Max Hill has a mountain to climb from the Academy to the Leeds United first team, but isn’t afraid of hard graft. Lee Sobot reports.
BARDSEY’S Max Hill was one of those youngsters that excelled at most sports and it’s no surprise.
Sporting success is, after all, in the blood.
“I remember my dad used to train in the garage,” he recalls. “He was always doing weights in there – like double sessions six days a week.”
Hard graft that led to a World Championship bronze, European silver and two Commonwealth Games medals for former world no2 javelin thrower Mick Hill.
Son Max, though, instead hopes to go the distance in football – some six months into life as a first-year Leeds United Scholar.
Centre-midfielder Max lives a very different life to most 16-year-olds with the teenager’s education taking place at the Whites’ Academy and training complex at Thorp Arch where Paul Hart is Academy director.
Five days of learning both in the classroom and on the football field are followed by Saturday matchdays for John Anderson’s thriving under-18s, who won their first six games out of seven of the current campaign.
The former Grammar School at Leeds pupil now dreams of emulating the likes of Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor by eventually graduating from the Academy to the Whites’ first team at Elland Road.
Yet Max is so proud of his dad’s achievements that he reckons the Nou Camp or Bernabeu would have to beckon before he could confidently declare he had bettered the sporting glories of his ‘old man’.
As the teenager’s mum Stephanie puts the kettle on at the Hill’s family home in Bardsey, Max ponders to the YEP: “If I made the first team at Leeds it would be a dream come true.
“But either way my dad will have definitely done better. He was number two in the world so I’d have to be like Messi or Ronaldo to beat him! I’m proud of my dad. He did really well.
“I remember that he used to train in the garage which is now the games room where I just chill out.
“He was always doing weights in there – like double sessions six days a week – and so I have always been brought up in a hardworking environment.”
A hardworking environment and very much a sporting one though for Max – younger brother to 20-year-old Leeds Beckett student Lewis – it was neither football nor javelin that was actually the former Bardsey Primary School’s pupil’s first sporting love. Max explained: “I just wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps – not in javelin but just in sport because I have always enjoyed it.
“I used to play a bit of tennis at quite a high level, but then I got pulled out of that and then one of my best mates at primary school, Sam Hills, got me into footy down at Collingham Juniors, and then it just took off from there really. That was under-6s when I started.
“I’ve always had a good arm and a good throwing arm but I’ve never really tried javelin. Athletics didn’t really grab me like football and tennis did.”
Now, though, the football bug has well and truly bitten with Max initially invited for trials at Bradford City after moving to Shadwell Juniors once his Collingham side folded.
School friend Callum Mochrie then brought Hill along to trials at Leeds United, who signed both youngsters who were then ultimately dreaming of being handed two-year scholarships aged 16. Hill made the grade but not without panic.
“The year before the signing was quite a nervy one,” revealed Hill. “I had a really bad hip avulsion. I was out for about 15 to 18 months and that was the under-15s season which was when I hadn’t been offered my scholarship then.
“My last season was the under-16s one but I had missed a full year before that so it was tough. My fitness wasn’t up to scratch, I hadn’t really kicked a ball for a year but luckily I got my scholarship in one of my first games back.”
Explaining the day-to-day life of a first-year scholar at Thorp Arch, Hill revealed: “The scholarship lasts for two years and you get a level 2 coaching badge and a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma and you can do the extended one as well which is another six units. In the normal one you do 12 so I am doing the extra one. Then we have full-time training every day. On Mondays we have school from 9.30am until about 1pm and then in the afternoon we do training and then a bit of gym work. Tuesdays is like a full physical day so it will be training in the morning and maybe a bit of conditioning afterwards and then technical in the afternoon, like working on your touch, range of passing and stuff.
Wednesdays is a full school day so that’s about half 9 until about four o’clock/half-four and then Thursday is a bit similar to Tuesday but it’s a bit lighter because we have the games on the Saturday.
“In the afternoon, instead of doing technical work we will do set-pieces, shape work, and then Fridays is a really light day, like almost re-doing what we did on Thursday but in greater detail. And then Saturday is under-18s game day where it’s all about playing for the three points.”
Longer-term, it’s then all about being offered a pro deal en route to hopefully making the first team.
There are no shortage of inspirations with Lewie Coyle the latest Whites youngster to have made his first-team debut having recently signed a new pro’ deal.
Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt, Charlie Taylor and Lewis Cook are also all former Academy stars who are now part and parcel of the Whites’ first team, while former Academy ’keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell is the club’s current no2 shotstopper to Marco Silvestri.
Max Hill hopes that one day he is next. “We all look up to them because they are proof that it can happen; that if you put the work in you can make it,” said Max. “It’s just really good motivation for all of us to work our socks off and try and get in the team. It shows it’s not impossible.
“I think there’s 18 of us in the Under-18s squad and it’s a bit of a shock really as all my friends are still at school and I’m sort of living the dream. Hopefully things will work out.
“The scholarship is two years so until I am 17/18 and then either you get offered a pro’ contract or they just say no and you go to other clubs if they want you. If not then university and alternative plans. I’m just thinking of plan A really and if that doesn’t work then I’ll think about it. If I make the first team it’s every little boy’s dream.”