BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Liam Millar has revealed he used to cry himself to sleep as he struggled to adapt to life in England.
The Liverpool winger is now firmly settled in the UK and his loan move to Charlton Athletic is all about furthering his football education.
Ontario-born Millar, 21, says his burning desire to reach the top of the game led to him stepping out of his comfort zone as a kid.
He moved to London with his dad Alan – an electrician in the film industry who has worked on hit series including Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders – to join Fulham’s academy.
“I was a 12-year-old kid and I left all of my family and friends,” the Canadian international told the South London Press.
“It was a hard time in my life.
“All I wanted to do was fulfil my dreams, but I didn’t want to lose all my friends and not be with my family. It was hard to adjust to the lifestyle, at first.
“Everything was so different in England. North America is very modern, wide open and there is so much space. London is more packed and a little older. I also had to make new friends at school, all that kind of stuff. It took a couple of years to take in ‘I am here now’ for the foreseeable future.
“I wasn’t comfortable sleeping alone. My whole life I’d shared a room with my brother. When I moved over we had a two-bedroom place. I slept in with my dad. I would cry most nights. Sometimes people don’t understand throwing away your whole life for something you want to do.
“I told myself ‘I’m going to do it – whatever it takes’. Growing up watching players like [Wayne] Rooney, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard on TV, I wanted to be like them so badly.
“I had to suck it up. To make your dreams happen you have to sacrifice some stuff.”
Millar went from watching one of his idols to playing under him.
He signed for Liverpool in 2016 and had 18 months working with Gerrard at U18 level. The Reds legend is now in charge of runaway Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers.
“Liverpool are such a huge club,” said Millar. “At the time they were seventh or eighth in the Premier League. I thought ‘there is a pathway there for me’.
“Obviously now it is a lot different – we’ve gone from world champions to Premier League champions. It was great to be there when they went from a good team to the best team.”
“He [Gerrard] was the perfect character for me. He understood what players needed and he was hard on me too – because he knew I could bring a lot.
“When I was first at Liverpool I never got dropped because I was one of the better players. Steven came in that second year and he played me in the first game of the season even though I wasn’t playing well. I wasn’t doing great.
“But he still played me in the first game. I didn’t play well and he dropped me. I was so confused, because I’d never had that before.
“I was really p**** off. I went to him and said: ‘Hey, is there anything I can really do to start again?’ He said: ‘Liam, I’m being honest with you, you’re not really playing well enough – you need to pick up the performances’.
“That drove me so much. Up until that point I’d never got told I needed to play better or do better. It helped me a lot. It made me want to work harder and get into it.
“He was always hard on me and make sure I was doing the best thing for me. I loved that.”
Millar believes Addicks manager Lee Bowyer has a similar approach and revealed some extra graft in the build up to Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Gillingham paid off with his assist for Chuks Aneke’s goal.
“One thing I do struggle with sometimes is my final ball and end product,” said Millar. “He’s always on me at training. For example if I smash the ball over the bar he’s shouting: ‘Pass it! Pass it into the corner!’
“Before the Gillingham match we were doing the team in training and I was getting into really good pockets. I kept trying to play Chuks in behind and every time I’d overhit the pass. I mean every single time. It was making me very frustrated and angry.
“The next day he pulled me aside and said: ‘We’re going to spend 10 minutes improving you on this and doing this’. We did it for 10 minutes and then I get an assist for Chuks doing the exact pass we had been working on.
“He is very helpful with me. He did tell me before I came here that he would make me a better player, and so far he has in certain ways.
“I’m really enjoying it. The lads are great with me.”
Millar’s pace and directness down the left has cushioned the loss of Alfie Doughty – first to a torn hamstring injury and then his subsequent sale to Stoke City. The biggest thing hampering the South London club’s promotion prospects is their defensive vulnerability – only Plymouth (43) have conceded more goals than Charlton (38) in the top half of the League One table.
Millar said: “The way we play at the moment is very expansive and it is the way I want and like to play. We made some mistakes but that’s football. Not everyone is going to be perfect all the time.
“Attacking wise we’re very good. We create a lot of chances. Every game we play we’re so much better than the other team. I haven’t played one yet where I’ve thought ‘they’ve got better players than us – they deserve to win’.
“Maybe they are better at what they do sometimes. Portsmouth is a good example of that. They were very good at hoofing the ball forward.
“It’s only a matter of time before we go on a run, and when we do it will be a long run.”
Photos by PA
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