Neil Critchley has left his role with Liverpool under-23s to take over as manager of League One side Blackpool.
Critchley has made more headlines than he would have expected this season, having led the Reds into two senior fixtures in cup competition.
Both times he broke the club’s record for their youngest-ever side, first in a 5-0 loss to Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the League Cup, and then in a triumphant 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury in the FA Cup fourth round.
Meanwhile, he has maintained his duties with the U23s, overseeing a mixed campaign so far that has seen Curtis Jones shine and the likes of Leighton Clarkson, Jake Cain and Harvey Elliott make their breakthrough.
It is no surprise, therefore, that he attracted interest from League One, though it is a shock that he has decided to leave midway through the campaign to join the Tangerines.
This is Critchley’s first permanent role as first-team manager, and he joins two familiar faces at Bloomfield Road in captain Jay Spearing and ex-Liverpool U23s midfielder Matty Virtue.
“The time I’ve had at Liverpool has been truly special. I’ve been incredibly well supported there from Alex Inglethorpe, the academy manager, and all the staff,” Critchley said on his exit.
“It’s a truly special football club and it’s the people that make the football club the place that it is.
“It would have had to have taken something equally as special, if not more, for me to even think about leaving.
“But from the conversations I’ve had here, I got a really good feeling about the people, where they want the club to go and how they want it to grow.”
His first game in charge will be a trip to Fleetwood Town on Saturday, with Blackpool currently 13th in League One.
It is a bitter development for Liverpool that he has opted to leave, and serves as a callback to Michael Beale’s surprise exit midway through the 2016/17 campaign to join Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Mike Garrity briefly filled the U23s role before Critchley was promoted from his job with the under-18s the following summer, while Steven Gerrard was appointed as his successor.
“Responsibilities for Liverpool’s U23s in the interim will be assumed by existing coaching staff before a permanent appointment is made,” the club has confirmed.
Barry Lewtas could move up the ranks to take the job, though his excellent work with the U18s over the past two seasons would suggest he is better served staying in his current duty.
? Blackpool Football Club is delighted to announce that @LFC Under-23s coach Neil Critchley has agreed to become Head Coach on a contract that runs until the end of the 2022/23 season.
? #UTMP https://t.co/nGw3FdNlkx pic.twitter.com/pIUevB0HTR
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) March 2, 2020
Liverpool have already seen a series of changes to their backroom staff mid-season, with head of medical services Andy Massey and physio Richie Partridge leaving this month, while another physio, Christopher Rohrbeck, will move at the end of the season.
Gary O’Driscoll is being brought in from Arsenal to take over from Massey, while the Reds are believed to have acquired Steve Lilley from Man City to fill Partridge’s role.