As a footballer, Miguel Llera maximised every ounce of his potential.
And since hanging up his boots and trusty headguard, the genial Spaniard has turned his attentions to inspiring youngsters to realise their own dreams.
The 36-year-old, who played 91 times in Owls colours, launched his Miguel Llera International Football Academy six months ago.
It offers youngsters between five and 16 the opportunity to develop their football skills.
One hundred and twenty children have already enrolled in Miguel’s academy, which runs from the Springs Leisure Centre every Monday and Wednesday and then at Lucozade Powerleague Sheffield, based at Stadium Way, every Friday.
“I’m very proud of how many kids are coming to my academy but I never say that’s enough,” Llera told The Star. “The demand is there.
“When parents come to me, I tell them that I can’t guarantee their children are going to become pros but say I will try my best to help them.”
Before moving to England eight years ago, Miguel appeared for San Fernando (loan), Alicante, Gimnastic and Hercules in his homeland. The former centre-back also represented MK Dons, Charlton Athletic, Blackpool, Brentford, Wednesday and Scunthorpe United.
While at Hillsborough, Llera had the happy knack of popping up with crucial goals and his whole-hearted, no-nonsense performances endeared himself to the Owls faithful. He was, of course, an indispensable figure in Wednesday’s promotion to the Championship in 2012.
He said: “I was a passionate player who gave my best every time I stepped out on to the field. I had to make a lot of sacrifices to get to where I did.”
The academy is his way of giving something back to Sheffield and the sport which has given him so many treasured memories.
Scouts have wasted no time in checking out Llera’s budding footballers. “A couple of my players are on trial at Sheffield Wednesday,” he revealed.
“I have a lot of people asking for my players, which can only be a good thing.
“At the end of the day, I could lose a customer, but I want them to improve.
“My job is to help them be better and achieve good things.”
It can be time-consuming organising, planning and delivering a structured development programme for each age group but Llera welcomes a challenge and passing on his knowledge to the next generation.
A fully qualified UEFA coach with additional coaching qualifications, he said: “When a lot of kids go to academies, they don’t know the basics or understand the practice.
“The hardest group to teach are the smaller kids as the culture in England is to let them play. At that age, it is important for them to have fun, but I try to teach them the basics.
“It could be anything from kicking the ball with the side of the foot or riding a challenge. I try to teach them from the beginning how the professionals train.”
Woe betide anyone who gets on the wrong side of Llera. If somebody steps out of line, he is not afraid to get the ‘hairdryer’ out.
“I want the kids to respect each other and their behaviour has to be good from the beginning,” he said. “If not, I punish them.
“The group is the most important thing for me. If someone doesn’t want to belong to the group or do the right things, I will sit down with that person in the corner and speak to them.
“It is hard as children at the age of five or six just want to come and play and mess around but I try to get them focused on getting the basics right.”
There have been few occasions where Llera’s had to have words with his young protégées.
“It is a massive advantage that the kids recognise me and know I was a professional for many, many years,” said the 36-year-old, who has also spent the last year working as a first-team scout for Wednesday, studying and compiling detailed information on their Championship rivals strengths and weaknesses. “They pay more attention.
“Kids realise very quickly if I’m good or not. You can’t lie to them or the parents.”
For Llera, discipline is the key in his sessions with all the different age groups.
“If there is no discipline, that’s when things can become a mess,” he said. “I don’t just let them play and do whatever they want.
“I try to keep them focused. I don’t let them to rest a lot. I want them to busy all the time.
“The sessions are very dynamic from the beginning. You have to get kids engaged and keep their concentrations levels high to get the best out of them.”
As far as Llera is concerned, it is all about striking the right balance between fun and hard work.
“When kids come into my academy, they have to enjoy themselves,” he said. “Each player is different and it is up to me to understand their needs.
“Some come to learn. Some come to enjoy. Some come to run around a lot.
“What I try to do is teach them the basics for the future and to help them become better people.”
There is nothing he enjoys doing more than coaching.
He said: “For some coaches, creating sessions are the hard part. For me, it is not. In six months, I have never repeated a session.
“Sometimes I might look at Google for ideas but I invent my own sessions. It is all about improving the players so you have to be realistic.
“I had an English coach the other day asking me for advice on how to mix up a session. You can work on the same things, whether that be passing, dribbling or shooting for example, and put them on in a different way.”
For more information on Llera’s academy, e-mail info@MiguelLleraFootballAcademy.co.uk