Rhys Williams the last Melwood ‘baby’ as Liverpool eye closer relationship after Kirkby switch

Jurgen Klopp is relishing the chance to work more closely with Liverpool’s burgeoning youth following the switch from Melwood to Kirkby.

The Reds will bid farewell to Melwood this month, the club’s training home since the 1950s, as they make the switch to the new state-of-the-art AXA Training Centre in Kirkby.

It will see Liverpool’s first-team move closer to the club’s famed Academy, one which has seen countless stars rise from the ranks – providing a clear sight-line for those looking to follow in their footsteps.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is the poster boy in the current squad but over the last season, the Reds have seen countless players make the step, including the likes of Curtis Jones and Neco Williams.

And in recent weeks, Reds have followed the rise of Rhys Williams following on from an injury crisis at centre-back – Vitor Matos’ “baby” as Klopp so eloquently labelled him.

Matos, Liverpool’s elite development coach, was the one to throw the 19-year-old’s name in the ring as he acts as the bridge between the academy and the first team.

“Vitor is incredibly important [because] Rhys is Vitor’s ‘baby’, if you like – a really big baby!” Klopp told the club’s official website.

“When we had the problem with the centre-halves coming up and all these kind of things, we had Billy the kid in, a sensational talent but then he got injured.

“Then there was a COVID situation, not with himself but he had to isolate so for two or three weeks he was out and then we were really short in the position.

“In that moment, Vitor came, ‘Yes, Rhys Williams. A big talent, he looks really promising and we should take him for training’ – and from the first moment, he impressed.

“Before that, I hadn’t heard much about Rhys, to be honest, and so that’s what I call a big impact because it has helped us massively. He is a good kid on top of that, a proper Scouser.”

Williams will be the final youth player to have been drafted over from the youth ranks to make his senior debut for the club at Melwood, following on from his Champions League exploits.

He was not the only one to have made his European debut in recent weeks, however, with Neco William’s late cameo at Atalanta breaking his duck – another talent who is “really important” for Liverpool.

Jake Cain, meanwhile, who has starred at youth level and has one senior appearance to his name, has been on the bench for all three European ties to date and was namechecked by the manager, alongside Leighton Clarkson, as ones to watch.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 24, 2020: Liverpool's Jake Cain (R) celebrates after scoring the second goal during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC Under-23's and Chelsea FC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And Klopp’s ability to do so will be boosted by the switch to Kirkby this month, where is looking forward to fostering an “even better relationship” with players of the future.

“When Neco came on, he looked ready and it’s really important for us,” Klopp continued.

“In this age group, it is all about ups but dealing with the downs as well. In this age group, you have more physical downs than when you are 22, 23 or 24. It is a massive difference, but your body gets used to it – but you cannot be used to it that early.

“Neco looks really sharp and in a good shape and that helps. It’s good.

“There are more; Jake Cain is with us in training, another Scouser, nice, left-footed, properly skilled boy. For sure, I forget boys but Leighton Clarkson [is with us too].

“We will move to Kirkby next week and that will create an even better relationship [with the Academy].”