Billy’s birthday, Ox back & Milner’s protege – Inside Liverpool’s first day at Kirkby

Liverpool took to Kirkby for their first training session on Tuesday, with James Milner working closely with academy midfielder Leighton Clarkson among a small squad.

Only 13 players were fit and available as Jurgen Klopp and his staff led the Reds through their first workout at the new facility in Kirkby, as preparations begin for the visit of Leicester.

With most of his first-team squad away on international duty, and many others still short of fitness, the likes of Milner, Adrian, Joel Matip and Divock Origi were the most experienced of the group.

A number of academy players fleshed out the ranks, including Billy Koumetio, who was treated to a round of Happy Birthdays following his 18th on Saturday.

Not part of the squad training on the new pitches but still present were Sadio Mane, paying a visit on his day off following two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with Senegal, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is working on his recovery from a knee injury.

Oxlade-Chamberlain appears to be making progress as he eyes a return before the end of the year, training alongside rehabilitation fitness coach David Rydings in the indoor gym.

There were some relatively new faces among the squad, with one of those being under-23s striker Luis Longstaff, who has impressed as a staple of Barry Lewtas‘ side this season.

Longstaff has already debuted for the senior side, of course, starting in the 5-0 defeat to Aston Villa in last year’s League Cup, when Klopp, his staff and his players were all at the Club World Cup in Qatar.

Another who has been part of first-team training before but not on a regular basis is Clarkson, and he was seen to be linking up with Milner throughout rondos and small-sided games.

Milner shouted “love that” as the 19-year-old buried a long-range drive beyond Vitezslav Jaros at one point, with this a small but invaluable gesture as the vice-captain picks up another protege.

Assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders was also vocal throughout, leading the session and urging Milner on in particular, showing both his and the veteran midfielder’s desire to improve.

And when Longstaff struck the post to leave the diving Jaros stranded, Lijnders jokingly shouted “yes, Everton!” as Origi followed it up to score, with echoes of his last-minute winner in the Merseyside derby.

The rest of Klopp’s squad are due to return to training later this week, with fitness checks due on the likes of Jordan Henderson, Andy Robertson and Rhys Williams.

They will continue to work in new surroundings, with Kirkby now full-time home to Liverpool, and the early signs are that they can settle quickly in an environment that is more modern, but not too dissimilar to Melwood.