Pre-season impact from Liverpool youngsters has given Jurgen Klopp “something to think about”

16 August 2018

Liverpool included several U23 players in their summer fixtures and a handful impressed so much that Neil Critchley believes Jurgen Klopp took note.


While the pre-season campaign was littered with travel, staggered returns for seniors and a wide variety of opponents’ level of quality, it means opportunity knocked for some.

Klopp has never been shy about including young players in non-competitive matches and this summer was no different, with many seeing senior game time, even if only fleetingly.

For three in particular, though, there was a more than reasonable amount of involvement.

Rafa Camacho impressed both at right-back and on the wing, Nat Phillips was rock solid in central defence and Curtis Jones looked assured and classy both in midfield and attack.

Critchley says it might not be enough to guarantee immediate involvement, but it was a big step toward future inclusion, report the Echo.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 17, 2016: Liverpool's coach Neil Critchley during the FA Youth Cup 3rd Round match against Crystal Palace at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“They have given the manager something to think about in a positive way.

“Now, whether that’s enough for them to get into the squad or start in the short-term, maybe not. But if that situation arises during the season the manager will remember the good impression they made.

“Those three boys have made a start.”

It’s not only technical ability which dictates who makes the cut for the senior boss, though, and Critchley believes seeing the first-team regulars in action day-to-day is also important.

Those coming through from youth ages to first-team hopefuls have to show a similar level of professionalism and dedication.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, July 10, 2018: Liverpool's Rafael Camacho celebrates scoring the first goal during a preseason friendly match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC at Prenton Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

“I think it’s a strength of ours at the Academy that there are consistent messages.

“They have to know where the boundaries are – what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable, on and off the pitch.

“If [other youngsters] get the opportunity to go to the first team like Nat, Curtis and Rafa have had, their character and personality is just as important as their football ability.

“The manager expects them to be good players but he doesn’t know what kind of people they are until they walk into Melwood.

“It’s clear that the way the first team is and the way the manager is, if you aren’t the right type of person, you won’t last.

“Those boys have gone there and acquitted themselves well on and off the pitch which is really important.”

Jones and Phillips have both had different development paths to reach this stage, with the former almost 10 years at the club now and the latter a signing from Bolton two years ago.

“Curtis has been here a long time. He’s a local boy who has come right through. It’s not all been plain sailing for Curtis coming through from a young age either.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, August 7, 2018: Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips during the preseason friendly match between Liverpool FC and Torino FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Nat has had a different pathway. Credit to the recruitment team in identifying Nat and getting him in. He’s had his ups and downs. Last season he missed a lot of football because of his back injury.

“Those two are both good examples to our Academy players here.”

Meanwhile, George Johnston made his senior debut right at the end of pre-season, coming on as a late sub against Torino.

The 19-year-old defender told the club website that Klopp told him to enjoy the occasion—but now he wants more.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, August 7, 2018: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the preseason friendly match between Liverpool FC and Torino FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“It was kind of a last-minute thing. I didn’t know I was going to play until about midday when the gaffer told me I would be involved.

“When I got on I was just really happy. My dad and grandad were in the crowd, they always support me and come to nearly every game, so they were really happy as well.

“He [Klopp] just said well done. When I was about to go on he told me just to enjoy it. He is a very supportive manager and he’s quite close with his players so that helps.

“It’s good to see [young players get a chance] and when you see that you realise there’s an opportunity for you as well.

“So you just keep pushing yourself in training in the games you play and hope you get that opportunity.”

The Reds squad is bigger and better than in many seasons right now, which will only push the young prospects at the club to continue to improve even further.

And when they do finally break through, they’ll be rewarded as being part of one of Europe’s best sides—and the fans will have a high-quality young footballer to enjoy too.

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