Liam Boyce relishing life with Werder Bremen
Liam Boyce had his first frankfurter recently. More used to savouring a hotdog in Belfast, the teenager is getting used to German cuisine.
our boy liam set to be a hit in bundesligaBit special: Cliftonville supporters got used to seeing Boyce in celebratory mode last season and Northern Ireland U21 recognition came (top) thanks to a series of spectacular goals he plundered for the Reds (above)
He’s been in Deutschland since September after making a dream move into full-time football from Cliftonville to Werder Bremen.
The amazing deal followed weeks of speculation about Boyce’s future.
Considered one of Northern Ireland’s brightest young talents, scouts from England, Scotland and all over Europe, including one official from Barcelona, were keeping an eye on him.
Then the Germans pounced. Not Werder Bremen — they would come later — but SpVgg Greuther Furth from the second tier of the Bundesliga.
After impressing in training sessions, a deal looked certain, but the talks came to nothing.
Boyce returned home ready to shine for Cliftonville in the Irish League this season, just as he had done the previous term, and promptly scored in a 3-1 win at Crusaders.
It was to prove his farewell goal with giants of the German game Werder Bremen making a stunning move for Boyce’s services.
This time the dream didn’t die with the west Belfast boy signing a two-year contract.
He announced himself in fine style at Bremen by scoring a hat-trick in his first game at under-21 level for the club.
Since then he been playing for Werder’s under 23 side, which effectively doubles up as their reserve team.
He’s making progress on the field and off it. “Things are going well,” said Liam, who is home for Christmas.
“I feel I’m learning and improving all the time as a player in training and in the matches I play. I also feel a lot more settled in Germany now.
“It was tough for the first few weeks because I’d never really been away from home before.
“Thankfully my girlfriend Leoncha came over every couple of weeks and that was a big help to me. I’ve also made friends and am learning the language which is great. I go three times a week to a language class to spend one and a half hours studying German.
“I am starting to understand all the things people say to me. I still find it hard to make conversation in German because you have to think about what you are going to say, but I’m getting better with that.
“I did French and Italian in school but, to be honest, a week after leaving school I had forgotten anything that I had learned.
“At the start the coaches at Werder Bremen used to talk to me in English but now they are talking to me in German because they feel it will help me long term.”
Boyce lives in an apartment provided by his club, with food prepared for players in the block.
“I eat mostly pasta and lasagne, but I’ve tried some German food and had a frankfurter at half-time recently when I was watching the first team play.
“It was dead on,” says Liam, who has not lost his Belfast accent.
He was supposed to play a match on Saturday, but it was postponed due to poor weather conditions.
His next game isn’t scheduled until January 28 as the Germans take an extended winter break.
“I’m back on January 4 when we will have a second pre-season before the games start,” he says. “Now at home I asked if I could train with Cliftonville and they have been very good to me about that.”
Maybe the Northern Ireland under-21 international will introduce a Werder Bremen tradition to Solitude.
“We train next to the first team and every day all the players, including the big stars, shake each other by the hand before training,” he reveals.
“I’ve never seen it anywhere else before but it is nice. Even if you meet other players in the street the thing is to shake hands.”
In future Boyce wants to be shaking hands with the Werder Bremen players after scoring goals in the Bundesliga.
The players he looks up to are legendary defender Torsten Frings, Arsenal target Per Mertesacker and the mercurial Marko Marin, a player sometimes described as ‘the German Messi.’
“I have a two year contract and my aim is to first be a regular for the under-23 team and to score on a regular basis and then next year hopefully I can get to train with the first team and make a few appearances and earn another deal.
“I want to be a success over there. It is a different type of football to the Irish League because that was more physical.
“In Germany it is all about keeping the ball and taking your chances when they come along.”
Boyce, whose travels in the last few months have taken him to Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich, was certainly adept at that when at Cliftonville.
“I had a great time at Cliftonville and made some good friends. I keep in touch with George McMullan all the time over the phone and talk to the rest of the boys on Facebook.
“I keep an eye on how the lads are doing and, after a difficult spell, Stephen Garrett and Chris Scanell are scoring a few goals and hopefully that will continue. It’s all about consistency and if the boys can get that in the weeks to come, they will be able to challenge for honours.”
Cliftonville fans will pray that is the case and hope that Boyce makes the grade in Germany.
“If you had told me this time last year that I would be at Werder Bremen I wouldn’t have believed you,” he says.
“I remember when I was linked to Barcelona and I thought that was crazy, but getting a move to Werder Bremen seemed just as impossible back then. I’m there though and I really do intend to make the most of it.”
With his ability he has got a chance. Back in Belfast, however, Liam can enjoy a break and look forward to his mum’s Christmas dinner.
I’m ready to answer Worthy’s call
Ready and |waiting: Liam Boyce wants to hear from Nigel Worthington (left) and hopes Mattie Burrows wins a big Fifa award LIAM Boyce would love to make his full Northern Ireland debut next year.
Boyce has shone for the under-19 and under-21 international sides and would relish the chance to play for the senior team in the future.
“Of course it would be great to play for the senior Northern Ireland side,” said the Werder Bremen front man.
“The manager Nigel Worthington is giving young players a chance which is good to see and if he wants to include me in any future squads, I’ll be there trying to show what I can do.”
Boyce is a big Manchester United fan, though Wayne Rooney is not his favourite striker.
“I enjoy watching Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, who is the best forward in the world, and I like the way United’s Dimitar Berbatov plays. He is really calm.”
Boyce is a pretty cool customer himself with a ball at his feet.
Indeed last season he scored a goal that had a famous Glenn Hoddle strike against Watford written all over it.
Boyce’s skill was evident as he used dragbacks to bamboozle Lisburn Distillery defenders before finishing with a sublime chip.
It really was a majestic effort.
But even that strike has been put in the shade by Mattie Burrows, whose backheeled volley gave Glentoran a win over Portadown and earned him a place in the shortlist for Fifa’s goal of the year.
“I’ve voted for Mattie online. It was an impossible goal. He obviously meant it — it really was incredible. Hopefully he will win the Fifa award though with some of those he is up against it will be difficult.”