Academy'We want to try to win the FA Youth Cup - that has to be our aim'

Published 10th December 2021

It has been another week to remember for everybody at the Academy.

After Liverpool's U19s clinched top spot in Group B to qualify outright for the last 16 of the UEFA Youth League, five Kirkby graduates all played a part in helping the senior side to a 2-1 win over AC Milan at San Siro in the evening.

Nathaniel Phillips, Neco Williams and Tyler Morton all started the game, while Conor Bradley and debutant Max Woltman appeared as late substitutes.

Earlier in the day, Mateusz Musialowski had netted a brilliant goal in the 1-1 draw with Milan that was enough to see the U19s clinch progress, with FC Porto losing to Atletico Madrid.

The Reds must now wait until February for the Youth League's last-16 draw.

Next up, on Saturday evening, the U18s return to the FA Youth Cup trail as they host Fleetwood Town in the third round at the Academy, with manager Marc Bridge-Wilkinson admitting confidence in the squad is at a real high.

Kick-off is at 5.30pm GMT and supporters should note this match will be played behind closed doors with no admission to the public.

Read on as he looks ahead to the return of the Youth Cup - in which his team were runners-up last season - and reflects on a great week for his young charges…

On finishing top of their group in the Youth League…

We are really pleased. When the group was first drawn it was obviously a very tough group for us, so for us to get through is brilliant and for us to top the group is obviously something we aimed for, but we are really pleased and proud of the lads they managed to do that.

On the 1-1 draw in Milan despite a number of regulars being with the men's squad…

It was a difficult day for us and we didn't play to the level that we would have liked. We scored a brilliant goal, a great team goal, great play down the left and Matty with a great finish. It was a tough game and we had a younger team out but it was a great experience for all those lads that played that perhaps haven't had those minutes for us in the UEFA Youth League. It was a good day all round.

On seeing Woltman handed a senior debut alongside the likes of Morton and Bradley…

It made it such a special day. For the boys to go out and play for the U19s against AC Milan and get a 1-1 draw that took us top of the group was fantastic, and then in the evening for us we were able to go and see Tyler start in the Champions League and Max and Conor get on, plus Harvey Davies and James Norris on the bench. These are all players who could have played for us, so there's five of them there, plus Owen Beck, who couldn't play because he was suspended. It's just really great to see the younger players getting an opportunity with the first team, whether it's just for a minute or warming up and being around the changing room. It was a really good day all round.

On the promising display of Musialowski in Milan…

It was a brilliant team goal, it was a fantastic finish. It's something we have talked with Matty a lot about, for him to get in the box and make sure he gets there. That was really pleasing to see him do that and obviously we know he's got the quality to stick those type of finishes away. Once he got the chance you felt quite comfortable he would hit the target and it was a great goal. He was unlucky with the chance he had in the second half when he tried to lob their goalkeeper and unfortunately the ball landed just the wrong side of the post.

It was a great bit of play, he's bright, he's clever and he's an intelligent footballer in those moments. Matty has great vision and he still has a lot to learn and we are working hard with him at certain things in his game. It's just understanding how he can affect the game in the moments where he can and when there's too many bodies around him he then lends the ball to somebody else. It's understanding when he has the impact he does when he's running with the ball and when to make that pass to a teammate, and they are the moments we are hopeful he will continue to learn and develop.

Highlights: AC Milan 1-1 LFC U19s

On the return of the Youth Cup on Saturday evening…

It's a really good competition and it's something we are hopeful we can do well in. We want to try to win it. That's got to be our aim as you've got to try to win every game and every competition you go into. We host Fleetwood Town and it's going to be a tough game because they have got nothing to lose. It's going to be a different type of challenge for us and one we are looking forward to and we will give it our best shot.

On the idea behind playing on Saturday with a 5.30pm kick-off…

With this game coming on the back of our trip to Milan we didn't get back to the Academy until the early hours of Wednesday morning around 4am. We originally thought about playing the game on Friday evening but I think that would have been too soon on the travel back from Italy. It's nice to play these types of games under floodlights and make the game a little bit different. So, playing at 5.30pm on Saturday evening is probably not the best sort of time to play it but it was a time we felt was right and in dialogue with Fleetwood they were keen to play at this time, so it suits everyone.

On the importance of having a good attitude and not taking things for granted against Fleetwood…

Of course it is because they will come and make it difficult for us. They are a good side and they have got some good players. They will come to the Academy and try to win the game so it's down to us to make sure we turn up and we match their attitude and work as hard as them, if not better, and hopefully we can perform to the level we know we can.

Published 10th December 2021