Barry Lewtas was delighted with the attitude and application of his new-look U18s team as they started 2019-20 with a 7-1 win at Blackburn Rovers last weekend.

After several members of the FA Youth Cup-winning squad from last term moved up to the U23s, six players from the previous U16 group made their first starts at U18 level.

And three of them - Layton Stewart, Tom Hill and James Balagizi - each marked their maiden appearance in Lewtas’ XI with braces.

Stoke City are next up for the young Reds at the Kirkby Academy on Saturday and the U18s boss hopes his team can continue to showcase their talents.

Kick-off is at 11am BST and you can watch the game exclusively live on LFCTV GO.

Ahead of the meeting with the Potters, read Lewtas’ thoughts on his new-look team and that magnificent showing at Blackburn below…

On the opening day 7-1 win at Blackburn…

It was a great way to start the season. The boys have worked hard in pre-season and we played a number of really top fixtures as well. When you go into any opening day game you are going to learn about the new group. We played really well on the day and it was really pleasing. I know it’s a long season but all the work we did with the boys in pre-season makes it all worthwhile. It’s about maintaining that now and kicking on again.

LFCTV GO: The best of the 7-1 win

On new No.9 Stewart scoring twice on his first start for the U18s…

Layton is certainly someone throughout all the age groups who has scored goals. Jack Bearne is with the U23s and Fidel O’Rourke is on his way back from an injury, so he got his chance last Saturday. Layton had a good pre-season and there was an opportunity for him which he had earned. I was pleased he got his two goals because I think for any centre-forward, getting off the mark is always important at any level. I was pleased with the goals but there were other parts in his game that I was also pleased with. It’s a start for him, he knows he’s got a lot of work to do but he has certainly come into this season with the appetite to learn, develop and improve.

On the influence of midfielders Leighton Clarkson and Jake Cain, who were a key part of the U18s group last season…

You look at our team last Saturday and it was only Leighton and Jake who were regulars for us last season. There were two other second years who started but those were the two who had the most exposure last season. I said to them last season they were both first years and maybe at times the second years would get round them and give them their support. Now it’s their turn and their responsibility to lead the team in terms of how they play. I thought last Saturday the way they both played in terms of their range of passing, creating chances and the way we wanted to press, they dictated that at times. We expect that because of the exposure they had last season but I was really pleased with them.

They are both still young boys and if it’s the right opportunity for them to get a chance with the U23s then I certainly won’t be holding them back. My job is to continue to work with them and if they keep putting in impressive performances like that, they are only putting themselves in the right position for that opportunity. They have both got their feet on the floor. They want to play good football, they are happy and we are all quite comfortable where we are with the situation at the moment.

On the challenge he expects against Stoke…

We spoke to all of the boys in the meetings we have about how difficult all of the games are. We won a lot of games last season and the boys did fantastically well with the amount of points we amassed, but there weren’t many easy games and Stoke certainly wasn’t easy. I know we beat them in the league and the Premier League Cup but they were tight and tough games. The boys know we will be in for a tough game and we will prepare as normal with our focus as always around us. We try to develop players individually but also put that into a team. Our focus is always where it needs to be but when it comes to Saturday, as staff and as players we certainly won’t be underestimating Stoke City.


Highlights: Blackburn Rovers 1-7 LFC U18s