ColumnAlex Inglethorpe: There is an inherent belief and big faith in our young players

By Alex Inglethorpe


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In our latest column from Kirkby, we hear from Liverpool Academy director Alex Inglethorpe about the impact made by youngsters in the senior Reds team so far this season and the pathway at the club that gives everyone hope.

It has been a really encouraging season for everybody at the Academy with the amount of opportunities our young players have had, and I’ve always said we have a manager and first-team staff who give that opportunity when it’s deserved.

We have always wanted to play our part and playing our part can be many ways, but I think having so many boys being given so many opportunities this year [is special], and that was from the first day of pre-season when they were away with the first team.

They were given that opportunity to show whether they were capable of contributing this season in terms of helping the first team out in various competitions.

I’m very lucky to have the access and relationship with first-team staff that I’m not sure many people in other academies get to enjoy.

It’s been apparent for a very long time that they know the players by name. I think it has really helped that Pep [Lijnders] worked in the Academy when he first came to the club as our U16 manager.

Vitor Matos’ background is similar to Pep so I think there is an inherent belief in young players and ultimately you’ve got to have a manager who has got that big faith to put them in the team when it really matters.

It’s one thing putting on a player when you are 5-0 or 6-0 up or in games when the result doesn’t necessarily count towards anything, but we’ve seen this season Jarell [Quansah] coming on at 1-0 down at Newcastle, Bobby Clark and Conor Bradley coming on at Arsenal in the FA Cup.

It’s one thing to talk about development of your own and it’s another thing to actually do it. As far as I’m concerned, we have the best in the league when it comes to a manager and his staff who actually live that and do it.

Ultimately, the faith the manager and his staff have put in them I think it feels very unique to this club. It’s testament to all of the hard work that has been done across the Academy and across the first team.

The players also have to earn that trust, that’s how it is. They have got to do enough in training to convince that they can be trusted and I feel we are very lucky to have first-team staff who put their faith in the Academy.

It’s then down to the players and you can only take them so far. They’ve got to show they are up for the task and this season in pivotal moments [they have], whether it has been starting Jarell Quansah and Conor Bradley, or bringing on Bobby and Conor at the Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup tie with Arsenal.

We’ve also seen James McConnell get a start in the FA Cup against Norwich City, and we feel there is a lot of young players that have been given the opportunity to demonstrate that they are worthy of the faith put in them.

This season we have seen Curtis Jones make his 100th appearance for Liverpool. I think Curtis has had an amazing season and he is someone that always has had high, high potential.

I think his versatility and his willingness to adapt and be flexible, whether he’s asked to play in the middle or out wide at times, right-back in the Premier League against Burnley recently, I look at him now and think he is pivotal to the team.

It is really good to see Curtis week in, week out contributing to the team’s success.

In the game against Burnley, Trent Alexander-Arnold got his 58th Premier League assist, a record for a defender in the top flight. It’s amazing but not surprising.

When you watch Trent week in, week out and you see the amount of chances that he creates, assists, that also depends on someone putting it in the net as well. But if you look at the amount of chances Trent creates for the team then it is no surprise to see him becoming the all-time holder of that particular accolade.

The last time Liverpool played in the Carabao Cup final it was a special day for the club and Caoimhin Kelleher certainly played a big part in it.

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Caoimhin made some excellent saves and then scored the decisive penalty for Liverpool in the penalty shootout.

Caoimhin has always been very level-headed. It’s an amazing attribute to have as a goalkeeper. He’s had to be patient for his opportunities because he is behind, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper in the world in Alisson Becker, so it’s very difficult to get your chance.

But when he has this season, again he has shown a real calmness and played in a really assured nature that gives everybody the confidence you need.

Caoimhin is an amazing young man. His ability to step in when required I think is significant and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Jarell Quansah has made a big step this season. I’ve known Jarell for 11 years now and it has been fantastic to watch his progression and be a part of that.

He is a special boy with a special family and he is again someone coming through the Academy, he has been exemplary in so many ways, not least because he has been incredibly low maintenance, if I’m being honest.

Jarell has always gone about trying his hardest, done his best to improve and done it without any fuss. I can’t ever remember any incidents or situations where his family have wanted to get involved and I just feel there has been complete trust from the player and family the whole way through the process.

I’m very proud when I watch Jarell now because having watched him over a long period of time I’m very proud with how he is playing.

Jarell is also playing alongside the best defender in the world in Virgil van Dijk. If you can’t learn from Virgil then you can’t learn from anybody.

Sometimes you have to be fortunate as a player that your time collides with the right senior players and I think over the years whether that has been a Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner and Andy Robertson over recent years to currently if you are in the same dressing room as Virgil, Mohamed Salah and Alisson, then I think it’s such a fantastic opportunity to learn from the very, very best.

By learning, that’s not just your behaviour on the pitch but it’s how you conduct yourself off it.

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Conor Bradley had that wonderful moment at Anfield recently with the goal he scored against Chelsea and he deserved the plaudits that came with his performance.

I think Conor would have been 13 when I first saw him. Your eyes were instantly drawn when you watch this wiry young lad that used to give everything as a winger at that time.

You could see he had the heart of a lion and some skill there as well. We just had to be patient in letting his body develop and not trying to force it too quickly.

Conor has been an absolute pleasure to work with during the time he has been with us at the Academy. Conor also played central midfield and on the wing, but I don’t think that’s an unusual path now with him being a right-back.

Perhaps the definition or the qualities of a full-back have changed but I don’t think that’s too much of a jump now given how much, certainly at this club, full-backs get forward and attack.

I would also like to give a special mention to all our staff here at the Academy whose dedication to the cause never goes unnoticed by me and they have played big parts in these boys’ journeys so far.

Most importantly, I think what we have seen this season and previous seasons under our manager and his first-team staff, it gives hope to the young players that are in our Academy. They can see that if you do things right then there is a chance that you will end up achieving your dream here.

It gives validation to the staff that actually the work that they are doing is meaningful and valued, which is the most important thing.

They work incredibly long hours. The football season, as we know, is relentless and even when it’s finished it continues to be relentless in the planning and preparation for the following season.

The staff give so much of themselves, and I think it’s really important they do that knowing that what they are devoting themselves to has a chance of actually becoming meaningful, and certainly at the moment know to be true.

Alex Inglethorpe was speaking to's Steve Hunter



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This article has been automatically translated and, while all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, some errors in translation are possible. Please refer to the original English-language version of the article for the official version.