HOW DIRK KEEPS CREATING CHANCES
Jimmy Rice 28 November 2008
Dirk Kuyt has a lot on his plate right now. A flurry of goals for club and country has taken his kudos to new levels, and everyone wants a piece of the action.
Take today: after leaving training at Melwood, there's an in-depth interview with The Sunday Times to conduct. Sky Sports also want a word.
It doesn't help that he didn't get much sleep last night. The latest addition to his ever-expanding family - baby Jordan, his third child - was born in Liverpool earlier this month and has yet to develop a respect for his superstar father's regimented sleeping pattern.
In between all this, Kuyt has been picked to visit Woodlands Hospice, which provides treatment and therapy for terminally ill patients four miles from Liverpool's training ground in Fazakarley.
The hospice won £4,000 and an appearance from one of Rafa Benitez's squad as part of the Premier League's Creating Chances initiative.
It is here that Sheila Walsh, personal assistant to seven different Liverpool managers, received care before losing her fight with illness at the turn of the year.
Kuyt is here alongside former Reds winger Brian Hall to talk about life, football and how he gets on with his teammates.
One patient wants to talk wages ("We earn massive wages but I have never thought about a single penny when I've been on the pitch. You play to win and for fun."); another about whether Kuyt gets to enjoy the odd pint ("I like beer but if you want to make it in football it's almost impossible."). Then a lady's voice interrupts.
"You worked your socks off on Saturday, Dirk," she says. "The commentator said you looked knackered."
Kuyt smiles. His natural arena might be the football pitch but, as the founder of his very own charity which helps underprivileged children around the world, the 28-year-old is at one with those less fortunate than him.
"It's good for each of the players to come to places like this a couple of times a year," he tells Liverpoolfc.tv during his third interview of the day later in the afternoon. "The people here have real problems but the minute we step into the room they are laughing and smiling. They're happy you're there.
"It makes me feel good because it's important for us players to know what's going on in places around Liverpool. It's good to have a conversation with people like the patients here.
"Being a footballer is not just about the minutes you play on the pitch. You have to think what you can do for the community and for the city you are in.
"Everyone in Liverpool is close to one another. From the first day I came here I could see the people were really friendly and helpful. When you are coming from another country and trying to settle, that's so important.
"So from my point of view it's great to be involved in something like this."
The £4,000 from Creating Chances will go towards a £2.37million capital appeal to build an inpatient unit, which will supplement the day treatment currently given to 350 patients a year.
Even by Dirk Kuyt standards, the hospice is working overdrive to see the project is successful.
Central to the fundraising appeal is Claire Hughes, who wrote the Creating Chances application and was charged with keeping Kuyt's visit quiet until just a few days ago.
Once word got out, the excitement was palpable.
"People have come in no matter what team they support and everyone has been really excited about it," says Claire.
"One of the things that is unique about a hospice is what we can't do for patients. One of our mottos is 'Adding life to days where days cannot be added to life.'
"Anything we can do to make the patients smile or make their day better is great and today has been unbelievable. Dirk really joined in and they've loved it."
Part of the question and answer session involves Kuyt and Hall asking patients for their footballing memories.
"Here at the hospice, part of the work is to put a smile on the patients' faces, get them reminiscing and talking about good times," says Hall, who left Liverpool for Plymouth in 1976 after 222 appearances.
These days Hall heads up the Public Relations department at Anfield, and it's he who coordinates an extended round of shirt signings and photographs once the session is at an end.
First in the queue is 68-year-old Joan Morris, whose neck is decorated by an unofficial Liverpool scarf.
"I was calling him a few names last Saturday, but I really like Dirk," says Joan.
"He lived up to expectations today - he was really nice.
"We need recognition at the hospice. We survive on what people give and they're all volunteers here. We're very close-knit because we're all going down the same path."
Once every shirt has been signed, Kuyt heads to reception for one last interview, during which he's asked about becoming a dad once more.
"To be fair, it's so far so good on the sleep front, though last night wasn't the best. I'm hoping to have a sleep after this interview," he says.
"It's going well. The people at the women's hospital were great and very helpful, as always. That makes it a lot easier for me and my family.
"He was born in Liverpool just like his brother - they're two little Scousers."
With that, Kuyt is gone, leaving the final word to Joan.
"He's a bit shorter than he looks on telly, isn't he? But no, I'll remember this day - I loved it."
- Jan 18 Sun 2009 17:43
HOW DIRK KEEPS CREATING CHANCES