Grimsby Town: Liam Hearn reflects on days helping deprived kids
A RELAXING summer off work is the dream scenario for many people – but not for Grimsby Town striker Liam Hearn.
The 26-year-old admits a break from football has been just what he needed after a long and tough first full campaign as a professional following his move from Alfreton Town a year ago.
But as someone more akin to hard graft over the summer months than whiling away the days indoors, the Town Player of the Year says it has been strange since the season ended.
Since becoming a full-time footballer a year ago, Hearn's close season schedule has changed markedly.
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Gone is the need to find work to pay the bills over the summer break and his days are now filled spending time with his young daughter or perfecting his golf swing.
It's a far cry from working with underprivileged youngsters back in his home town of Nottingham – something Hearn used to love doing in between his football commitments.
The forward, who netted 29 goals as Town's top scorer last season, says the work with the Unity Programme was aimed at steering youngsters away from trouble through football.
And he loved every minute of a role he says was hugely rewarding.
As a young footballer who came from humble roots, he sees himself as a role model who can help the community of the future.
The Mariners frontman explained: "When I was a part-time player, I used to have to work through the summer whereas now I'm at home getting on my girlfriend's nerves, though I have recently taken up golf.
"It sounds like life is easier now, and it is to some extent, but I enjoyed the work I did back then.
"I was a youth worker helping kids back in Nottingham stay away from gangs and knife crime.
"It has long been a problem in the city, although it has been getting better thanks to the help of projects like Unity which I worked with.
"The Unity project was started in 2005 because of the gang-related violence around at the time.
"My boss Morris Samuels does great work and he recently received an OBE.
"The project uses football as a way to bring together young people from different inner-city areas of Nottingham and we had members of different gangs come together to play the game.
"I used to coach the under-12s and under-13s – around 150 kids.
"I loved it because I believe in trying to make a difference like that."
As a youngster growing up in humble surroundings and making the grade in football later than average, Hearn appreciates what he has achieved and also how he can help others follow a similar path.
He may not have as much need to work now he's turned professional, but hopes to keep working with youngsters in Nottingham and around his adopted home of Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
Hearn continued: "I love helping out and would like to around here when I can.
"My mum was a single mum with seven kids and it was tough.
"Some kids have the same difficulties nowadays as well.
"I remember one of the young players with the Unity project was at Derby County but his mum couldn't afford to get him boots.
"I had a pair I had never worn and gave them to him and he was made up – that gives you a good feeling to help someone out.
"I have had to work hard to get where I am, but I don't forget my roots.
"I have a nice house, lovely girlfriend and beautiful daughter – and that can be an example for me to show young kids what you can achieve if you stay away from crime and be positive."