance of the Champions League knockout. “We have to get the plan right to hurt them – and we can do that,” he says with a smile.