The sight of Tyler Morton playing for Blackburn’s under-21s side this week raised some eyebrows, with the Liverpool loanee scoring a free-kick.
After signing a new long-term contract in January, there is an expectation that Morton will return to Liverpool as a first-team option next season.
The 20-year-old has been a regular starter for Blackburn throughout the campaign, with 32 appearances in all competitions and four assists to his name.
But the past fortnight has seen him overlooked for two consecutive games, going unused in the FA Cup fourth-round replay win over Birmingham before coming off the bench in a 0-0 draw with Wigan on Monday night.
In fact, a day later the midfielder started for Rovers’ U21s as they took on Huddersfield in the last 16 of the Premier League Cup.
? Lovely free-kick from #LFC loanee Tyler Morton playing for the Blackburn U21s this week.
Told there is no reason for Morton playing an academy game beyond fitness – 9 of their 11 starters were first-team players. pic.twitter.com/R84LdKdcQn
— Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) February 9, 2023
He played 71 minutes in a 4-1 win, opening the scoring with a stunning free-kick before laying on Blackburn’s third of the night for teenager Harry Leonard.
His involvement in an academy game could have sparked concern for his parent club, who will be eager for Morton to retain first-choice status at senior level.
Any fears will be allayed, though, with Blackburn simply using that tie as a means to build fitness for players who didn’t start at Wigan.
Nine of the 11 players to start against Huddersfield have been part of the first team this season, with six of those clocking at least 1,000 minutes on the pitch.
Morton (2,327) has played the third-most minutes of any Blackburn outfielder, behind only Ben Brereton Diaz (2,782) and Harry Pickering (2,558), missing just one game since joining.
The hope will be that he reclaims his starting spot when Rovers visit Watford in the Championship on Saturday, likely taking the place of John Buckley.
But there is an added complication with Blackburn appealing the EFL’s decision to nullify the deadline-day loan signing of Lewis O’Brien from Nottingham Forest.
Blackburn submitted the wrong paperwork as they attempted to get the deal over the line before the transfer window closed, and a decision over whether they can, in fact, register O’Brien is expected on Thursday.
Another central midfielder, O’Brien would at least provide more competition for places in Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side.
However, any suggestion that Morton has fallen out of favour under the Danish manager appears to be wide of the mark at this stage.