Liverpool U21s manager Michael Beale has hailed 2015/16 as a “truly memorable year” as he takes his side on a post-season tour of the US.
Beale’s U21s will take on Sacramento Republic in two friendlies this month, first on Saturday night at Bonney Field in Sacramento, California.
The Reds will then take to Nevada for their second clash at the Greater Nevada Field on May 25, and as Beale assessed the tour, he noted that this was “the first-ever professional football match in the the state of Nevada.”
It was a season of firsts for the Liverpool academy, with a change in manager for the first team prompting a heavy focus on youth development, with a number of players receiving their debuts.
Jurgen Klopp called upon Connor Randall, Ryan Kent, Kevin Stewart, Joe Maguire, Sheyi Ojo, Tiago Ilori, Danny Ward and Sergi Canos for their first appearances for the club, while Cameron Brannagan, Pedro Chirivella, Brad Smith, Jordon Ibe and Jon Flanagan all took up regular roles.
Jordan Rossiter and Jerome Sinclair, who will both leave the club this summer, also featured under the German, as he navigated a busy fixture list by employing his talented youth.
As Beale continued, he hoped that this would continue as his young players move up through the ranks next season.
“It is an absolute honour for me to bring a Liverpool team over to the USA to play a couple of games and it’s a fantastic way for us to end what has been a truly memorable year for everybody at the academy,” he wrote.
“It really has been a fantastic season for the academy with our manager Jurgen Klopp handing so many of our youngsters an opportunity.
“I think there has been 12 academy players who have made a first-team appearance.
“I’m not sure whether we have had a better year in terms of academy players getting a first-team chance.
“I think we are definitely showing, firstly, a commitment to developing youth players and in Jurgen we have a manager who is not scared to play them.
“I think they have given him some really good performances and shown that they are a work in progress.
“We have seen growth in a number of players this season, which is huge for the academy.”
Stewart, Brannagan and Canos are among those included in Beale’s squad to take on Sacramento Republic, in what should be a positive step for Liverpool’s young stars.
Whether a more streamlined campaign in 2016/17 will see Klopp field as may youngsters as the previous season remains to be seen.
But Beale is right to be encouraged, as the Reds have a bed of hugely talented players in their academy.
Liverpool U21s US tour squad
Goalkeepers: George, Vigouroux
Defenders: Whelan, Jones, Brewitt, Maguire, Randall, Masterson, Hart
Midfielders: Brimmer, Stewart, Brannagan, Madger, Virtue, Phillips, Kane, Ejaria
Attackers: Kent, Canos, Gomes, Lennon