James Milner on the “massive difference” in Curtis Jones – and advice for Elliott, Brewster & Co.

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James Milner believes he has seen a “massive difference” in Curtis Jones throughout 2019, with the Liverpool youngster marking his progress at MK Dons.

Jones was named Man of the Match for his influential display on the left in the Reds’ 2-0 victory at Stadium MK on Wednesday night.

The 18-year-old was making his second appearance for the first team, eight months on from his debut in the frustrating 2-1 loss to Wolves in the FA Cup third round in January.

After the disappointment of rejoining the under-23s midway through Liverpool’s pre-season, Jones has stepped up significantly having been given the captain’s armband by Neil Critchley, and this display served as his next step.

Milner was the overlapping left-back on the night, and arguably outperformed the youngster, but speaking from a position of experience his praise for Jones was striking.

“I’ve seen a massive difference in Curtis in the last year,” he told reporters in Milton Keynes.

“He’s always had that ability but seems a bit more mature now; [he’s] defending well, getting his angles right when he’s defending.

“I think he’s realised as well that if you want to play for Liverpool, that’s as important as the stuff on the ball.

“Not only that, he’s got so much ability and skills and tricks, and it’s about using them in the right area.”

Milner added that Jones’ technical qualities were always evident, but the key was “getting hold of it in the final third,” and revealed he told him before the game: “‘I wouldn’t want to defend you in the box, so get them in there and drive at them’.”

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 25, 2019: Liverpool's James Milner (#7) celebrates scoring the first goal with team-mates during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between MK Dons FC and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Breaking through at Leeds in 2002, Milner became the second-youngest player and youngest goalscorer in Premier League history while only 16.

These records have since been broken, with the youngest player to feature in the English top flight starting on the opposite flank in midweek, as Harvey Elliott dazzled on his Liverpool debut.

Milner praised Elliott, along with goalscorer Ki-Jana Hoever and another debutant Rhian Brewster, as well as offering the Reds’ youngsters some salient advice.

“Every player’s different so it’s about getting it right, but I think you can see [with] the boys there’s so much talent there and their attitude as well,” he explained.

“It’s tough to keep going. You see glimpses but there are so many distractions, you need that bit of luck with injuries and things like that.

“They have to keep their foot on the accelerator and keep pushing as hard as they can.”

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 25, 2019: Liverpool's James Milner celebrates scoring the first goal with team-mates during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between MK Dons FC and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given Milner’s upbringing, and his longevity at the top, he is perfectly placed to guide the likes of Jones, Elliott, Hoever and Brewster, as well as Caoimhin Kelleher, Sepp van den Berg, Leighton Clarkson and Luis Longstaff.

And in Jurgen Klopp and Pepijn Lijnders, they have a managerial team committed to providing a pathway for Liverpool’s best young players to establish themselves as long-term fixtures.

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