Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Jamie Young won’t need any special introduction to Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers when their clubs clash at Suncorp Stadium next Friday.
With exactly a week to go before the blockbuster opening match of the Reds’ Australian Tour, Young has revealed he worked with Rodgers at Reading FC where the pair developed a strong friendship.
Rodgers, who had been on Reading’s books as a player in the 1990s, was back at the club in the early 2000s as manager of their junior academy and later looked after The Royals’ aspiring under 17s and under 19s (and in 2009 returned to manage the club after a stint at Watford).
Young was a teenager from Brisbane with British citizenship and hoping to get a start in English football (he went on to play eight times for England youth teams before joining the Roar nearly two years ago).
“Brendan was great to work with, we developed a really good relationship,” Young said today as the one-week countdown to the big game ticked over.
“For me, he was a really big influence at that time of my football career.
“As a professional who had travelled a lot from his home in Northern Ireland, Brendan said to me he knew what it was like to be away from home and family.
“He said if I ever had any trouble or concerns, I should just come and talk to him. I still have some very fond memories of spending a few Christmases with the Rodgers family and still keep in contact with them.”
Young recalls Rodgers instilled in him the importance of quality training.
“He was the first one to show me a culture within a football club to drive hard and work extra,” Young said.
“Quite often I’d spend a lot of time with just Brendan playing head tennis with him in the gym for hours after training just to do extra stuff.
“It is interesting because that same culture of determination he was building at Reading exists here at the Roar which I really enjoy.”
Young said that in hindsight he could now see Rodgers was laying the building blocks for his successful managerial career.
“I was an 18-year-old. At that age you are just there because you love football, but you don’t know how it all really works,” Young said.
“But looking back now, I can understand the drive he had, the passion and the culture he instilled in those around him. I am not surprised he has gone where he has.”
Although the Reds’ visit to Brisbane is short – they arrive late Wednesday and head to Adelaide on Saturday – Young has his fingers crossed he might get some time to catch up with Rodgers and reminisce.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think someone like him would come to where I was born to play a match like this,” Young said.
“It is going to be a very special night.”