Great little interview with Spearing this. Got to admire his mentality. Quite long though.http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/news/Liverpool-Jay-Spearing-interview-Stuff-of-dreams-go-from-being-written-off-as-too-small-to-key-cog-in-team-article893027.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
It seems hard to comprehend, but Jay Spearing once marked Andy Carroll in the semi finals of the FA Youth Cup.
Impossible odds you would imagine, but then the young Liverpool midfielder is well used to overcoming even the most insurmountable of problems in a career that has already had as many huge obstacles as the Grand National.
He is 5ft 6in tall (in his boots!), and yet he played central defence for the Reds from the age of nine through to 17.
Logic dictates it could never be his position, but there was enough natural talent to allow him to superbly control Carroll in that semi - despite almost a foot difference in height - and take his side through to a final triumph over Manchester United. It is almost a metaphor for his life.
Just before he was to make the step up to senior level, he broke his leg and a fledgling career seemed over before it started.
Six of his team-mates went up to the reserves, while he stayed at the academy fearing the worst.
Then, he was the innocent kid in the middle of a political battle at Anfield, when youth coach Steve Heighway used his name as an example of how the then manager Rafa Benitez was stunting development of younger players.
Again, his Anfield career was on the line.
Spearing has never played for England at any level, despite captaining Liverpool through the age groups.
Height was the issue.
He didn't make the breakthrough as a teenager as most players are expected to these days, and was sent out on loan to Leicester, apparently as a prelude to a permanent drop down.
He was never seen by the fans as a future star, and despite the faith of the admirable Heighway and now sadly departed Gary Ablett, was never singled out as the next big thing.
Yet at the age of 23, he finds himself now not just a first team regular, but integral to the team, because they have played far better this season when he's in it.
Even he can't pinpoint exactly what has allowed him to overcome those barriers, allowed him to sneak almost under the radar to play for the club he has always supported in an FA Cup semi final at Wembley against Everton of all teams.
Even saying that sentence brings a smile to his face.
"It's incredible, isn't it? The stuff you dream about as a kid. The thing for me at the start of this season was how I could make that step to turn those dreams into a reality isn't it," he explained.
"I don't know if I can really put into words what it is inside me that kept me going even when it looked hopeless for me. But I guess it is just belief. I knew, even at the worst times that if I could keep going, keep driving then I would get a chance, and the rest was up to me."
Nothing has come easy for Spearing. He wasn't a prince waiting to be ordained, like Steven Gerrard was, or an outrageously gifted talent like Robbie Fowler.
Yet he has always had something, as the semi against Everton showed when he dominated midfield.
It was as long ago as 2009 when he first hinted at such talent, when he played in the magnificent 4-0 Champions League demolition of Real Madrid.
But even after that, reality slapped him in the face swiftly.
"I played against Real Madrid, and the very next day I was at Warrington, playing for the reserves. It makes you laugh now, the contrast of that, but they are the things you have to go through, the things that make or break you," he explained.
"There have been so many times since then when I thought I wouldn't get there, I would have to go away and prove elsewhere that I could play at Liverpool's level. But I suppose I've always had that fight within me to keep going no matter what, and it has taken me a long time, but it has paid off."
Maybe it comes from all those years of battling through the rejection his height brought.
When you are automatically dismissed just because you're smaller than everyone else, you need something special to keep going.
"I have always had that height thing. I've never played for England at any level - all the way through, it was about height," he said with something of a smile.
"But I've had it all my life, so it's not exactly new to me. Look at me - I've never been the tallest, have I? People are always asking if it causes a problem, but when you're a kid trying to break through there are always going to be problems and it's how you deal with it.
"That is something I've had against me, but there is nothing I can do about that other than be determined not to let it affect me and find a way to deal with it.
"In my case, I knew I had to be good enough with the ball at my feet to stop it being an issue and that is what I have worked on all through.
"I have that fight within me - I've had to have that! It's helped me keep a positive attitude. When I broke my leg at the academy I was out for nine months and quite a few lads I came through with all got promoted into the senior squads, while I stayed down.
"I really thought my chance had gone, they were going and leaving me behind, and it really hit me. But I have got a strong family behind me, their backing, their confidence and their belief in me kept me going through that time.
"It has taken a long time, but when you are a kid trying to come through at a club the size of Liverpool, there are so many things you have against you. You can get demoralised and lose interest, say it's too difficult and you won't make it.
"But I have always had that desire in myself that I wanted to make it at this level, to play for MY club, the club I have always supported. The only way to get there was to fight with every ounce of everything I had."
It worked eventually.
During Roy Hodgson's brief Anfield reign he was finally given a chance and when Kenny Dalglish took over, Spearing soon found himself given the backing of a Liverpool legend.
"That gave me some belief. Kenny speaks to me every day, and I find that having someone like that putting confidence in me makes me want to go out there every game and prove his judgement correct," he said.
"When I came into the first team squad at the beginning, I was star-struck - I didn't even want to say hello to Steven Gerrard because he was who he was and was someone who I looked up to so much.
"There were the likes of him, Xabi Alonso, Mascherano, Lucas - all world class talents. When you first join that, you don't want to say anything to them, even though you've got to ask for the ball, you think, 'I can't shout at him!'
"You've got to adapt though, because the aim is to get to their level and play alongside them.
"You can't be star-struck for too long, otherwise you won't make it.
"I looked at them, and I thought, what puts them above me? What can I take from them that will get me there? I am still doing that."
Last summer, Spearing sat down with his dad Keith - a big influence in his career - and mapped out where he needed to go this season, after making his breakthrough under Dalglish.
The simple aim was to prove himself capable of playing regularly.
He's done that.
Again, he has answered the questions about him and taken a step to the next level, to the extent that he now admits it would be a huge disappointment if he doesn't start in the FA Cup final, where a year ago he would have been delighted just to be involved.
As it stands, you'd say he is certain of a place.
As always though, a player which such fighting spirit will not rest there.
He has another challenge now, perhaps the biggest of his career so far - he has to become an automatic choice for Liverpool, which is not as easy as it sounds when they can spend millions on world class midfield competition.
"I played in the semi final. I have played in the big games, and that is what I wanted. Now I have got the final to aim for, and I want to play - if I don't play I'll be massively disappointed," he explained.
"That shows where I have come. I still have to go forward though. This summer my target will be different - I have to aim for the next level.
"For me, I think I've made the breakthrough into the squad and proved I can be relied on, but the step up to the next level is to be seen as a player who is in there week in week out, even when the best players are fit.
"I have to prove I am good enough to play alongside Stevie G or Lucas week in week out, not in place of them. I'm under no illusions, they are all qualities players.
"There are those two, Charlie Adam, Jordan, Jonjo - they are all players of incredible quality. It's the challenge though isn't it, to get there."
You wouldn't bet against him doing it, and justifying the faith of the likes of Heighway and youth coaches Dave Shannon and John Owens.
And of Gary Ablett too.
If Spearing becomes the first long term academy success at Anfield since Gerrard, it will be a fitting tribute to a fine man.