Not since the end of the 80’s has there been so much interest in Liverpool’s reserves as there has been this year and here’s why……
Gary Ablett’s side have been crowned as National Champions at the end of an extremely impressive season. The young Reds powered to a resounding victory over Aston Villa in an entertaining play-off final at Anfield on Wednesday night. Gary Ablett’s men produced the type of performance typical of their all-conquering campaign, combining attractive, flowing football with some gutsy, determined defending to clinch a 3-0 win courtesy of goals from Krisztian Nemeth, Jordy Brouwer and Lucas Leiva.
To add to the National Champions title, Gary Ablett has led the Liverpool Reserve side to the Barclays Premier Reserve League North Title. Not only this, but they won the League with 2 games left to play. In addition to winning the League title, the Reserves travelled to America in March where they clinched the prestigious Dr Pepper Dallas Cup defeating the likes of Mexican side Tigres and a technically gifted Benfica side from Portugal. The Reserves won the 2008 Dallas Cup after a 3-0 victory over Mexican side Tigres. A brace from Krisztian Nemeth and a goal from Martin Kelly ensured the U19 Super Group trophy was on its way back to Anfield! Adding to this success, Ablett has also guided the team to the Lancashire Senior Cup final where they await Manchester United in the final. Also, the Reserves managed to reach the Liverpool Senior Cup Final whey they narrowly lost to Marine. A truly remarkable season.
Sustainable success takes time to nurture and develop. When Liverpool dominated English football in the 70’s and 80’s, so did the Liverpool Reserves, winning 14 titles in 17 seasons between 1969 and 1985. The 2007/2008 season probably saw the finest Youth squad assembled under Rafa’s reign as manager. Rafa will be the first to admit that winning the League title is not a necessity at Reserves level but youth success will breed first team success in the future.
Unfortunately Ablett’s role as manager is not only winning league titles and cups but producing first team players. Ablett has included 39 different players this season with the average age of the squad around 19! Gone are the days of the 2nd string side being filled with dissatified ageing pros, first team subtitutes, players recovering from injuries and only a few young players who were in and out of the team.
There has been alot of interest in the midfielders and strikers in the reserve this season with the defenders often getting overlooked. The defensive strength of the team has been crucial to the success of the team. Over the 18 Reserves League games, Liverpool have only conceded just 8 goals ‘“ an amazing achievement. To make this even more impressive, the defence managed 9 clean sheets in a row towards the end of the season. The central pairing of Mikel San Jose and Ronald Huth in defence have been immense this season. With Miki Roque, Godwin Antwi and the captain at the start of the season Jack Hobbs going out on loan, Huth and San Jose have stepped in and been outstanding at the back.