Though it was a disappointing season for the Liverpool U23s in terms of results, the club’s top 10 goals list proves the stories behind them are most important.
The young Reds were unable to find consistency in performances in 2018/19, as Neil Critchley often struggled for a consistent roster due to injuries and first-team call-ups.
Despite this, and the contrasting success of the under-18s, the primary focus at the academy is development, not results, and there was certainly progress at Kirkby.
The likes of Ki-Jana Hoever, Rafa Camacho and Curtis Jones all made their senior debuts, while Caoimhin Kelleher was a regular part of the first-team squad and a host of others enjoyed productive loan spells.
Many other stories played out across the ranks, too, and Liverpool’s compilation of the 10 best goals scored at U23 level provides an opportunity to reflect on that.
The only player to feature twice in the top 10 is Virtue, and those included were his final two strikes for the club, including a brilliant lob against West Brom with the ‘keeper stranded.
Virtue proved his ability as a goalscoring midfielder while wearing the armband in the first half of the season, and joined Blackpool on a permanent deal on January 31.
There he scored three and assisted one in 13 games as the Tangerines finished 10th in League One.
Millar’s header against Man City in a 1-1 draw in August was the Canada striker’s first for the U23s, and after a fine first half of the season he went to Kilmarnock on loan.
There, seven months later, he scored his first goal as a senior professional, coming off the bench to seal a 1-0 victory over St Mirren.
Now returning to Merseyside, he faces a big decision this summer.
It was a mixed season for Scouse midfielder Coyle, but his only goal of the campaign clinched an important 1-1 draw with Tottenham in January.
The 19-year-old is likely to remain a regular fixture in the U23s throughout 2019/20, providing Critchley with reliability in the middle of the park.
Camacho’s inclusion comes in at No. 6, and it is his close-range rocket on his way to a hat-trick in the 6-0 thrashing of Leicester in April.
He has now rejoined Sporting CP in a deal which could earn Liverpool up to £7 million.
Like Coyle, Christie-Davies’ 2018/19 was solid but unspectacular, arriving on a free transfer from Chelsea to take up a role as one of the elders at U23 level.
The Wales youngster scored twice and assisted four in 24 games, and his first goal for the club—a curler from inside the box against Derby—makes the cut.
What a story this one is.
Both Clyne and Solanke left to join Bournemouth in January, but by then Origi has returned to the first-team fold, and nine months on from that turn and strike at Kirkby he was scoring in the Champions League final.
Jones’ place in the list, with a weaving run and finish against Chelsea, serves to sum up the bright spots within a hit-and-miss season.
The 18-year-old scored seven goals and assisted a further five in 21 games for the academy, along with starting against Wolves in the FA Cup, but often he flattered to deceive.
More substance is required, and a loan this summer may allow him to find that.
Brewster’s patience, needed through over a year on the sidelines through injury, paid off as he took to the field for the first time in a behind-closed-doors friendly against the Northwestern University in March.
It took the striker just six minutes to score his first goal, and it was a beauty—and the teenager went on to score once more in that victory and once against Leicester as he worked his way back to fitness.
Now, Brewster will be part of Klopp’s first-team squad for 2019/20, and he already has a Champions League winner’s medal.
Finally, rightly taking top spot is Larouci’s brilliant outside-of-the-boot strike against Hertha Berlin in December; it was a rare goal for the Algerian, who scored just once more last season.
But it serves as the exclamation point on a landmark campaign of real progress, as the 18-year-old transitions into a new role at left-back.
Larouci is one of the sleeper hits of the Liverpool academy, and no doubt he is set for an even bigger season ahead.