Jurgen Klopp’s “words are really special” – how Liverpool are giving youth a chance

With Liverpool’s young stars in the spotlight for their first team performances and FA Youth Cup exploits, This Is Anfield spoke to Under-18s coach Marc Bridge-Wilkinson.

“We couldn’t have put the string of results together we had, without the boys, without the kids,” Jurgen Klopp said after Liverpool comfortably beat Chelsea 4-1.

On that night, Conor Bradley put in a man-of-the-match performance, arguably not for the first time in the last few weeks, and Liverpool’s academy was really put in the spotlight.

It has been an excellent month for Liverpool’s youngsters, from under-18 level up to the first team. U18s coach Bridge-Wilkinson told This Is Anfield that’s Klopp’s words were “really special.”

The coach elaborated: “For the first team manager to say that in public, in the press, I think it’s really special.

“I think that not just myself, but [for] every in the academy, it makes you feel really proud of the work we put in every day.”

In 2024 alone, eight players to come through the youth setup, and Bridge-Wilkinson spoke about how it was a team effort to get these players into the first team.

The U18 coach said: “The work goes on tirelessly here (at the academy) but without a manager that is willing to play the young players, Pep (Lijnders) and (Vitor Matos) and everyone else there, John (Achterberg) and everyone else up there.

“Without that staff believing in the younger players and believing in the process then it still wouldn’t happen.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 20, 2024: Liverpool's Jayden Danns celebrates after scoring the sixth goal during the FA Youth Cup 4th Round match between Liverpool FC Under-18's and Arsenal FC Under-18's at the Liverpool Academy. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“So, I don’t think it’s us and I don’t think it’s them. They’re the ones that have to do the hardest part which is to put the young boys in, and we’re forever thankful that obviously the manager has done that over the years.”

It isn’t just the players breaking into the first team who are making an impression, though.

Liverpool’s under-18 side are in good form, with players like Jayden Danns, Lewis Koumas and Trent Kone-Doherty all making a name for themselves.

They made their mark against Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup fourth round. A thrilling 7-1 win, in which all three of the players mentioned scored, saw them qualify for the last 16, against Fulham on February 4.

Looking ahead to the match, Bridge-Wilkinson said his message to the players would be to “get as close to the Arsenal game and recreate as much as we can really.

“We performed in different games at different levels, we’ve performed really well, and we’ve got to maximise what we do.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 20, 2024: Liverpool's hat-trick hero Lewis Koumas (C) and double goal-scorers Jayden Danns (L) and Trent Kone-Doherty (R) with the match ball after the FA Youth Cup 4th Round match between Liverpool FC Under-18's and Arsenal FC Under-18's at the Liverpool Academy. Liverpool won 7-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Yes, we’ll fully respect Fulham – they’re gonna be a good side – fantastic academy and club as it is. And yeah, it’s not going to be easy, but we’ve got to make sure we do our part of it first.”

Liverpool last won the FA Youth Cup in 2019, an exciting win on penalties over Man City, but lost the 2021 final to Aston Villa.

The team that lost that game featured Bradley, Jarell Quansah and Tyler Morton, all players who are now having a great impact at senior level. Stefan Bajcetic was on the bench.

The winner of the tie against Fulham will play Sheffield United or Leeds away in the quarter-finals.