Helping Academy players adapt to Liverpool’s first-team environment is an aspect of pre-season Virgil van Dijk is relishing.
Van Dijk partnered 21-year-old centre-back Nat Phillips at the heart of the defence for the second half of the Reds’ 2-0 friendly victory over Blackburn Rovers on Thursday.
Along with the likes of Curtis Jones and Rafa Camacho, Phillips has been a permanent fixture in Jürgen Klopp’s matchday squads for the first four games of the summer, against Chester FC, Tranmere Rovers, Bury and Blackburn respectively.
And Netherlands captain Van Dijk sees it is an enjoyable responsibility to make sure such prospects feel at home among the club’s senior stars.
“From my perspective I like to, especially in these pre-season games, play with the younger guys and help them a lot,” the No.4 told Liverpoolfc.com, when asked about teaming up with Phillips at Ewood Park.
“I think Nat did well today, he’s a good guy as well and that helps too, and it’s just good for everyone to see them playing and they just need to enjoy it and especially work hard and get their chances.”
For Van Dijk, a 45-minute run-out against Blackburn represents an important step as he progresses through his first pre-season as a Liverpool player - something he is finding hugely beneficial as he looks forward to 2018-19.
“Very important,” was the Dutchman’s assessment of getting a full pre-season with the Reds under his belt.
“Also with the new additions that we have it is good to see how everyone fits in and plays, get to know everyone’s strengths and weakness.
“I know most of it already but it’s just very good to start the season at Liverpool. I feel good. It’s hard with a lot of training sessions and a lot of running but it doesn’t make you worse so I just need to enjoy it.”