After a largely positive year for the Liverpool academy in 2015, U21s manager Michael Beale and stars Sheyi Ojo and Yan Dhanda reflected on their progress.
Beale saw his side draw 0-0 away to Norwich City on Monday night, drawing to a close a year that has seen the Liverpool U21s come close to success in the U21 Premier League and the U18s side make great strides under Neil Critchley.
Speaking before the trip to Carrow Road, Beale hailed his side’s progress, but stressed that he wants to see more in the future.
“Individually I have to say [the year has been] very good because we have seen progression in nearly every player, and a huge progression for some of them and first-team debuts arriving,” he explained.
“As a group we are slightly underachieving.
“My halfway report is we’ve done well as individuals but we can do more, and we can certainly do much more as a group and showcase ourselves better on matchdays.
“I’m looking for us to push on in the second half of the season and I’ve 100 percent faith that the boys will do that.”
Ojo returned to the U21s lineup on Monday, grabbing some valuable minutes during a stop-start loan spell with Wolves.
The 18-year-old, who looks set to progress into the first-team setup in the near future, said it was a “great feeling” to be reunited with his Reds team-mates.
“[It was good] for me to get fitness because I haven’t played for two weeks now so I wanted to come back and stay fit.
“I’ve got a game for Wolves on Boxing Day so hopefully I’ll be involved in that.
“I thought we did well overall. The first half was a bit difficult because we were under pressure.
“But then as the game went on, I got into the game a bit more and we started to do well.
“We probably should have nicked the three points. The main positive was that we did well as a team and hopefully we can build on that.”
Ojo’s focus on a collective performance is important at youth level, more so than results.
While there is more scrutiny on the former MK Dons forward at Wolves, the experience gained in the Championship can only benefit him.
“I’m still young and I’m looking to improve every day,” he continued.
“Hopefully I can get better.”
Another player, like Ojo, who could find his way into the Liverpool first team in the coming seasons is Dhanda, whose spectacular 2015 was capped by signing his first professional contract this month.
Taking to Twitter to thank supporters for their messages in the aftermath of his extended terms, Dhanda said that “the hard work never stops.”
Beale, and Jurgen Klopp himself, will be encouraged by this—Liverpool’s academy ranks are filled with hardworking, talented young players.
Moving into 2016, this can only be deemed a positive.