West Ham full-back Aaron Cresswell has admitted that he “couldn’t get his head around” being released by Liverpool, and insists young players have “no idea” about lower-league football.
Cresswell was released by Liverpool – the club he grew up watching with his parents and his younger brother – when he was just 15 years old, and admitted it was a shock to the system.
“My dad told me in the car,” Cresswell told The Telegraph. “I couldn’t get my head around it at first. They pull the parents to one side and tell them, ‘It’s not to be but it’s not the end’. I was devastated. As a kid, you are in a bubble of playing for Liverpool. It was all I had done for two years and I had enjoyed it so much. It wasn’t about a job, or thinking, ‘I won’t make it’. It was about playing for the club I supported. Everyone around me was a Liverpool fan. It was just purely for the love of football.”
Remarkably, the Liverpool-born defender then went back to play Sunday league football with old side Wood Lane under his father’s advice, something which reminded him of his love for the game.
“My dad said, ‘It is not the end of the world. Go back with your mates. Just play with a smile on your face and enjoy it’. That’s what I did. I went back with the lads.”
Within a few months he was spotted by Tranmere Rovers scouts, who had the idea of converting him from central midfield to full-back, which Cresswell admitted helped his toughness.
“You ask any of the lower-league clubs and it’s all about discipline,” says Cresswell. “I think that is why, when you see the young kids getting released from the big clubs, they don’t realise how hard it is to go into the lower leagues. It doesn’t get easier.
“It’s not like under-21 football where you are passing it around the back. You get some – I don’t quite know how to put it – physical, old, bald-headed centre-halves who want to just head you and kick you. If you go in there as a young kid, and try to take the mickey, they will soon boot you up in the air or go right through the back of you.”
The former Ipswich Town defender also believes that young players have become alienated from the reality of lower-league football, which does not necessarily aid their progression.
“The kids that go there have never seen anything like it. You don’t get your kit cleaned. You have to do things for yourself. Time has moved on and football has changed but, when I was younger, I used to clean the changing rooms, wash the players’ boots every day. It shows a bit of respect to the senior players and gives you a grounding. When you come to train with them, you feel like it’s a privilege. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”