SALFORD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, August 30, 2022: Liverpool's Bobby Clark before the English Football League Trophy Northern Group D match between Salford City FC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Moor Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool face reunion with former coach and midfielder after cup draw

Liverpool will face a reunion with former academy coach Neil Critchley in next season’s Papa John’s Trophy, after the group draw took place.

Critchley spent seven years on Merseyside working in the Reds’ youth ranks, including as under-21s manager, before departing in 2020.

His time with Liverpool saw him take charge of two first-team fixtures, both when Jurgen Klopp and his squad were on mid-season breaks, leading a young side into cup ties.

He left to take over at Blackpool three years ago, before joining Steven Gerrard‘s staff at Aston Villa and then on to the QPR job in December.

Sacked by QPR in February, however, Critchley has now rejoined Blackpool following their relegation to League One, signing a four-year deal last month.

With Blackpool now in League One, they will take part in the Papa John’s Trophy – and on Thursday this saw them drawn into Group A along with Liverpool U21s.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Liverpool's Under-23 manager Neil Critchley during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match between Liverpool FC and Shrewsbury Town at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool are one of 16 Premier League and Championship clubs to send their youngsters into the competition, which pits them against senior sides from League One and League Two.

Group A also includes Barrow and Morecambe, who both ply their trade in the third tier.

Critchley’s Blackpool squad for next season will include a former Liverpool midfielder in Matty Virtue, though another, Kevin Stewart, is due to depart this summer.

Virtue spent 11 years as part of the Reds’ academy, having joined from Chelsea as a nine-year-old, before joining Blackpool at the end of the January window in 2019.

ROCHDALE, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 20, 2022: Liverpool's Lewis Koumas (L) gets away from Rochdale's Jimmy Keohane during the English Football League Trophy Northern Group D match between Rochdale AFC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Spotland. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool have entered the Papa John’s Trophy in each of the past four seasons, but are yet to progress beyond the group stage.

Last season saw the young Reds face Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and Salford City, losing all three games, with Stefan Bajcetic, Calvin Ramsay, Ben Doak and Bobby Clark among those to feature.

The 1-0 defeat to Rochdale saw loanee Arthur feature against League Two opposition, with academy player-coach Jay Spearing coming off the bench.

Conor Bradley won last season’s Papa John’s Trophy while on loan at Bolton.