Liverpool FC have departed the historic and iconic Melwood – and those who have called the training ground their place of work have bid it an emotional farewell.
The club is moving its first-team operation to the state-of-the-art AXA Training Centre in Kirkby, bringing its senior and Academy groups together on one site.
In use since the 1950s, Melwood has housed many of the best footballers and managers in the game, while maintaining an identity and culture throughout numerous changes.
Liverpoolfc.com spoke to 25 people associated with Liverpool Football Club, who detailed their fond memories of the West Derby complex.
472 games as club captain between 2003 and 2015
“Melwood will always be a special place to Liverpool, especially for me, given I spent so many years there. I grew up 20 minutes from Melwood and every day that I entered, I knew it was a privilege and an honour to be there. The high-quality facilities, coupled with coaches who were top of their game, created the environment for players to develop and improve. From a young boy, through to becoming Liverpool captain, Melwood played a key role in my own personal and professional development.
"The pride and passion displayed by every single member of staff made Melwood feel like home for every player who came through the club. The emphasis on detail, attention to the small margins and the focus on every aspect of the training facility made it, for me, one of the world’s best training facilities for any sport. It will live long in my memory, as I am sure it will for countless teammates and staff members.”
Granddaughter of Bill Shankly
“I don't know if you've seen this quote from my grandad: "Melwood means more to me than any other part of Liverpool. It was where Liverpool was made. The first time I saw the place, an overgrown, neglected place it was too, I said to Ness, 'I'm going to see Melwood reborn, cultivated.' I did. Every inch of it. If someone took Melwood away from me..." and then he just stopped. I think it was the place where he felt most at home. It's the place where I associate my grandad with – maybe sometimes even more than Anfield because all the photos I absolutely love of him were all there, just with his tracksuit on and training with the team.
"I know how much it meant to him. He would've probably lived there in an old shed if they'd let him! It's about a five-minute walk from Bellefield – and that's why he wanted to live at Bellefield. Apparently when he came he wanted a house that was as close as possible to Melwood and then he never moved, even after he retired. Melwood was the place where they forged his Liverpool team. That's where I picture him when I picture him, to be honest.”
Liverpool’s all-time record appearance maker
“I had a long career at Liverpool and it was all down at Melwood. It was a wooden pavilion when I first went down there, it was an old cricket pavilion. Obviously Bill Shankly came in and it was knocked down and a nice new brick facility was there. It's not like today when I first signed professionally – the gates were open, people could come in and watch us train. There's some great photographs over the years with kids on the wall and they couldn't get in because there were too many of them.
"Early on we used to get changed at Anfield and go down by coach to Melwood, do the training and come back to Anfield to be showered and have something to eat. It was a joy to go down there. Melwood was the place where I started my football and finished it. Melwood was a massive part of my life.”
“I think my most vivid memory of Melwood is the first day when I came here. It was completely new to me, this kind of training ground. In Germany it's like that only the players, coaches, grounds people, kit men are at the training ground – at least at Dortmund it was like this and at Mainz we didn't really have something like that at all.
"For me, it was completely new having all these people around. Coming in and saying hello to so many people who are here on a daily basis was very, very exciting and impressive. I knew from the first moment that I love this kind of environment and was really desperate to know more about all the people working here and how the days will be together with them. I enjoyed every second.”
Second in the club's list of all-time appearances
"I've been going there since I was probably eight or nine really. I loved the place, a lot of memories there. People talk about playing at Anfield – and maybe I played at Anfield 400 times or something in my career – but you were at Melwood virtually 250, 300 days a year. That's where a lot of the stuff around your relationships were built, Anne on reception, Paula who used to do the dinners when we started, Kenny on the gate, all the different people. It's definitely changed.
"At Liverpool I think you've always got to move with the times and if Liverpool need the best training ground in the country, which is what they're going to get, we should get it. Great credit again to the owners with what they've done to the stadium but also at the training ground. I think it's a great legacy for them. Lots of great memories starting off with people like Ronnie Moran, the old Boot Room days and there have been changes with foreign managers coming in, all the ups and downs that we had at different times. I'll miss it."
"I was opening the back gates about 40, 50 times a day, so you multiply that by how many years I was there – it's just incredible. It was a job I loved doing. The players didn't look down on me, I was treated like one of their friends. I made friends with a lot of them, passing the time of day with them. The memories are great. When you first walk, in especially when the lads have been cutting the grass, you can smell the turf and it was lovely.
