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Liverpool youngster gets senior international call-up before first-team debut

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Receiving a senior international call-up before making your first-team debut is the marker of a big talent, and that is the case for Liverpool’s Conor Bradley.

It is a strange phenomenon, one enjoyed by Javier Mascherano, who made his breakthrough with Argentina in 2003 before playing a single minute for River Plate.

With more managers showing faith in youth and some taking drastic measures to freshen up their squads, it could be seen more frequently, particularly for those with a smaller talent pool.

That is the case for Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough, who has named Bradley among an uncapped trio for their upcoming clashes with Malta (May 30) and Ukraine (June 3).

The 17-year-old right-back is joined by his fellow Liverpool youngster, goalkeeper Liam Hughes – who is also yet to feature for the first team – and Chelsea defender Sam McClelland.

They link up with a more experienced group for the behind-closed-doors friendlies, including Stuart Dallas, Kyle Lafferty and Craig Cathcart.

It is not the first time Baraclough has relied on young players yet to play senior club football, with midfielder Ethan Galbraith debuting for Northern Ireland in 2019, two months before his first outing for Man United.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 21, 2020: Liverpool's Conor Bradley takes a throw-in during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC Under-23's and Southampton FC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. The game ended in a goalless draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Whether Bradley will feature against Malta or Ukraine remains to be seen, though he has a strong chance if Dallas is to start in his more natural role at left-back.

His call-up comes days after his final outing of the season for Liverpool, having played all 90 minutes of the FA Youth Cup final defeat to Aston Villa on Monday night.

Bradley has been a regular for the under-23s throughout his second campaign with the club, but was drafted into the under-18s squad for the cup as he was still eligible to feature.

The teenager has also trained with the first team at Kirkby on a number of occasions, and played in the intra-squad friendly during the March international break.

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