Barry Lewtas has declared it a huge honour and privilege for him to be appointed as Liverpool's new U23s boss.

It was announced on Thursday that he would be taking the reins of the Academy side, succeeding Neil Critchley following his departure to Blackpool earlier this year.

Lewtas initially joined the Academy in 2013 and was previously in charge of the U18s.

Read on as he details to Liverpoolfc.com his delight in taking the new role, how much he is looking forward to helping continue the development of the club’s young players and much more...

LFCTV GO: Lewtas on Academy promotion

Barry, many congratulations on this appointment as the new U23s manager – a proud moment for you and your family…

It’s a real honour. Obviously, it’s a huge job, it’s a huge responsibility, and I can’t wait to get started.

I know how grateful you are to the likes of Alex Inglethorpe, who has shown a lot of faith in you…

Yes, of course. It’s a huge job with big responsibility and I’m really thankful to Alex for this opportunity. It’s a nice feeling to think that he trusts me to do the job. There’s Alex as well as a whole host of other members of staff across my time at the Academy who have been a really good support and helped me to this point so far. I’ve had plenty of text messages, as you can imagine, but I probably need to send a few messages out myself to say thank you to people for the support they have given me over the years.

A positive will be that you will know your new squad well, having coached many of them for years...

They can’t get rid of me! I’ve known a lot of the boys for quite some time. I’m really looking forward to getting back to working. It’s the next chapter for me but obviously for them it’s a really important part of their career as well, a really important time, so I’m looking forward to getting started. I think as I mentioned a while back when I took the U18s job, knowing people and knowing the players, that will help me just getting started in the role really and it will make things a lot easier. They know me and I know them so it makes it a touch easier.

You follow in the footsteps of Neil Critchley, who you were close with having worked alongside him with the U19s, so will it be a case of carrying on his good work?

Of course, yes. Critch has done a fantastic job leading the U23s so my role is to carry on that good work and try to add a few things that I feel are important to me. But, certainly just carrying on the good work that was being done.

And of course, the first team are set to be based at Kirkby in the near future, too – it’s very exciting times…

Yes, it is. We’ve seen the building go up day by day in the cold Kirkby wind and on some of the wet mornings. We’ve seen it kind of go up brick by brick really so that’s been an exciting development for us to see and obviously by the time we get back that building I’m sure will be finished. It’s a really exciting time for the staff, obviously having the first team so close, but more importantly it’s more important for the players and how inspirational it will be for them.

You will be working with Jürgen Klopp, Pep Lijnders, Peter Krawietz and Vitor Matos - who you have already worked closely with since he arrived. It's all one club, working together…

Yes, that’s the plan and we have a really close connection between the first team and the Academy. Having the first team and the first-team staff so close and how supportive they are of the Academy will only be a benefit for us as staff and us learning. But, again it’s so important for the young players.

Is it a big step for the players to make, up to the U23s? It's the next stage on their journey to senior football...

Of course. They are probably in a real transitional moment around decisions around their career, with opportunities maybe to train around the first team. For some players there will be the opportunity to go out on loan and continue their development that way. For some players it’s to continue their development or maybe start that journey in the U23s group, so it’s a wide mix of players all striving to get to the same place but on different journeys, so yes, it is a real transitional period at times for them young players.

What do you see as the biggest - and indeed most exciting - challenges of managing the U23s?

It’s the responsibility. I think every age group you have at the club there’s a huge responsibility to look after the player and look after the person that’s in your hands really. Speaking to a couple of the boys yesterday, the next birthday we have for some of them is 20. It’s a real kind of pivotal time in their young careers so to kind of be able to support them at this point of the journey is something I’m really proud to do and it’s something I’m really excited to do as well, so that’s probably the bit I’m really looking forward to the most.

One of the big differences at U23 level is that you will often have a team that changes from game to game...

Yes and that will be something for me that might be a little bit different. I think this year we’ve probably been able to move players a little bit more between the groups as opposed to my first year with the U18s. That’s something as Academy staff we are well aware of. I know sometimes from the outside it looks unsettled and things like that but we are really comfortable on where each player’s journey is. There will be swapping and changing with young teams and maybe sometimes an older team and so on but I’m well aware of that. I was really fortunate in the office that we work in I sat opposite Critch for a couple of years and I saw how he managed those situations. So, I’m not going into that blindly and I worked closely with someone who I felt dealt with that extremely well. I’ve learned a lot of things for that situation over the last couple of years.

We are still waiting for a date when the Academy teams can return to train at Kirkby, but you’ve been in touch with the lads on a daily basis and they’ve all got their own fitness programmes…

They are all working really hard, to be fair to them, and it’s a credit to them, their motivation, and it’s been 10 or 11 weeks since we’ve been together. They are working extremely hard on their individual programmes and as staff, not just myself but full Academy staff, we touch base with all of the boys to check how they are doing. Obviously, to keep an eye on them in terms of their programmes and so on, but at this time as well it’s just nice to keep a track on how they are doing and how their family are doing as well. It has been a busy time, a strange time and it has been different, but ringing players up and speaking to them, asking them about different things like how they are filling their time, I’ve probably learned a little bit more about the players as well.

