Liverpool academy midfielder Tom Hill, who scored eight and assisted five in 28 appearances last season, is set to miss most of the campaign with an ACL injury.
Hill was a revelation as a first-year scholar last term, with only Layton Stewart and Curtis Jones finding the back of the net more often at academy level.
Only five players created more goals than the 17-year-old, too, and in December he made a shock start for the first team as part of the youth side that took on Aston Villa in the League Cup fifth round.
This season he was expected to make an even bigger impact, wearing the captain’s armband for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s under-18s side during pre-season and also being in contention for a regular role with the under-23s.
Now, though, Hill will spend most, if not all, of 2020/21 on the sidelines, having undergone surgery on an ACL injury sustained in training.
Taking to Instagram, the roving midfielder wrote: “Operation went well, long road to recovery now but I’ll be back stronger than ever.”
It is a bitter blow for Hill, who has been tipped for big things by both U23s manager Barry Lewtas and club legend Jamie Carragher, with the former attesting to his impact since a call-up to the U18s squad for the Dallas Cup in 2019.
“He played against New York City. It was their under-19 team and we basically played an under-17 side, but Tom was brilliant,” Lewtas told Goal‘s Neil Jones in May.
“He really impressed me that day with his attitude and commitment, and when he came back for pre-season, he carried that on.
“He’s very coachable, his attitude is spot on and his levels are good. He earned his place in the team.
“Credit to him, every challenge that’s been put down in front of him he’s risen to.”
In June, Carragher named Hill alongside Stewart and James Norris as youngsters the club has “high hopes for,” and fortunately for the teenager, he still has time on his side.
His layoff is similar to that of Paul Glatzel, who suffered an ACL injury in pre-season with the first team last summer, and is now working his way back to full fitness with the U23s.
On a brighter note, Liverpool confirmed the latest youngster to put pen to paper on their first professional contract on Tuesday, that being U18s midfielder Luca Stephenson.
His industrious style in the middle of the park was crucial as the U18s thrashed Stoke 5-0 in their league opener on Saturday, pressing to win possession in the buildup to Stewart’s opener and forcing the corner for one of Dominic Corness’ two goals direct from set-pieces.