Blackburn Rovers Leighton Clarkson

Manager hails Liverpool loanee “amazing in training” – but he barely plays him

Blackburn manager Tony Mowbray has described Liverpool midfielder Leighton Clarkson as “amazing in training,” but his praise feels flat given his lack of game time.

Saturday saw Clarkson play his first game for Blackburn in just over a month, coming off the bench in their 1-1 draw away to Bristol City.

Prior to that, the 20-year-old had gone four games – three draws and a 7-0 loss to Fulham – as an unused substitute, having failed to make consecutive starts for Rovers since August.

It has not been the productive spell the boyhood Blackburn fan would have hoped for so far, particularly given the headway he was making before leaving Liverpool on loan.

Clarkson is approaching the anniversary of his first and only competitive appearance under Jurgen Klopp, an impressive 90-minute display against Midtjylland, but as it stands, he is unable to break into the side at Ewood Park.

That is despite Mowbray praising him as “amazing in training,” after finally turning to the midfielder midway through the second half at Ashton Gate.

“We needed to impose ourselves which is why I put Clarkson on really, who’s amazing in training when you watch how he passes that ball short and long,” he told reporters after the 1-1 draw, as relayed by Lancs Live.

“We just needed more control in the second half and we’d gained control. Let’s wait and see how the team looks as we move forward.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, August 9, 2021: Liverpool's Leighton Clarkson during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético Osasuna at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It almost resembles false praise given how rarely Mowbray has turned to Clarkson over the past two months, having overlooked him entirely in seven games while handing him 124 minutes over three appearances.

But perhaps his words indicate a change is coming for his No. 19, with Mowbray suggesting he could switch his formation in future games.

The blame cannot solely be placed at Mowbray’s feet, of course, with Clarkson only completing 73 percent of his attempted passes in the Championship while creating six chances in seven outings.

However, given his assertion that the youngster is “amazing in training,” it is something of a surprise that he has failed to turn to him more often so far.

Liverpool are likely to assess the situation of a number of their loanees ahead of the January transfer window, with Rhys Williams the most feasible option to recall given he has played just four minutes in the last 10 Championship games for Swansea.

But there is a chance that, if Clarkson’s fortunes don’t improve, the playmaker could also be brought back to Kirkby.