Two lads who will hopefully be back for the new season are Paul Glatzel and Abdi Sharif. Both suffered serious injuries and have gone through a tough time, but they will be assets for you...

I’ve known Paul for quite a while now and he’s been in my kind of small group over this period of time so I’ve been speaking with him quite a lot over these 10/11 weeks. I spoke with him on Thursday actually and it’s great to see all his hard work in terms of, he’s had a number of setbacks but, mentally, he has shown unbelievable strength in how to cope with these situations and has bounced back. It’s really good to see those photos of him running around at Melwood, he’s got the boots back on and he’s playing football again, so in this real tough time I suppose for Paul to get the boots back on and play that will put him in a really good situation for the rest of this season in terms of his rehabilitation and where he is at the moment. It will give him that headstart if you like, that kick-start for the start of next season.

Abdi is working extremely hard, as well. He’s another one who had a setback after a real strong end to his U18s season I thought. He finished that season really well and was really starting to develop his identity and he featured quite a lot under Critch as well for the U23s and it was really pleasing to see his progress. It was stopped by an injury and that’s the game. He’s working ever so hard to get back fit and he is really close [to being back]. So, that will be two players who will be additions I would imagine at different times to our U23s group.

Abdi signed  a contract extension earlier this week, a great boost for him…

It’s a really good thing for him because obviously during his rehabilitation and trying to keep focused on getting fit and better, the club have looked after him really well and rewarded him for those efforts. He will be back ready to play hopefully at the start of next season, whenever that is. For some of the injured boys there may be a bit of a delay for when we are back; for someone like Abdi, it might give him that little bit more time to get back, so it was really nice to see him with a nice big smile on his face on the website yesterday with the photo of him signing the contract. It’s nice to see him smiling again.

One thing you will have is competition for places, which is what you want at any level...

I would imagine there will be comings and goings, movement between the groups [U18s and U23s] and competition from U18 players and U23 players. There will be a wide range of players with different needs at different times. All of the games will be competitive and we’ll have good players, there’s no question of that. Whatever team we put out we will have players who will be really pleased to have that Liverpool shirt on, but yes, I can imagine there will be lots of competition for places hopefully. What that does, it can only motivate the players certainly day to day in training to make sure they all want to play and they all want that shirt at the end of the week, so like it did for us in the FA Youth Cup run people talk about I think the competition for places was something that was really key to what we did that year, so hopefully we’ll be able to have that next season.

Just tell us a little bit about your Academy journey so far, from when you first came to the club back in 2013 and coaching the younger age groups through the years…

A long time ago and I say to some of the lads I had a full head of hair when I started! It has been quite an incredible journey really, especially seeing some of the players when I joined will be in my U23s group this year. They were just starting secondary school so they were only 11 years of age, so to see them now at 19, 20, it’s quite a remarkable journey. You see them grow as people and obviously see them grow as players as well. You see their ups and downs and the journey isn’t always on an upwards trajectory. For some players they do have setbacks, so it’s been a fantastic opportunity to see young people grow into young men. That has been a real pleasure of the job and obviously I’ve got to work with some fantastic coaches as well, people who I’ve learned an awful lot from. So, I’ve been really fortunate to work in an environment that has been an enjoyable one to turn up to every day. It is a job, but it doesn’t feel like it. You turn up every day and it’s a fantastic place to be but it’s also a place I’ve been able to learn and develop off other good people so an unbelievable six or seven years.

When you coached the U15s and U16s you worked closely with Steve Heighway – how big an influence has Steve been on your coaching career?

Yes, definitely. When I started with the U12s group Steve came in pretty early in that year and worked with me and Phil Charnock. Then when I moved to the U15s and U16s Steve moved into that group with me as well. It was probably a good two or three years where I was working with Steve on a daily basis. It wasn’t just him kind of just dropping in. Steve is pretty much all or nothing - and he was all in. He was in every day, all weathers, and working as a member of staff on the grass. They were a fantastic three years for me. Steve has got unbelievable experience both as a player and as a coach. He was able to help me with my ideas and he was a really good sounding board for my ideas. He put me on the right path if the ideas weren’t quite right and he was always someone I felt I could speak to, which was a really important thing for me especially at that time in my career. I don’t see Steve quite as much now because he is still working with some of our younger groups and not the groups I’m with, but it’s always great to see him and great to catch up. Steve is doing some fantastic work with some of our other coaches and I owe him a huge thanks because he is one of the people who has really helped me on my journey and I’m sure he is helping all of the other coaches at the club. What’s probably most important is he is helping the young players, so his experience as an unbelievable player and also a fantastic developer for young players as well so we are extremely fortunate that he is back around the Academy mentoring the staff and also giving the players the support they need as well.

And finally, we know how much you are itching to get back onto the field with the lads again, when it’s safe to do so…

Of course. At the moment the main thing is that everyone stays healthy and everybody stays safe. As much as we are itching to get back to normality so is everybody else and we will be patient and we know that. When we get back I’m sure our pitches have had a good rest and they will look as good as ever. The groundsman will be happy and the goalmouth will be full of grass again! We’ll give the groundstaff a little bit longer to get the pitches how they want them to be and when we get back we’ll all be happy, but we’ll do that at the right time.

JACK BEARNE

Meet the Academy: Jack Bearne