LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 1, 2022: Liverpool's Conor Bradley during the pre-match warm-up before the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC Under-23's and Manchester United FC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

Conor Bradley set for defining Liverpool pre-season – loan “toughened” him up

Liverpool’s Conor Bradley had a fantastic season on loan at Bolton last year and has described how the spell in League One ‘toughened him up’.

With fellow young right-back Calvin Ramsay heading out on loan to Preston North End next season, the door has opened for Bradley to assert himself in Liverpool’s first-team squad.

Ramsay, who underwent knee surgery in February, will hope his spell on loan is as successful as Bradley’s was after 53 appearances for Bolton.

The Northern Ireland international is set to be given a chance to impress by Jurgen Klopp in pre-season, and spoke of how last season ‘toughened him up’.

2MF4J00 Conor Bradley #21 of Bolton Wanderers during the Sky Bet League 1 match Bolton Wanderers vs Forest Green Rovers at University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton, United Kingdom, 24th January 2023 (Photo by Phil Bryan/News Images)

In an interview with BBC Sport, Bradley said: “It was an unreal season, it was everything I wished for and more.

“To play that many games, that is what I wanted to go and do. It has toughened me up a bit and it was vital for me.”

Despite missing out on promotion with Bolton, losing to Barnsley in the play-offs, it was still a successful season for Bradley.

As well as picking up Bolton’s player of the season award, the 19-year-old lifted the EFL Trophy after beating Plymouth 4-0 at Wembley.

2PJG2H9 Bolton Wanderers? James Trafford (left) and Bolton Wanderers? Conor Bradley celebrate with the trophy following their victory in the Papa Johns Trophy final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday April 2, 2023.

Something Klopp will like is that he is clearly a team-orientated player – he described his individual awards as just “an added bonus.” He is already focused on next season, too.

“In the summer I will go back to pre-season with Liverpool and I just have to see how that will go,” said Bradley.

“The future is dependant on that, but I am looking forward to getting back to Liverpool.”

With the Reds in the Europa League, there could be plenty of opportunity for game time next season.

However, how he would fit in is up for debate.

Like most right-backs, he doesn’t quite fit the mould of Trent Alexander-Arnold – Bradley prefers to overlap and stay advanced on the right wing, rather than drift infield.

2JRCMAN Bolton Wanderers? Conor Bradley in action during the Carabao Cup second round match at the University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton. Picture date: Tuesday 23rd August, 2022.

He has put himself in a great position to learn from the best, though, and attributes his position to his season at Bolton.

Bradley offered advice for other youngsters, saying: “It was a really good year and I learned lots from it.

“I would tell any young player to get out and go on loan to play games.”

With Liverpool short of an attacking backup option for Alexander-Arnold, now is the time for Bradley to step up at the top level.

First, though, he has important EURO 2024 qualifiers against Denmark and Kazakhstan for Northern Ireland.