For Miguel Angel Llera Garzón, football is his life.
As a player, the former Sheffield Wednesday defender wore his heart on his sleeve and since calling it a day he has coached and scouted for the Championship club.
Now Llera, a key member of the Owls’ 2012 promotion-winning team, is looking to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.
The Spaniard, who played over 500 matches in his career, including 91 times for the Owls, will open the Miguel Llera International Football Academy on January 4.
Based at the Spring Leisure Centre and with the aid of close pal Wednesday midfielder Jose Semedo, Llera’s academy will offer youngsters between six and 16 the chance to develop their football skills.
I chatted to Miguel to find out more:
*Dom Howson (DH): Why have you now decided to set up this academy?
*Miguel Llera (ML): It is something I have been thinking about doing for a long time. I already have my coaching badges and helped coach Wednesday’s Under-13s for over a year now.
This will be a new challenge for me. It’s a long-term project but it feels the right time to do it. We have already had a lot of interest. The response and feedback from the city has been massive.
I owe so much to the city because they have supported me throughout my career. The best way I know to pay them back is by coaching.
*DH: What are you hoping to achieve through the academy?
*ML: The idea is to coach the kids properly and make them better players so they are ready for professional academies in the future. It is going to be like a development centre for footballers.
I’m not a threat to any clubs in the area. It is the opposite.
I will be helping the clubs by preparing the kids for the step up.
I want scouts or clubs, whether they are from Wednesday, Sheffield United, Chesterfield or Barnsley to come and have a look at the players. That is my dream.
*The most important thing is the kids have fun and enjoy themselves.
DH: Other than football, what else will you be teaching the youngsters?
*ML: While they are playing football, I can teach them some Spanish. It will be good for them and hopefully open their mind up to learning another language.
Education is key to becoming a good player.
Not enough English players go abroad and it is partly due to the language barrier.
Hopefully the academy will be a big success as I would love to send some players to Spain to further their football education. It would be good for them to learn the Spanish methodology and experience something different.
*DH: When officially did you decide to retire?
*ML: I felt strong in the first part of last season and was enjoying my football at Scunthorpe United. I was playing every single game.
For political reasons, the manager [Mark Robins] dropped me as he didn’t want to give me an extra year. If I had played 30 games, they would have had to have offered me a new contract.
The manager told me he didn’t want me to play 30 games so I didn’t play anymore after March. He felt I was too old at 35. As soon I knew that, I wanted to leave.
It was pretty hard for me. I didn’t play for a few months and I had a lot of time to think about my future. I felt over the summer it was the right time to pack it in.
*DH: Where are you up to with your coaching badges?
*ML: I am a fully qualified UEFA Coach. I got my A license in 2006.
I have improved a lot tactically and my knowledge of English players. It would be great to be involved in a first-team set-up one day as I think I have got a lot to offer. I would like to be a manager in the future at the highest level.
*DH: What were the highs and lows from your time at Hillsborough?
*ML: Helping the team go up in 2012 was an amazing feeling. It is difficult to describe. If anything, I wished I had enjoyed the moment a little more.
My final season was difficult because I was in and out of the side. I showed commitment, desire every day in training but I was never first option at centre-back. I only played when there was an injury or suspension. The club brought in four or five players in my position and that hurt my feelings.
If it had been up to me, I would have finished my career at the club.
*DH: How would you assess Wednesday’s season so far?
*ML: I think the club is moving in the right direction under Carlos Carvalhal and the owner. They have brought in good players but Carlos has realised how the team needs to play in this country. It is his first season but he has been pretty clever in how he has adapted to English football.
Everything is moving forward in the right way and I don’t think too many teams in the Championship want to play against Sheffield Wednesday because they are a nasty team to play and have good players.
The team is in a good moment and fingers crossed they will do well. It is a massive club and they deserve to be in the Premier League.
They have to carry on treating each game as a cup final and the key is that they consistently keep on picking up results.
*For more information on Miguel’s academy, log on to http://www.miguelllerafootballacademy.co.uk/