BRADFORD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 5, 2023: Liverpool's James McConnell (L) challenges for a header with Bradford City's captain Richie Smallwood during the English Football League Trophy Round of 32 match between Bradford City AFC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Valley Parade. (Photo by Ed Sykes/Propaganda)

Liverpool face reunion with former coach after first cup draw of 2024/25

Liverpool will meet a familiar face in next season’s EFL Trophy, now known as Bristol Street Motors Trophy after the group draw took place on Thursday.

The Reds reached the knockouts of this tournament for the first time last season, their first success in five attempts and they will aim to go further in 2024/25.

But former youth manager Neil Critchley will be aiming to get in their way as his Blackpool side were drawn in the same group as Liverpool’s under-21s.

Critchley spent seven years at the club’s academy, including as U21s manager, and even led a first-team fixture after Jurgen Klopp and his first-team squad left on their mid-season break.

In the years since his Liverpool exit, Critchley went to Blackpool, Aston Villa, QPR and then back to Blackpool, where he is set for another season of aiming for promotion to the Championship.

But he could be eying up some silverware too as his side take part in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, which has seen them drawn against Liverpool U21s in the group stage.

BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 10, 2023: Blackpool's manager Neil Critchley during the English Football League Trophy Northern Group A match between Blackpool FC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Bloomfield Road. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Blackpool – League One
  • Crewe Alexandra – League Two
  • Harrogate Town – League Two

Crewe Alexandra and Harrogate Town, both in League Two, are also in Group E – which will get underway in September.

Liverpool are one of 16 Premier League and Championship clubs with a youth team in the competition, one that has proven to be an invaluable experience for the younger generations.

The Reds were first involved in the competition in 2019 and it took 13 matches for the Reds to win their first game in the competition, which came only last season.

In the same campaign, Liverpool progressed to the knockouts for the first time and while they fell at the first hurdle, the competition gave more than it took for the club.

It exposes young players to the demands of senior football and has been a launching pad for a number of academy graduates, including Stefan Bajcetic, Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Lewis Koumas.