FeatureBelief, opportunities and targets: Young quintet discuss their Liverpool journeys so far

By Liverpool FC


Facebook Twitter Email WhatsApp LinkedIn Telegram

As Liverpool prepared for their first pre-season friendly of 2023-24, against Bundesliga side Karlsruher SC last July, five young players steeled themselves, ready for their big chance.

Little could they have known then, on a warm night in south-west Germany, what the next eight months would bring.

For Jarell Quansah, Conor Bradley, Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Lewis Koumas, this has been a campaign of unimaginable progress, of big opportunities and even bigger highs.

Having won the Carabao Cup, shone in the Premier League, Emirates FA Cup and Europe, scored goals and impressed all, the quintet recently sat down for a special interview with Liverpoolfc.com to reflect on a quite remarkable few months.

See what they had to say below…

You have to accept cookies in order to view this content on our site.

Watch on YouTube

Was there a moment where you sat back and thought: ‘Wow, this is really happening?’...

Bradley: It was probably after the Chelsea game [at Anfield in January]. I don’t think I could do anything wrong that night! All my friends were over at my house with me that night and I just remember saying, ‘What has just happened?!’ That was the moment where I probably thought, ‘This is crazy!’

Quansah: I don’t know, it’s hard to reflect on the season, because we’re still in it. There’s so much to play for and it’s hard to just take yourself out of the situation and realise what’s really happening. I find it hard to do that, personally. I feel like I’m just locked into the season, really.

Clark: Definitely the [Carabao Cup] final, I’d say. Coming on at Wembley, with all the Liverpool fans there, and once the goal went in and then the final whistle went, actually winning the trophy. That was the feeling.

McConnell: When I first started [against Norwich City in the FA Cup in January] I’d say, because I wasn’t really expecting it. Coming off after that game, you’re sort of thinking, ‘I’ve been thinking about that for months!’ Years even, when you’re down in the Academy and stuff. So, you think: ‘Yeah, that was quite cool!’

Koumas: Definitely the night of the Southampton game. The sleep was affected [the night before] by a good few hours!

You have to accept cookies in order to view this content on our site.

Watch on YouTube

Could any of you really have imagined when you started out that you’d be here so soon?

LK: The earliest I can remember was my Tranmere days, playing at Woodchurch every week. I would never have expected to get here. It was probably not very likely, to be honest, but injuries have helped us all [to get senior opportunities].

JM: I was just happy to train, waiting to get the text every night to see if I was with the 21s or the first team! If you look at where we are now, it’s definitely quite surreal to think about what has happened and what we can still achieve for the rest of the season. It’s quite special.

Jarell Quansah defender
View Profile

You’ve already experienced some big moments, haven’t you? For example Jarell, your debut up at Newcastle…

JQ: It’s been crazy, a whirlwind really. Getting to play with, for this generation, the best centre-back that there’s been [Virgil van Dijk]. It’s special. It just gives me time and opportunity to learn off him.

[Newcastle] is one of those that you can’t put into words. Something that shouldn’t happen, but it happened, and to be part of it, and for that to be my debut… It is pressure, but in my head there’s no reason for me to feel that pressure in that moment. The manager has trusted me and he’s seen me play.

For everyone else it’s, ‘What’s going on?’ but he’s seen me train for a couple of years, and I hit the ground running in pre-season, so for him to show me trust and show that I’m good enough for the level. To come and hold my own was a good moment.

We see the successes now, of course, but there must have been some difficult times on your journey too…

CB: It was difficult the whole way through. That first time coming over from Northern Ireland, without my parents, without anybody, and just going into digs, it was difficult and a real wake-up call for me. I knew this was what I wanted to do, so I just tried to give it my all and thankfully I’ve come through the other side.

BC: Moving down here from Newcastle [in 2021], I went into digs - Conor was in there as well actually - and I struggled with that, moving away from my family. I’m really close with them, so for the first few months the struggle for me was so different.

I didn’t really speak about it much. I would go home after a game on a Saturday and just love being back with my family. Then after about six months of being in digs, my mum moved down here with us, and that really helped.

How welcoming have the senior players been with you all?

JQ: You have to build these relationships. At the end of the day, we’re a team, and we are part of the team now, so having everybody being able to show their personality and add to the team is necessary really.

LK: It all feels a bit crazy and surreal still. Obviously I’m a massive fan of the club, so to be here with them just feels surreal. But they’re very welcoming, they all speak to you. I like the non-English ones, to be honest! I just find them funny!

JM: They don’t just talk to us, they actually have a laugh and take the mick a bit, stuff like that to make us feel comfortable. In particular Curt [Jones], I think, has really helped the link between the two changing rooms.

And it must give you pride to see each other enjoying these big moments too?

CB: Jarell, when I saw him come on at Newcastle. Obviously it was a big call from the manager to throw him on, and the way he handled himself in the game was unbelievable. I was just so happy for him. I moved over at 16, but I’ve been here on trial since I was 11 or 12, so I’ve been with Jarell for eight years, and to see him come on at St. James’ Park and do what he did was special.

JQ: Con and I played together for so long. We had ups and downs in the Academy, we got to the Youth Cup final together. To see him come through adversity at the start of the season, get into the team and then have that game against Chelsea… I wish he could get the pictures from the game of me on the bench. I couldn’t stop smiling at the things he was doing, I was just so happy for him! He deserves nothing more.

BC: James and I have been playing against each other since we were really, really young. He was at Sunderland and I was at Newcastle, both giving it a bit! When we started together in the cup in midfield [against Southampton], when you think about it, it’s crazy, that when we were 10 or 11 we’d be playing against each other in the derby, Sunderland v Newcastle!

I suppose you all know, though, that this is a club that gives opportunities to young players...

JM: I think it’s been happening ever since the gaffer came in. The likes of Trent [Alexander-Arnold], Curt, we played against Neco [Williams] with [Nottingham] Forest recently, who obviously came through. Rightly so, it will give [the next generation] confidence to keep working hard in the U16s or 18s or wherever they are, because ultimately they could end up winning something like we did. You never know how many injuries there will be, we didn’t expect there to be so many like there are now, so you’ve just got to be ready to take your chance.

LK: It feels weird to hear that, to be honest, because it wasn’t long ago I was trying to do that with some of these lads! I hope the Academy is getting the credit it deserves because they help and prepare us very well.

Talk to us about that preparation, and some of the coaches who have helped you along the way…

CB: I was with Baz [Barry Lewtas] and Bridgey [Marc Bridge-Wilkinson] basically the whole way through, and even reading the texts that they send me after games, or seeing their faces when I go back through, it’s a special feeling. They obviously played a massive part. I’ve been with Baz for many years and he’s really helped me develop my game, made me a better player and a better person, so to see his face after it all is pretty nice, yeah.

And the good thing is, it’s only the start for you guys…

JQ: Hopefully! We are just ready for the next games, really. We have big games coming up. It sounds surreal that we are involved in that, but at the end of the day we have shown that we’re good enough and we can really help the team hopefully win the league.

BC: We all want to win everything. For us, but especially for the gaffer with it being his last season. Being around this team and what we can go for, there’s so much more to come hopefully.

JM: There’s such a big opportunity. It’s March and we have some of the best players in the world coming back to give every competition a good go and then see what happens come May.

LK: I just hope we do it all for the boss. He’s unbelievable, one of the best managers in the world. It’s going to be heartbreaking when he goes, so I hope we can get a few more trophies for him.



Facebook Twitter Email WhatsApp LinkedIn Telegram