Exciting times for Liverpool FC academy after Ovie Ejaria debut and Ben Woodburn’s emergence

23 September 2016

Former Liverpool academy manager Hugh McAuley has hailed the progress of youth stars such as Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn.


Ejaria made his senior debut during the Reds’ 3-0 win away to Derby County in the League Cup third round on Tuesday night, while Woodburn has shone for the U23s so far this season.

Woodburn, who has scored four goals and laid on five assists in five Premier League 2 games so far this season, joined Ejaria and Trent Alexander-Arnold in Jurgen Klopp‘s squad for pre-season.

Speaking to the 5times podcast this week, McAuley hailed the progress made in the club’s academy, with Ejaria’s debut “the icing on the cake for a coach.”

“It’s fantastic for the academy, any time a young players makes their debut for the first team,” he explained.

“It’s a real feather in the cap for everybody.

“Ovie did that the other night, and everybody would be absolutely thrilled for him.

“I was myself, because he’s made excellent progress and deserved that opportunity.”

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 11, 2016: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp along side first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders, goalkeeping coach John Achterberg, Alex Inglethorpe and Steve McManaman watch the Under-23 side take on Leicester City during the FA Premier League 2 Under-23 match at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

McAuley also praised the support of Klopp, and Liverpool’s links between the academy at Kirkby and the first-team training facility at Melwood, despite the distance between the two.

“The most important thing for me is Klopp has shown he’s willing to play these lads if they show that real potential,” he added.

“He’ll watch them closely in training, a lot of them train at Melwood on a regular basis.

“So he’s well in touch with what he needs to do as part of the development of those young players.

“I think we’re starting to see the dividend of that integration between the academy and the first team.

“Everybody is hands on, everybody makes an excellent contribution, and long may it continue.

“The challenge of course is to get somebody working in our first team regularly.

“I know Kevin Stewart‘s part of that squad now and he’s coming on to play a couple of little cameos, I know Ejaria’s made his debut, so you want that to continue.”

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 11, 2016: Liverpool's Ben Woodburn in action against Leicester City during the FA Premier League 2 Under-23 match at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One player who has been tipped to make the progression to first-team regular in the future, despite being just 16, is Woodburn.

At such a young age, Woodburn is already making great strides in the academy, stepping up from the U18s to the U23s this season and making a seamless transition.

It is only a matter of time before Klopp invites him up to Melwood on a regular basis, but McAuley has pleaded for the club to practice patience and a hardline stance, keeping their young stars “on the straight and narrow.”

“At times, from my experience, the talking doesn’t have to be complimentary all the time,” he continued.

“They also need to be told their home truths, as a coach you tell it how it is, so the ones you rate highly above the others have to be told.

“That’s part of the game, because the coach can tell you and 50,000 people can tell you that.

“You need to be ready for that, and hopefully those little barriers, that I went through as a player with Ronnie Moran and these types of people.

“They always made sure your attitude was correct, and kept you focussed on what you had to do.”

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