AcademyBarry Lewtas on EFL Trophy importance, Paul Glatzel return and Jay Spearing influence

By Steve Hunter


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Barry Lewtas is relishing this year's EFL Trophy competition and believes his young side can take many important lessons from participating in it.

Liverpool U21s start the group stage with a trip to League Two outfit Morecambe on Tuesday night, with kick-off set for 7pm BST at Mazuma Mobile Stadium.

Blackpool and Barrow are also in Group A and the winners and runners-up of each of the north and south groups will qualify for the last 32 of the tournament.

Read’s preview of the competition and more with Lewtas below...

On the benefits for his young side playing in the EFL Trophy…

Obviously it just gives us an extra dimension to our games programme. It gives us a chance to play against senior opposition in a proper competition as well, so for us it just allows our boys to get that exposure to prepare them for the next step. Over the last couple of years we have loaned a lot of our boys out to the EFL and obviously given them that exposure as to what that level is all about, so this competition for some boys is the start of their journey.

On the quality of opposition that awaits his side in Group A…

It’s a tough group. Listen, it always is tough but I’ve been quite fortunate really that I’ve been able to lay eyes on a few of the teams. I’ve been to watch Blackpool, obviously we know their manager Critch [Neil Critchley] very well, I’ve seen Barrow a couple of times and I’ve been fortunate to watch Morecambe as well with the way our fixtures have kind of gone, so I’ve witnessed at first-hand what we will be up against and we are in for a real challenge.

On the test posed by Morecambe…

A real tough one. They have started their season well. They will give us what our young players playing against them need, in terms of tactical differences, style differences that maybe we are not quite used to. When our young players play against these sides it gives them a real shot in the arm as to what that next level looks like. For us, when we have reviewed these games in the past there have been reasons why we have come up short. Sometimes it has been by the odd goal and it has been a real close affair, and when we have been a bit younger that has caused us problems in certain parts of the game.

We know what challenges are going to come our way and the boys will be well prepared for that. I’ve certainly got a few battle scars from us competing in this competition as well, so we do our best to make sure whatever team we have out on Tuesday night goes in there and competes well, but for some of our boys it will be the first exposure they have had to the senior game. There will be some mistakes in certain parts of the game so we’ve just got to do our best to make sure that we go there and we try to pose the way we want to play on them as well. We are not just going there for the experience and just to be guests, we want to go there and give a good account of ourselves, so it’s an exciting game for everyone involved.

On the importance of his young players learning from these experiences of facing senior sides and staying positive even when the going gets tough…

100 per cent and we will go there wanting to win the game. That’s not being disrespectful because we know what we are up against. But we are not going there as guests as that is not the mentality we go with, but we will go there extremely respectful as we are playing against a really good League Two team who were a League One outfit last year, with an experienced coach. We know what challenge we will be in for and we’ve just got to make sure that we are able to give them a challenge as well and impose some of our ideas on them. It is that first exposure, though, for a lot of the players to play against a senior opposition.

If I look back at some of the teamsheets over the last few years in this competition we have had Stefan Bajcetic playing right-back against Port Vale, Bobby Clark against Port Vale as well, and Ben Doak played in this competition for us last season. So, along the way this is part of the lads’ journey and it’s important.

On the return of defender Lee Jonas after injury…

Lee picked up an injury in the final game of last season and it has been really frustrating for him missing the whole of the pre-season. Lee is back on the grass with us and training with the team so he is one who is certainly close to playing, but we’ll have to see whether Tuesday comes at the right time for him.

On Paul Glatzel working hard during pre-season after injury and starting in the U21s’ last game against Middlesbrough…

It’s great to see Paul back, it really is. He just needs a bit of luck and a run of games now. Even when he was on loan at Tranmere we saw he never forgets where the goal is. He is a senior player at U21 level now and I’ve got to be honest, his attitude in training and the way he trains is first-class. I get to see his quality every day and for him hopefully this is a time for consistent training and we’ll see where we are with the games for him. It’s an opportunity for him to stay fit, be strong and certainly continue to practise and evolve as a player, and then I’m sure when the window opens again in January he would be a massive addition to any squad.

I know his quality, I’ve coached Paul for a long time now at the Academy. That player who did so well for us when we won the FA Youth Cup is still in there, we saw that in his first loan spell with Tranmere. There’s no question about his ability and goalscoring quality – I see that every day. I’m used to that and this window probably didn’t quite work in getting him out on loan as there’s lots of moving parts with that as well. He needs consistent training, game exposure and he will be a real asset.

On the invaluable experience of having U18s coach Jay Spearing part of his U21 squad once again this season…

Jay is a big help for these young players. In terms of the experiences that he has had he can offer something different in a different way as well. When you are a coach there are coaching times and coaching moments, but Jay has that position where he is able to influence things both in the dressing room and out on the pitch. Whenever Jay is with us he adds more with what we are trying to do, he is great to have around our group.

Whenever he has come on and played for us he has certainly added something to the game as well, so his experience in and around this competition is really important for us as well because historically we have used a number of U18 players in this competition.

Jay is with them every day so he can come with them, be part of it and support those younger players. By the way, as we have seen in pre-season and so far this season Jay can still play as well, so it’s great to have someone who can add a different dimension to our game, whether that be leadership, experience or a real calm head when we are looking to control the game. Jay can offer us so much and his experience and his ability is invaluable for us.

On the overall positive start to the season despite a blip in their last outing against Middlesbrough…

It has been a good start. We were disappointed with the Middlesbrough game and I think we have only got ourselves to blame for that in certain parts of our game, and in fairness to Boro they really punished us in the second half so full credit to them. I do think the nature of U21s football, the team does change a lot. Sometimes you will get a little bit of inconsistency with that and I accept that.

Over our four games so far, I’m not pleased with every moment of every game but if I look back there has been some really good performances as well both individually and collectively. We were disappointed with the second half against Middlesbrough but that comes with the territory, so we will learn from that and be better for it.



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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.