Neil Critchley declared his pride in the performance of the youthful Liverpool team that beat Shrewsbury Town 1-0 at Anfield to reach the FA Cup fifth round.

The youngest Reds starting XI in history took to the field on Tuesday night for a replay against the League One outfit, who had claimed a 2-2 draw on home soil last month.

And an assured, front-foot display in front of a sold-out crowd was rewarded by an own goal in the second half to set up a trip to Chelsea in the next stage of the competition.

Read Critchley’s assessment of a memorable occasion below…

On the performance of his players on the night…

As a coach you picture the game beforehand, you visualise it and you try to predict what’s going to happen. Obviously with young players you’re never quite sure, but I have to say from the first whistle the maturity those young boys showed to play that game was remarkable. They actually calmed me on the side and I think over 90 minutes we had the better chances and were just about the deserved winners on the night.

On whether he heard from Jürgen Klopp…

Yes, the boss was in touch this afternoon with some words of advice and encouragement, which was really nice of him. We had a little message – I’ve not checked my phone yet – but we had a message from the staff at the end there and he is absolutely delighted with the performance. He is buzzing. We’ve given him a game against Chelsea away to look forward to.

On players staking claims to feature against Chelsea…

It’s a first-team game and Chelsea away is a really difficult tie, but a great tie to look forward to. That was sort of the message to some of the boys tonight – if we do win tonight then maybe one or two of you, maybe more, might get an opportunity to go and get another fantastic experience. They want as many of those experiences as they can and if they get that chance at Chelsea away they’ll be fully deserving of it.

On standing in for Klopp…

The boss is the boss, he is the manager of the team and the manager of this football club. I’m only standing in for tonight and the players have done the club proud tonight. The support we had was incredible, a full house – absolutely ridiculous for them to turn up and support those young kids. They were so appreciative of it. They stayed right to the end because they saw boys giving everything on the pitch. We played like a Liverpool team and I’m so proud of them.

On whether these players have taken a ‘big step forward’…

They have definitely made a step forward. We played the game with real maturity. I was really pleased with the way we stood up to the physical side of the game – first balls, second balls, set-pieces. I thought we did that outstandingly well, much better than the Aston Villa game. We did much better, at least at one end; maybe we didn’t take our chances at the other end. This is a step forward but we don’t want this to be a defining moment of their careers. Hopefully it just gives them a taste of it and a thirst to go and whet the appetite, so to speak, and they want more of that. What’s really important for these younger players is when we speak to them and work with them on the training ground about doing this, improving this and we’re going to do this and you need to improve at this, tonight when those things occur in the game and they’re successful at it, it then gives them the belief and the confidence to carry on the work they do on a daily basis that is not seen by everyone until you get a night like this. I think we benefited from the work we do in training tonight, that was really evident.

On James Milner’s support for the team…

He trained with us yesterday and he asked whether he could come along. I was like, ‘I think the answer is yes to that one! Of course you can!’ He was very respectful to ask. He said, ‘Can I come in the dressing room?’ and you’re thinking, ‘What do you think? Of course!’ He has achieved so much in the game because of who he is; he was giving words of advice to the players, he was getting right behind the players, he was vocal in the dressing room and he was animated behind me – I could hear him! He was genuinely delighted with how the boys performed and I can’t thank him enough for being here tonight. I don’t think he is available yet, I am not sure he is ready for that moment yet, but he was certainly jumping up and down behind me so I think he was desperate to get on!

On the scenes of celebration at full-time…

Because it was such an intense game, such a close game, 1-0 and going right to the final whistle, it was like a release of emotion. Let’s be honest, it’ll probably never happen again so I thought, ‘Let’s go for it, why not?’ And I did, I thought the players did and you could see the looks in the eyes of the supporters. There is genuine passion and that connection – I spoke about that yesterday. The connection after the Aston Villa game between the club maybe grew that little bit stronger, if it can get any stronger at the moment. We had an opportunity to maybe grow that connection right across the club a little bit more tonight – and I think we’ve done that.

On whether the Academy set-up as a whole can take pride in tonight’s performance and result…

I get to sit here in front of you, which is nice for me, but really I’m here as an extension of the Academy, I represent the Academy, so I would love to share this with Alex [Inglethorpe] and all the Academy staff, who work tirelessly and put hours of work into some of those boys who have been here for a very, very long time. I know it is a special moment for them as well and it’s only right they share that with us and I mention them because the way we handled the ball, the technique and how we played is the hours of work that goes on from a very young age at the Academy. I know the Academy staff will be rightly proud of the performance tonight as well. For me to share that and be part of that with them is fantastic for all of us, I think.

On what Klopp said to him…

What he does is give you total clarity – it is belief, it is play the Liverpool way and go for it. That’s how the first team play. It’s like, this is us, this is what we do, this is what we stand for, this is what we believe in and you better be ready for it. I think from the first whistle we did that.

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