AcademyU18s' 2023-24 preview: 'Have no regrets and see where it takes you'
In our latest Academy column, Liverpool U18s manager Marc Bridge-Wilkinson gives his thoughts on the new season ahead of Saturday's opening match against Nottingham Forest.
We have enjoyed a really good pre-season and the lads can’t wait to get going now on Saturday.
It has been a little bit different in all of the groups and we have seen some of the young players get an opportunity with the senior team, which is absolutely brilliant and what it’s all about.
For the likes of James McConnell, Calum Scanlon and Lewis Koumas who were with us at U18 level last season, it was great to see them get some game time and exposure and they did themselves and the club proud. Don’t forget Ben Doak was with the U18s at the start of last season as he started his new Liverpool journey.
We had a brilliant week in Northern Ireland at the SuperCupNI, which was such a fantastic experience for the boys. We played three games against excellent opposition in Valencia, Manchester United and Hertha BSC which all brought us different experiences.
Valencia and Hertha were a little bit older than us in terms of age but it’s a really good competition, we had some really good games and it was a nice week.
You learn more about your players when you take them away from their comfort zone and being away for the week they are representing Liverpool and it’s an important experience for them on and off the field.
Our support out in Northern Ireland was absolutely brilliant and it was great to see all of our fans and we put in some decent performances overall, especially the win over Man United, which the lads really enjoyed.
As always, the start of the new U18s season sees us with a fresh intake of new first-year scholars, while we also lose a number of players like Macca [McConnell] and Calum [Scanlon] who will now move up to U21 level because they are too old now for U18 football.
We have had a good full week of training to lead us into Saturday’s opening game and it’s nice to start things off with a home game at our Academy.
The start of a new campaign is always exciting. A lot of work goes in during pre-season with fitness and getting some of the new first-years integrated into the squad. We are looking forward to the new season and I know the boys as well as the staff are itching to get going.
A few of the boys already had earlier chances with the U18s last season while they were only at U16 level, like Lucas Pitt and Luca Furnell-Gill, so I always say it’s an opportunity when U16 players get their chance to play at U18 level. Hopefully the experience of playing at this level last season will stand them in good stead for this campaign.
Nottingham Forest are a good club and it is a tough opening game for us and we know it won’t be easy. We will go into it with our eyes wide open and face the challenge that they will bring.
Wellity Lucky sadly missed a lot of football last season through injury and he is an important player for us at the back. It will be really good for Wellity to get back in and be consistent with games and training.
Things have gone well for him in pre-season and we are looking forward to seeing him back on the grass and playing games. And as much as we are, I know he can’t wait to get back out there.
As always, my message at the start of every season to the players remains the same. No regrets, don’t worry about mistakes, worry about your options on the field and worry about how you deal with a mistake that has been made. Ultimately, don’t look back on anything with regret, give it everything you have got and see where it takes you.
Marc Bridge-Wilkinson was speaking with Liverpoolfc.com's Steve Hunter