InterviewJay Spearing's U18s mini-derby preview: 'Enjoy it but don't play the occasion'

By Steve Hunter


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Jay Spearing has provided an important message for Liverpool U18s as they prepare to host Everton in the mini-derby at the Academy on Saturday morning.

After suffering a heavy loss away to Crystal Palace in the Premier League Cup, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s side responded superbly when they beat Blackburn Rovers 4-2 last Saturday.

Spearing faced the Blues many times as a youth team and senior player with Liverpool, including the FA Cup semi-final win at Wembley, and it remains to this day one of his favourite fixtures.

The mini-derby is set to kick off at 11am BST, and you can watch the game live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO.

Read on as U18s coach Spearing reflects on the start to 2023-24 and looks forward to the mini-derby in a chat with Liverpoolfc.com...

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On the start to the season, including three wins so far in U18 Premier League North…

Really productive. I think the new lads have settled in quite well, we have had some decent results. And performance-wise with what we are looking for, the dynamic has gone really well and the lads are starting to reap the rewards with what they are doing in training day in, day out. It’s a positive start but there is still a lot for them to learn and we are trying to teach them new things every day. But they are a willing group who work hard and listen to what we are trying to guide them through.

On this being very much an attack-minded U18s team…

We have got a lot of attacking and creative players. We want to try to follow on from the first team, we want to have a lot of the ball and play in the opposition’s half. We’ve got forward-thinking players and we want them to express themselves. We have still got to work on our defensive shape, though, and we’ve got to be able to work as a team and work on our defensive shape off the ball. We want to attack, we want to create chances and score goals but we’ve also got to concentrate from a defensive point of view as well. We have got some good players who are all fighting for a shirt to play.

On Jayden Danns netting in every game so far this season…

Dannsy has started well. He played a lot last season as well. He has hit the ground running this season. He is an unbelievable finisher and is a big influence for us. He is a great lad to have as our No.9. He can drop deep, he can hold it all, so as an all-round No.9 he is a fantastic player to have in our team. He has still got a lot to learn in the game but he has had a great start and we hope it continues.

On the excitement of hosting Everton on Saturday morning…

Derbies at any level are a huge game. The first one for us is at the Academy and is one we are all looking forward to. We are going to be working hard, as always, ahead of this game and we want to get off to a positive start. We want to keep our momentum going.

On how much he enjoys these games on a personal level…

I love these games – there are none better! In our U18s squad we have got quite a few Liverpool fans and also a few boys even though they are not from the area, I can tell you they know exactly what this means at any level for this club – whether that be from U9s right through to the first team. It will bring that extra bit of spice but we just have to do the right things properly and make the ball do the hard work.

On the key to winning a derby…

Play the game and not the occasion. That’s so important. Listen, there’s going to be tackles and there’s going to be headers, but we want to get the ball down and play and stick to the way that we have been playing. We’ve got a way we want to go about things and this game is no different. So whether that be Everton, Leicester City, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, we have a way of playing and we want to see those patterns come out during the game. Playing against Everton, we know there may be one or two [more] tackles going in than normal, so the lads have got to be careful and not get drawn into that.

On how much he is enjoying still playing when required for the U21s…

It’s fantastic. Pre-season was a busy one for me with all the minutes playing for the U21s but any time I can get out on the pitch, get my boots back on and help the boys out, it’s an absolute pleasure and it’s good fun. I enjoy it and I enjoy helping the boys and guiding them in any way that Alex [Inglethorpe], Barry [Lewtas] or Bridgey want me to do. It’s fun and that’s part of my role as well to still play – whether that be on the training field or playing for the U21s. It’s been a really enjoyable time so far.



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