Former Liverpool youngster Tom Brewitt has recalled when he purposefully injured fellow centre-back Daniel Cleary in hope of starting in the FA Cup against Exeter City.
At the start of 2016, the Reds were drawn against League Two side Exeter in the third round of the FA Cup, with Klopp facing an injury crisis at the back.
Dejan Lovren, Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel were all sidelined, along with a host of other players throughout the squad, which left the manager to recall a number of players from loan.
But there were considerations for those within the club’s academy ranks, too, and Brewitt and Cleary were among those seen as possible candidates for a place in the squad.
Speaking to the Football Journeys Podcast, Brewitt explained how he made it his ‘mission’ to sideline Cleary so that he would jump to the front of the queue ahead of an expected start against Exeter.
“I took the decision – and me and Dan always got on, to be honest, but I think I ended this relationship – that it was me or him, so I went after him in training,” the 23-year-old, who is currently without a club, said.
“Before Christmas, and the time between Christmas and New Year, I put myself next to him in possession games, I put myself next to him in games, and I just kicked him.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt him badly, but I was trying to hurt him enough so that he was out of the way and I would play.
“It was about a week before the Exeter game, and I took a bit of a heavy touch in seven-a-side, and he’s coming in to tackle me.
“I waited a split-second too long and absolutely topped him. Went over the ball, it was a bad tackle.
“I knew it was a bad tackle and I did it on purpose. I’m not incredibly proud of it, I’m not ashamed of it either because in my head it was either me or him and I was choosing me.
“There was a bit of a scuffle afterward and I think he got sent in for his reaction, and rightly so, his reaction was probably bang on.
“I finished off the session and he was on crutches for the next two weeks, so it was sort of, not mission accomplished because I think that’s a bit harsh, I just needed him out of the way for this game.”
It is a shocking revelation from Brewitt, but it is a situation that is likely more common than many would expect, with his honesty highlighting the desperation among young players at a club like Liverpool.
Cleary did not make the squad against Exeter, but neither did Brewitt, with Joe Maguire instead replacing Tiago Ilori off the bench, with Brewitt ironically ruled out with a concussion.
“[The under-21s] were playing in a bounce game against Morecambe, on our front pitch, about four days before the Exeter game,” Brewitt continued.
“Pretty much, I knew if I got through that game unscathed I was going to be at least involved in the Exeter game.
“About 30 minutes into the game, I go up, win a header, come down, and as I come down I land eye first on the back of our No. 6 at the time Kev Stewart.
“I remember walking off the front pitch and a few of the boys were coming to me, and my eye, I could feel it closing over.
“I get into the physio room, and Richie Partridge the physio goes ‘right, what score is it?’, and I just didn’t have a clue. ‘Where are ya?’, didn’t have a clue. ‘Who you playing against?’, not a clue.
“So I was written off for the next 10 days, and lo and behold the Exeter game comes around and Jose Enrique and Tiago Ilori play centre-back in the game. A few of our lads started, a few of our lads on the bench.
“Tiago pulls up with cramp, because his loan [at Aston Villa] wasn’t going well. He pulled up with cramp 70 minutes in.
“In my head now, I still look back and think ‘that should have been me’. But I still don’t know, Jurgen might not have picked me anyway. Even if I hadn’t been concussed, he still might have put Joe on, I don’t know that.
“But in my head, I should have made my debut for Liverpool that day.”
Injuries to Cleary and Brewitt saw Conor Masterson named on the bench along with Maguire, but now none of the group are with the club, with Cleary arguably in the best position at this point.