Liverpool under-23s assistant Gary O’Neil has praised the “amazing” Owen Beck as one to watch in the academy, following the left-back’s step up to first-team training.
Beck enjoyed a dream week last time out, having joined the senior squad for training at Kirkby, before recording a hat-trick of assists for the under-23s.
Watching on from the touchline in that hard-fought 4-3 defeat to Tottenham was O’Neil, who joined Liverpool as assistant to Barry Lewtas in the summer, working closely with the young Reds throughout the campaign.
The 37-year-old has been impressed by Beck’s performances in training and as a regular for the U23s – and believes he could be one of the next to move into the first-team setup.
“Owen Beck is an amazing one. He’s a young boy, he’s very small,” O’Neil told talkSPORT.
“He’s been underdeveloped the whole way through, so he’s always been the smallest in his age group, one of the youngest.
“He’s played every game for us at under-23 level this season and has done some training sessions with the first team.”
He added: “Some of the staff, they’re there on a Tuesday night working with these kids in the rain when they’re 13.
“People are saying, ‘he’s a bit small’, but these guys are there putting the work in. Now you see the benefits of it.”
The clear benefits are in Beck joining the likes of Curtis Jones, Neco Williams, Caoimhin Kelleher, Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips, Vitezslav Jaros, Billy Koumetio, Leighton Clarkson and Jake Cain in being given a taste of first-team life.
For some, that translates to a regular role in Klopp’s side, while for others it is valuable experience they can bring back down with them to the academy, and motivation to keep pushing for more opportunities.
Though the arrival of Tsimikas in the summer has blocked the pathway for the Reds’ young left-backs to an extent, the current situation does highlight the possibilities for a player like Beck.
O’Neil believes the proximity of the first-team facilities to the academy at Kirkby has aided this, with there being a “buzz” when Klopp is able to attend youth games.
“We’re in the new training ground, which is fantastic, and Jurgen is on site,” he continued.
“So we played Southampton the other day and he was at the game, and he got to tell us what he thought at half-time.
“He gets to see some of the lads right up close.
“It’s fantastic for the boys as well, I remember when I was playing, if you were playing for the youth team and the first-team gaffer was watching there was always a little bit of extra buzz about it – you felt you had a chance.”