Liverpool academy director Alex Inglethorpe’s praise for Ki-Jana Hoever and his attitude to improvement recalls some key advice from Steven Gerrard.
Hoever only turned 17 earlier in this month but has made great strides since joining from Ajax in the summer, culminating so far in his first-team debut in the FA Cup.
That outing against Wolves has, rightly, remained his first taste of senior action, but the youngster has stayed with Jurgen Klopp‘s squad for training at Melwood.
There will likely be more opportunities in the near future, but for now Hoever deserves to be commended as he continues his excellent progress.
In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Inglethorpe explained that the Dutchman is “obsessed with getting better,” which certainly bodes well for his development.
“Ki-Jana has done really well. He had to work hard to get into the youth team and then it quickly became apparent that he was capable of helping the U23s,” he said.
“Once there, it became obvious he could survive at that level.
“There are plenty of challenges ahead for him around concentration, focus and patience, probably. He’s only just turned 17.
“But certainly in his first six months at the club he’s made a lovely impact. He’s got a wonderful confidence around him.
“He loves his football, he’s obsessed with getting better.
“There’s no question he has a steely belief in himself which is why going to Melwood and playing for the first team doesn’t faze him.”
This notion of obsession may seem over the top, but it was a word used by Gerrard when detailing his own rise and how it saw him establish himself at Liverpool at an early age.
“I was obsessed,” the Reds legend said back in 2017, when asked about his mentality when breaking through.
“Obsessed with being the best player in training every single day, and if I didn’t I’d go home and think about it and try and do it again the next day.
“You have to be obsessed. When you get that sniff and that little bit of hope you’ve got to be obsessed to move [team-mates] out of the way.
“Once you’re in, they’re not coming back.”
There is no suggesting Hoever is of the same calibre as Gerrard, as it is impossible to tell this early in his career, but that approach is pleasingly familiar.
This is particularly the case in terms of supplanted a current first-choice starter, with the teenager effectively eyeing the role of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez or Trent Alexander-Arnold.
It can only be a good thing if he is able to retain his focus and challenge one of those for a place in the side.