Liverpool consider debuts for academy trio vs. Norwich

Liverpool under-23s coach Barry Lewtas remained coy over the chance of youngsters Kaide Gordon, Conor Bradley and Tyler Morton featuring against Norwich on Tuesday.

The young Reds were comfortably defeated 4-0 by a terrific Leeds side on Sunday afternoon at Kirkby.

However – as the result may be cause for panic from those outside of the Kirkby bubble – Liverpool’s defeat, in fact, highlighted just how well the club’s academy is thriving.

Lewtas was forced to name a Liverpool side that had both Gordon and Bradley missing from it on as they slumped to a heavy loss.

Jurgen Klopp’s first team take on Norwich in the third round of the League Cup on Tuesday evening and there are expected to be a whole host of changes from the side that dispatched Crystal Palace on Saturday.

And of those changes, both of Lewtas’ U23s duo are expected to be involved, even more so after sitting out of the loss to Leeds.

Lewtas remind tightlipped when asked about the pair’s absence after the defeat on Sunday, jokingly telling reporters to “ask the manager about that one,” before adding “no comment.”

However, for many onlookers, it seems inevitable that they will be involved in some capacity, as Klopp looks to ease the minutes on some of his players who have featured three times in six days against Leeds, AC Milan and Crystal Palace.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 14, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders (R) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 1 game between Liverpool FC and AC MIlan. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Although the German’s gain is the young Reds’ loss in this case – as they massively missed the creativity of Gordon and the defensive stability of Bradley on Sunday – it amplifies just how well-run the Reds’ academy is at this current moment in time.

Klopp is often pleased enough with the progress to dip into its selection pool during the early rounds of the domestic cups.

Correspondingly, that’s a view that Lewtas seemed to share during his post-match debrief at Kirkby, as he insisted heavy defeats that like this are part of the learnings for any youth team player, something that will benefit them later in their careers, wherever that may be.

“I’ve said it for a while, we believe in what we’re trying to do,” he continued.

“They had a few more seniors than us today, and that’s not an excuse. I thought we played some good stuff in certain periods.

“They’re lessons that the lads are going to have to learn quite quickly. [Especially] when you’re playing against as much of the experience as they’ve got there, it was tough.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 29, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga looks dejected as Leeds United score the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Manchester United FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“But I think we made our own problems. Technically, we’re a lot better than that. We are kicking ourselves a little bit.

“I am a firm believer that you can cruise if you want, play all the [senior] players and win games, and you can set yourself up for a little bit of a fall further along.

“It’s important that we stick to our guns, we keep playing the players we’re playing, push them. We want them to be better.

“There will be a few bumps in the road along the way, but we firmly believe longer-term that we’re going to get some [first team] players from it.”

Leeds were handed the luxury of fielding Pascal Struijk, who is currently serving a three-game ban at senior level for his challenge on Harvey Elliott, and Adam Forshaw, who has over 100 Championship appearances to his name.

But despite Sunday’s defeat confining Lewtas’ side to an underwhelming start to the season, with just one win from five, Gordon’s exponential rise since he joined in February is an immeasurable success for the academy, something that can’t be exchanged for any amount of Premier League 2 points.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 15, 2021: Liverpool's Kaide Gordon during the UEFA Youth League Group B Matchday 1 game between Liverpool FC Under19's and AC Milan Under 19's at the Liverpool Academy. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gordon – like Bradley and Morton, the latter of whom only played 45 minutes on Sunday – looks set to reach a new milestone in his career this week, a feat that is more than deserved judging by his manager’s assessment of his short time at Kirkby so far.

“I think he’s done well. I think whenever anyone’s thrust into the limelight with the first team it can be accelerated, and everyone wants to know a little bit more about him,” Lewtas said.

“But he is still a young boy. He’s still got lots of parts of his game that we think he can get better, which is really exciting because his game is good.

“He’s a really good kid. He’s only young, only 16. But I don’t think he plays like that, especially when he’s in possession of the ball.

“So he’s having a real great experience at the minute. He’s in a good place.”