Six days, two games and approximately 90 pairs of boots.
When Liverpool’s players, coaches and staff depart for the club’s pre-season tour of Hong Kong later on Sunday, they’ll be joined by kit and equipment. Lots of kit and equipment, in fact.
See the metal container in the image above? Around 16 of those will be making the 12,000-mile round-trip, too - as Lee Radcliffe, the Reds’ kit management co-ordinator, explains.
“We take three full sets of training kit for every player. We’ll take between 25 and 30 players on tour, so there you’re looking at 90 kits - 90 pairs of shorts, 90 jerseys, 90 zip tops,” Radcliffe tells Liverpoolfc.com.
“Match shirts, you’re looking at two sets each, so two shirts and two pairs of shorts per player. That means about 80 per matchday. So 80 plus 80 for Hong Kong, then your accessories, socks, slips, cycle shorts etc.
“With boots, that depends on the player, but generally in pre-season and when they know it’s only two games they’ll take an average of three pairs. Some are happy with two, most will take three, some will take four, but not often.
“On average we take 16-22 metal kit containers on tour and it depends on the games. Hong Kong will probably be 16 because it’s only two games. Germany will be 22.”
Radcliffe, who has worked for the club for 16-and-a-half years, recently sat down at his desk in Melwood’s kit room to take Liverpoolfc.com through the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure the Reds’ travelling party have access to all the equipment they could possibly need on tour.
Read on to find out how Radcliffe, Graham Carter - his department’s other full-time member of staff - and temporary assistant Carl Lancaster have spent their summers ahead of the team’s trips to Hong Kong and Germany…
‘It’s amazing what you need to put together just for a six-day trip…’
“The job is getting busier. The demands on tour to wear the right colour kit at the right time, the right launch date and then to get it all right in terms of sizes for the players because once you actually go away there’s no nipping back to Melwood to print a shirt up!” Radcliffe says.
“So the planning and preparation actually starts at the end of the season. This year, we’ve got Carl, who’s a part-time coach at the Academy and has come on board for a three-month period to help us prep for the tour.
“We’re going away just for six days and then an eight-day trip to Germany and he’s been in to start that prep work. Basically, the prep work starts in June and even since we’ve been back, since the players came back, it’s still non-stop.
“All the way up to the last day before you go, it’s amazing what you need to put together just for a six-day trip.”
‘You always start with your matchday stuff - the sooner you can get that done, the better…’
“The first thing you try to prep is the game stuff. Carl’s been in since early June, prepping for the squad we had at the time,” Radcliffe explains.
“So we’ll get a list of the games we’re going to be playing and the colours we’ll be playing and then we prep for those games with the players that we’ve got here at the moment.
“What Graham’s doing now is adding a few players that have come back from loans and the couple of players we’ve signed for Hong Kong matchdays, printing the match shirts, the shorts, putting the badges on.
“Graham’s piecing the last bits together, and then for peace of mind we double check everything before it goes in the tin. Once we put the padlock on, we know it’s done, we don’t need to look at it again.
“You always start with your matchday stuff - the sooner you can get that done, the better. Training’s always a bit more of a staggered approach, more because you’re waiting for deliveries to come in. So towards the end of May we got shorts, t-shirts and zip tops in for the players, and then two weeks later we got the training pants in, then a mid-layer top.
“The deliveries never arrive at once and you’re relying on them being on time, then waiting for the kit to go to the printers to be numbered and initialled, then you panic while waiting for that to come back! You’re relying on other people to make things fall into place.”
‘I’m coming back from Hong Kong early to prepare for Germany…’
“Because Germany’s so close to Hong Kong, and with our training kit sponsor not being able to be worn in Hong Kong, it’s a bit more difficult to plan,” Radcliffe notes.
“Because of the sponsoring and the short gap, I’m going to come back from Hong Kong three days early and leave Graham and Carl there for the final couple of days and the final game. I’ll be back then to start the planning for Germany and we need to start packing all over again.
“There’s a lot of planning ahead even for Germany, and that’s why we’ve had to cut the Hong Kong trip short for myself.”
‘Pre-season’s busier for us than the actual season…’
“The first thing you look for is the first game of the season - as soon as that comes, you know you’re 100 per cent on top of everything,” Radcliffe says.
“Then your next deadline is the end of August, because you know no players can come in or go after then. So then you’ve got your full squad list and the games and you can start pre-printing shirts for the games coming up. As soon as the season kicks in, it’s ideal for us.
“Pre-season has got busier and busier over the years. Years ago when I first started with Graham, we used to go to Switzerland on a 10-day training camp and that was it. It’s changed dramatically, to be honest.”
‘This has been our busiest pre-season yet…’
“100 per cent it's been our busiest one, with two tours so close to each other,” Radcliffe states.
“People might look at the kit but forget about the equipment we take as well. We take our own balls. In Germany we’re playing with Adidas balls but the manager likes to train with the Premier League ball because that’s what we’ll be going in to. So, the day before the game we’ll use their balls, but apart from that we’d always use our own ones.
“In Hong Kong, it’s a Premier League tournament so they’ll provide us with 40 balls and then we’ll take 20 of our own just in case we lose any. But to Germany, we’ll take 50, as well as getting balls over there.
“We’ll be taking our own mannequins, our own poles, our discs, we take everything. So once you’ve planned your match kit, then your training kit, you get onto the equipment - that’s the last bit you piece together.
“But for us it’s just a matter of keeping the players happy so that on a matchday all they’re concentrating on is the football. That’s all we’re here for, really.”