Opinions on young footballers getting ‘too much too soon’ are well-versed. However, at Liverpool they have a ‘clause’ in place to help ensure they can pass the first-team audition.
Academy football is cutthroat and there is certainly no guarantee of making it. But under Jurgen Klopp, there is at least a known pathway in place.
There are plenty of boxes a young player must tick before they are given the opportunity to train with the club’s first team. And the Reds’ academy director is eager to ensure nothing trips them up on their journey – including the car they drive.
Liverpool seek to keep their prospects grounded – and while that namely involves the wages their young professionals earn, a ‘car clause’ also exists, as revealed by Alex Inglethorpe.
Inglethorpe, who became academy manager in 2014 after being promoted from his role as under-21s coach, explained the reasons for it to Robbie Fowler during the club’s ‘We Are Liverpool‘ podcast.
“There’s a balance [to be had], isn’t there? What we now do is, players sign up to a ‘car clause’,” Inglethorpe explained on the topic of the cars young players drive.
“What you don’t want is them driving in with a Range Rover.
“The reason you don’t want them driving in something which is too big, too grand, too much of a statement is because it is not just the manager and the staff that might have an opinion on you, it’s also the senior players.
“If you think about James Milner, Jordan Henderson or Andy Robertson, the first cars they drove there would have been an element of humility to that.
“I use it in a presentation I do with the boys, I’ve got their first cars.
“One, you can’t get into a race you’re never going to win – and I don’t mean with the car, I mean just in terms of life.
“You can’t think ‘I am a first-team player because I’ve got a better car’.
“We could afford to pay them a little bit more, but we don’t because I don’t think it is right.
“There’s something around deferred gratification rather than instant, I think you should have to earn it a little bit.
“The players know full well [that] if I don’t approve of their car they can go and park it in the David Lloyd [car park], but it won’t be in the academy.
“I don’t want to be an idiot about it, I just don’t want them to have worked 10 years for an audition and fail before they’ve even stepped foot on the pitches.
“I want them to be safe, there’s plenty of choices based on safety and based on [that] you are a young player in charge of two tonnes of metal, you’ve got to make sure that responsibility is something you take seriously.”
It is obvious to see that Inglethorpe’s reasoning is rooted, first, in safety, and, second, in the desire to see academy players making a lasting impression for all the right reasons after years of hard work.
It is the little things that make promising talents evolve into first-team options.