You can only have a successful academy if young players believe there’s a path to first team football.
Liverpool’s pre-season began last week as the Reds set up camp in Austria, and the squad played their first pre-season friendlies earlier this week with a pair of 30-minute matches against FC Wacker Innsbruck and VfB Stuttgart.
It was a chance for first team players to do their first pre-season running against live competition, but for assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders just as important was the chance it offered to some of the club’s youth players.
“This week, we played our first minutes of pre-season,” Lijnders noted. “In terms of the positives from those matches, first of all it was that there were no injuries. Secondly, there were so many young players involved.
“[It is] great for them but also for each kid at the Academy because it shows all of them that dreams can come true. I really believe that the most important and decisive factor in creating players through the Academy is hope.”
Not every promising young player in the academy will make it at Liverpool, but their development depends at least in part on a belief that they can make it and that their path to first team minutes won’t be entirely blocked off.
As important as pre-season is for the established players to get up to speed, then, it’s also key as an opportunity for the top academy players to train and get in a little game action alongside those first team regulars.
“Talent deserves opportunities,” Lijnders added. “With time, this faith and patience will pay off with players like Trent, Curtis, Neco, Caoimhin, Rhys, Nat, Harvey, and so on. The next ones are here, we just need to show belief.”