'We've got some very exciting players' – LFC U18s season preview

Academy'We've got some very exciting players' – LFC U18s season preview

Published 12th August 2022
By Steve Hunter

Marc Bridge-Wilkinson is confident supporters will enjoy watching Liverpool U18s in action again this season.

After an encouraging pre-season, the young Reds get their 2022-23 campaign under way when they welcome Middlesbrough to the Academy on Saturday, in a game you can watch live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO, with kick-off set for 12.30pm BST.

With the likes of Oakley Cannonier and Harvey Blair having now moved up to the U21s, exciting new talent including Ben Doak, a new signing from Celtic, winger Trent Kone-Doherty and Ranel Young are among the new first-year intake for the U18s this season and competition for places is strong.

Read on as Bridge-Wilkinson previews the new campaign and talks about the positive impact made already by former Reds midfielder Jay Spearing, who has joined his coaching staff with the U18s…

On the pre-season preparations and youngsters from his U18s group last season appearing for the first team…

It has been positive. We planned our pre-season to try to incorporate everyone because we’ve got lots of boys who have been coming back from injuries. In doing so, we’ve managed to get some of the boys up to speed and it has been pleasing on the whole. It’s nice to see some of the boys get an opportunity with the first team and that’s what it’s all about. It’s been nice to see them playing in first-team games, albeit pre-season, but they have been involved, they are learning from the first-team players and the staff as they go. It’s great to see they were given an opportunity to go and see the environment, be a part of it for pre-season. Hopefully it can only stand them in good stead for when they come back into the Academy and carry on that journey towards hopefully getting into the first-team squad on a regular basis.

On the progress of 17-year-old Bobby Clark, who netted 13 goals at U18 level last season following his arrival from Newcastle United…

Bobby did really well, it was a real positive season from him. He is a lovely boy first and foremost. He has a really good character, he obviously wants to be a football player, which is really important, and he listens and he learns. With all the natural instincts that he has got as a player and his technical ability he is tenacious in the way that he runs and tackles, he gets forward, gets back, and he is giving himself a really good opportunity. He has done really well so far.

On a new-look squad for 2022-23…

Year on year that’s the job and we get a new intake. We get one intake that will leave with players moving up to the U21s, and we get a new one when they leave school. The group is different every year, the dynamic is different. Maybe the style and the way that we play the game has to differ slightly because of the players and the personnel in the squad, but we will do that as we go through it. We’ll help these boys individually learn and we’ll help them as a collective. Fingers crossed we can have a positive season.

On his hopes for this term…

We definitely have some very exciting young players with potential. We’ve got players in the group that can go one-v-one, players who can play wide in those situations, we’ve got pace at the top of the pitch and lots of options. We’ve got lots of good players all the way through this squad so it’s something to look forward to.

Top 10 U18s goals of 2021-22

On the opening game of the season against Middlesbrough…

It will be a tough game I’m sure but we are really looking forward to it. Middlesbrough normally come and make it hard for us and last season they won 4-3 here in a dramatic end to the game. It’s one we won’t be taking lightly and a game we will work really hard in to make sure we give the best account of ourselves possible, and hopefully come out with a positive performance and result.

It’s always great to be on the main pitch in Kirkby and it’s a lovely place to play football. It’s quite special for an U18s group to play on this pitch and we will have many of our boys playing on it for the very first time. We always know that when we play teams here they know it’s a special place as well and they lift their game a little bit. We can’t take it lightly, we will enjoy the experience but we’ve got to make sure we do our job to enjoy it properly.

On working with Spearing, who has arrived back at the Academy as U18s coach…

Jay has been brilliant. He has been with us since day one of pre-season, he’s a great lad and he’s brilliant to have around. He has got such great experience, not only in terms of helping on the training pitch because he trains every day and helps the players and is constantly talking to them, he’s leading the standards in terms of the way that we train, which is really important. He has done it brilliantly. It’s also great for us as staff because Jay has experienced a level of football that I never. I don’t think any of us on the staff has played at the levels that he has. He gives us another opportunity to pick his brains on certain things, and he might see things slightly different to us at times, which is brilliant for the staff just as much as it is for the players.

Published 12th August 2022