"It was a waste of time trying to stop fans standing on the purple bins looking over the fence! You'd tell them to get down and then the next minute they'd just move further up. When we got the screens, that was the best idea ever. I'm missing it now, every day I just wish I was there but there's nothing I can do now. All I have now is my memories of it and that's something I'll never lose."
“I will miss it. On certain days I'll probably still drive here and just forget about the new place! I'll have to be careful of that. I will miss it, as I'm sure everybody else will because it is a unique and special training ground. But nothing lasts forever, so it's about moving on and using the new facility as best we can and try to settle in as quickly as we can. Hopefully that can be just as special as this place has been over the years.”
35 years at LFC as player, reserve team manager, coach and first-team manager
“I spent most of my life there. It'll never be forgotten for me, that's for sure. It's high up in Liverpool's history. I used to get changed next to Shanks. Some days you'd come in and he'd be like your best mate and the next minute he'd be shouting and screaming at you. He was the guy who started it for me and lots of other great people took over. It was just one of those places where you felt at home. I can remember that the balls that used to go over in the training sessions, we used to have to go out or have someone on the outside to throw them back.”
1981 European Cup-winning captain and assistant manager between 1998 and 2004
“It's one of the most important places of my time, of fans' time. The talk of Melwood brings back so many memories to me. I think about the training, where we used to play, which we called mini Wembley. That's where we used to play five-a-sides but they were more like eight or nine a side against the staff, against Shanks, against Bob, against Reuben Bennett. Shanks' sweatbox and all the boards, which was quite revolutionary back in the day. I could go on and on. It evokes so many memories.
"When I was with Gerard Houllier as his assistant, they gave us the whole project, 'Here you go, where do you want everything built?' We could put the medical place in with the swimming pool. We took all the ideas from other clubs and we made ours better. Gerard Houllier always said to me, 'If you ever get back in the game, always remember you need to leave a legacy.' Our legacy has been discipline and one of the state-of-the-art training complexes.”
Liverpool's first foreign manager between 1998 and 2004
"It's a page of history which is being turned. I would say we made the new Melwood but it kept going on very well. Sometimes some things don't get old very well but regarding Melwood, when I went the last time I could notice that they really looked after it and kept it in good shape and good condition."
Scorer of 71 goals between 2006 and 2012
"For me, Melwood will always be a special place. I've got many great memories there. The people who were working there, they were amazing and they were part of the family, my family. Of course when Liverpool is moving to Kirkby, it will be a miss but it's also for the greater good of Liverpool. We will never forget the good memories of Melwood.”
John and Andrew Powell
John: “I went there as a kid when Ron Yeats was captain and you could go in. All the fans would go in and you'd stand by the little hut and watch the training. Obviously the new building got built and to be working in there was just... it's really sad to leave. It's nice for pictures, Melwood. You can get some nice shots up on the balcony, wide shots with West Derby church and the woods in the background.”
Andrew: “I love Melwood, it's brilliant. It's so homely, isn't it? I've never really had an office there properly, so it's always just been grab a seat and work. At a training session I take about 1,000 photos, sometimes 2,000. I'll have taken millions of photos and sent over 50,000 from Melwood. 'The Melwood lean', to be honest, that's my dad! I adopted it a little bit but it was my dad: 'Just have a little lean there.' Sometimes players can be a little bit awkward when you're doing a signing session, you've got to try and get them to do something, you've got to try and get them to relax. 'Have a little lean somewhere' – it does ease people. I absolutely adore the Melwood lean.”
Liverpool-born striker between 1987 and 1989
"Deary me, I went there for the first time when I was 15, 16 for trials to get into the 'Development' as it was called in those days. I went trialling 12 times and for me that was massive. I didn't make it. It was a great place to be because we had great banter and the training was always very good obviously. The banter we had there was probably better than the training, to be quite honest! It was ahead of its time. I remember the one pitch we couldn't play on was always for the winter months if it got icy. Then the all-weather pitch – it was very clever what Shanks did and was well ahead of its time – was another thing to combat the weather. I just have great memories."
Two-time First Division and FA Cup winner
“When I joined in 1984 it wasn't anything exceptional in terms of a training ground. We had a couple of pitches, a gravel pitch and that was it really. There was what almost looked like a cricket pavilion for dressing rooms. It was very much in line with how Liverpool did things – we played football on grass, we had some good grass pitches and that's all that mattered.
