Meet the AcademyThe inside story of Harvey Blair's 'crazy' Liverpool debut
Harvey Blair was in a state of confusion in the days around his surprise senior debut.
The 18-year-old thought he would be making a debut that week in October. Just not for Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool.
Blair ended up starting the Reds' Carabao Cup fourth-round tie at Preston North End. He would represent the senior squad before Barry Lewtas' U23s.
A feeling of mystery was repeatedly replaced by disbelief as the occasion drew closer.
- Watch Blair and LFC U18s in action against Derby County on Saturday at 12.30pm GMT. Sign up to LFCTV GO and get 30 per cent off an annual subscription using the code 30GO22.
"It was Thursday and I was meant to be playing with the U23s against Blackburn," he told Liverpoolfc.com.
"One of my teammates texted me and he was like, 'It's just been put in the U23s group, how come you're not in the team?' I was thinking, 'How come I'm not in the U23s team?' I didn't think anything of it.
"Then [U23s analyst] Ray Shearwood called me and said, 'You're not going to be involved in the game with the U23s because Jürgen wants you to be up there to train.'"
Blair thought, at best, he'd train with the first team and just gain invaluable experience by travelling with the squad to Deepdale.
It soon became clear he'd be doing a lot more than that.
He continued: "We trained on the Monday and I did really well. I was playing right wing and I was doing really well, had a really good session.
"The next day, the day before the game, everyone was back and I just thought I was going to do rondos with the players that wouldn't be playing in the game, like Virgil and Salah. But then I got called over and was told, 'No, no, you're over here.'
"I was thinking, 'I'm starting – what?! This is crazy.' I didn't expect it all. It was crazy and it all went so fast.
"By the time I knew it, I was in the hotel before the game and just waiting for the kick-off. It was crazy.
"I was so nervous and everything was coming on top of me. I was just like, 'I'm actually going to play for Liverpool, my team.' It was such a crazy moment."
A pre-match pep talk with James Milner, who was present but not part of the matchday squad, helped settle the nerves somewhat.
The vice-captain told him: Be yourself, express yourself because I know how good you are. Do everything you've been doing in training with us.
Lining up on the right side of a forward line featuring Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino, Blair got a true taste of senior football in his 45-minute showing.
"The difference is crazy," he stressed, five months on. "In U18s football, I get pushed over and it's a foul. I was getting pushed over and, even though some of them were questionable and maybe should have been fouls, I wasn't getting any fouls.
"Obviously I wasn't getting on the ball as much, and that was also the first time for me playing on the right side. Throughout the U18s, I was playing on the left the whole time.
"It was very difficult to get me on the ball and me being able to express myself.
"I couldn't sleep at all afterwards. I was up all night.
"Even when I was getting back on to the coach just before we're leaving the ground, I saw some of my mates in the crowd and they're all smiling and videoing. I was just like, 'Wow, this is just crazy.' There were thousands of people.
"This is what I've been working for my whole life and it's all come true. Hopefully moments like that can happen again."
Klopp namechecked Blair in his press conference after the Carabao Cup final, as one of a list of players who had contributed in the journey towards glory.
His match-worn shirt and trademark pink boots from that night in Preston are on display at home, serving as motivation to earn more opportunities.
For Blair, it's just been a case of making up for lost time. His first season with the U18s last year was blighted by a long-term hamstring injury.
Now fully fit, he's scored eight goals for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson's side in 2021-22 from his left-wing role.
"When I was going into this season, all I was thinking about was just playing as many games as possible, and whatever comes, comes," he said.
"Everything seems to be going so well but I just need to keep pushing and try to get out there more and keep playing.
"Growing up, I was always like a striker. I used to play up front all the time and never used to play any other position.
"Since this season, I've been playing on the left. At the start I wasn't really keen but now I like it a lot.
"In the past few games, I've been playing on the right wing. I'd say I'm more versatile and I like playing on the left, right or as a striker."