How Liverpool’s Kirkby Academy is set to produce the next generation

Chris Magee
Read Time:6 Minute, 6 Second

Written By: Chris Magee

Liverpool’s Academy setup in Kirkby hasn’t been a goldmine in recent times; the emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold, the first true successor of the setup since the days of Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and co.

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Despite this, numerous players that have come through Liverpool’s youth ranks have succeeded elsewhere, Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi at RB Leipzig or even Raheem Sterling at Manchester City are an example of a career forged at another club.

The current generation is glowing, from the under-18’s to the highest rated prospects, in and around the first-team and out on loan, Kirkby currently boasts an abundance of talent, from between the sticks, to natural goalscorer’s.

With the first-team recently having moved to the newly built Kirkby training complex, on the same site as the existing Academy complex, there is now sure to be a smoother integration into first-team football, for academy players, as Jurgen Klopp can call up players at will.

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Currently at the top level of the academies production, Curtis Jones has already played over 500 minutes of football for Klopp’s side this season, injuries have no doubt influenced that, however Jones has looked increasingly comfortable game after game, making the “number eight” spot his own, as he got to grips with the intensity of the workload required in the German coach’s tactical setup.

The Liverpool-born playmaker, was often deployed on the left for the academy sides, or given much more freedom when deployed centrally, by the likes of Steven Gerrard and Neil Critchley, making his adaptation even more impressive.

Welshman Neco Williams is also establishing himself as a genuine first-teamer for Klopp, he has played almost 300 minutes this season, following on from last season’s impressive displays in domestic cup competition. Williams is also regularly called up for the Welsh national team – netting a winner from right-back in injury time against Bulgaria back in September.

Both of Jones and Williams are Club World Cup and Premier League champions, perhaps foreshadowing great careers to come.

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Harvey Elliott while arguably operating at the same level as the prior mentioned academy graduates, has taken a rather different route in going out on loan to Blackburn, where he’s already managed four goal contributions, in his first seven games.

Elliott also boasts a Club World Cup medal and a Super Cup winners medal, having been named in the squad last August against Chelsea in Istanbul.

The Englishman signed from Fulham, is also looking to build on an impressive campaign last season, he provided a number of assured appearances in the Carabao Cup, where he was often the focal point of the depleted reds sides he starred in, particularly against MK Dons.

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Further down the pyramid, a number of players are this season being given opportunities in a similar fashion to how the three Club World Champions were in the 2019/20 season.

Rhys Williams was initially handed starts in the Carabao Cup fixtures against Lincoln City and Arsenal, partnering Virgil van Dijk in the heart of defence, where he slotted in seamlessly. This was followed up by three appearances in the UEFA Champions League, as Klopp continued to show faith in the young Englishman back from a season-long loan at non-league Kidderminster Harriers.

Wigan-born midfield engine Jake Cain, has also found himself named in a number of matchday squads for the reds in the UEFA Champions League, including the trip to Amsterdam to face Ajax, his midfield compatriot, Leighton Clarkson was named in the squad against Leicester City at the weekend.

Both are press-resistant midfielders, that possess excellent passing ranges, the former somewhat of a free-kick specialist, having netted three already this season, the latter could be described as an admirable dribbler with the ball at his feet, confident in evading pressure.

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Billy Koumetio albeit impacted by injuries and Covid-19 isolation so far this season, impressed in the pre-season campaign, displaying his physical prowess and aerial dominance. Signed from US Orleans, there are great hopes for the defender, that he could capitalise on, amid Liverpool’s current defensive injury woes.

Recently back from an anterior-cruciate-ligament injury, Paul Glatzel was set to undergo a pre-season with the first-team squad in the summer of 2019, an opportunity which after a 28-goal-haul for Barry Lewtas’ side could have led to competitive appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s European Champions.

The scouse-German will hope opportunities finally arrive this season, a prolific goal scorer that can play across the front-three, Glatzel is as natural a finisher as they come, destined for success whether that be at Anfield or elsewhere.

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To conclude on the u-23 front, Viteslav Jaros, is a commanding young Czech-born keeper, similarly to Cain, being named on the bench against Ajax, could be a sign he’s on the cusp, especially with Adrian San Miguel’s contract running down, the former Slavia Prague man certainly has the confidence in commanding his box and the reflexes to match, to deputise Alisson Becker in goal, given time.

Further down the setup, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s u-18’s contain a host of exciting young footballers, Layton Stewart often dominates the headlines, having already scored 11 this season, following on from last season’s total of 16 under Barry Lewtas.

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James Balagizi is a powerful, athletic midfield powerhouse, at the age of just 17, he often directs games with his runs box-to-box. despite being tall and incredibly difficult to push off the ball, Balagizi is electric in possession, often escaping the opposition with audacious skills. Perhaps likened to a Yaya Toure or Sergey Milinkovic-Savic in the modern game, the former Manchester City academy man, has it all.

The u-18’s side have also been boosted by new signings Melkamu Frauendorf from Hoffenheim and Mateusz Musialowski from Polish side SMS Lodz. The former has captained Germany at under-16 level, with the latter bagging 130 goals in 80 appearances for his former side at youth level.

Both can be deployed as attacking midfielders or on the wings, Frauendorf has already got three goal contributions to his name for Bridge-Wilkinson’s side, with Musialowski bagging his first goal against Wigan, last Saturday, with what was an exceptional solo effort.

In the same game, fellow new signing, highly rated Brazilian shot-stopper Marcelo Pitaluga made his debut, keeping a clean sheet in the 5-0 rout.

Rather intriguingly, Oakley Cannonier also bagged his first goal for the side in the fixture – the ballboy who supplied Alexander-Arnold to assist that iconic goal against FC Barcelona. A remarkable chain of events, if he is to ever feature for the first-team.

Finally, fullback options on either side, Northern Irishman, Conor Bradley and scouser James Norris at left-back, both occupy great athleticism in racing box-to-box down the flank, as well as admirable crossing abilities, suggesting they could be suitable for first team chances, in coming times, as Liverpool’s academy, for the first time since the early 2000’s, showcases an abundance of compelling young stars.

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