"The only thing beyond training was the ritual that we had on a Friday morning, we would have digestive biscuits – plain and chocolate – and cups of tea. We had cups of tea every day we went down there. Before training you'd have a cup of tea and after training you'd have a cup of tea. To take the taste away from the people who didn't like it, it was just filled with sugar! But I do genuinely believe that they thought, 'There's a lot of energy in sugar, so let's feed the players plenty of sugar.' It was all done in a very innocent way. Obviously there was a lack of knowledge in certain things and they just did what they thought was right. One of the things was to make the biggest pot of tea you'd ever seen in your life probably filled with a bag of sugar.”
First-team post-match analyst
“As soon as you walk in the door at Melwood, you’ll know that there is a feeling to it and it’s something that you can’t describe. It’s an aura and you forget everything that has gone before, you forget any names, any egos – everyone comes into that building with one focus and that’s to be a better version of themselves than when they walked in. It’s only Melwood that can do that; having that history, that feel. That’s what we have to try and move to the new training ground – to continue with all that work there has been, all the history that has gone into it, all the success and foundation that has been built.”
LFC Academy manager
“It is a really special place. I've come to learn to love it in my own little way. You can't help but walk around the place and think of all the amazing players that have played there and the history that it holds. When Trent goes up there for the first time or Curtis, Rhys, Neco or whoever it is, it is like sending your kid to senior school for the first day. There's that nervousness and you're on the phone straight away afterwards, 'How did you get on? What did the manager say to you? Did you get any feedback? How do you think you did?' It's a very, very special place and our duty as a club now is to create something equally as special and meaningful in our new home.”
FA Cup and League Cup winner with 364 appearances between 1990 and 1999
“It meant everything to me. That's where I first trained when I was a 14-year-old schoolboy training on the shale pitch there. Everybody wanted to be on the big pitch where the first team trained and eventually I got there. Melwood itself didn't really change – it was four pitches and that shale pitch. When I was there it was just the small one-story building with the dressing room, the kitchen and the magnificent football fields.
"Considering the training ground was housing sometimes the best players in the country and arguably across Europe and the world, it was very low key really. I was one of hundreds of kids with dreams of playing for the first team. Just to actually step foot in Melwood or play at Melwood even as a 15-year-old was incredibly special.”
Midfielder between 2005 and 2008
"It's the history of Liverpool – everything happened there. We trained there, we slept there, we ate there, we did everything there. Melwood is part of Liverpool Football Club. I remember the fans outside and talking with us."
Jose Luis Rodriguez
First-team physiotherapist between 2018 and 2020
"It's a place with a lot of character, very symbolic in the football world. The name Melwood and when you arrive there with the red bricks and surrounded by houses, it's not only me who's going to miss it. It's a symbol for Liverpool Football Club."
Treble winner during the 2000-01 campaign
"It's just an iconic place, isn't it? Such great memories being there. When I first got there it was obviously the old building and then suddenly another building and all this fabulous technology and equipment were added. You always evolve, as a person and a club, and I'm guessing this is the next step to evolving into bigger and better."
Liverpool fan who was invited to the training ground by Mohamed Salah in 2018
“I've been outside the gates plenty of times in the past and drove past it, but once you're in it's mad – just the size of it all and the history. Kirkby's a new thing coming up in the future, but Melwood will never be forgotten. While we were waiting for Salah to turn up, we were just sitting in the foyer but we were seeing people walk in. Van Dijk walked past and did sort of a head nod and said hello and stuff. You're just seeing these people walk around in their sort of office. It was weird to just be a part of it and look inside. We were just sitting there saying to each other, 'I can't believe we're here. It's mad.' Even to this day, nearly two years on, it's still pinch-yourself stuff.”
"It's a brilliant place to be. It's really welcoming, everyone in there is really positive and nice to you. For them to now be around the corner is going to be big for the Academy because you're going to have more eyes on you from people from Melwood. That's going to up the tempo for all of us a lot and help us raise our standards."
Nabil El Zhar
Player between 2006 and 2011
“As soon as you opened the door and you got in, you just had such a feeling about all the players that came from there and what they achieved. It's something very big. Melwood will still be Melwood forever.”
Six-time league winner between 1981 and 1994
"Melwood is one of those sacred places. It was only a training ground but everybody that was involved in football knew Melwood, everybody knew the history of it. The history of it is huge. It was spoken in the same sort of way Anfield would be. It was part and parcel of Liverpool's history."