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Liverpool youngsters given unexpected opportunity as injuries strike once more



Liverpool youngsters given unexpected opportunity as injuries strike once more

Liverpool U18s were made to travel a steep learning curve during a difficult season for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s side

Lewis Koumas (left) and Ben Doak made an impact early in the season for Liverpool U18s (Image: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

It wasn’t just the Liverpool senior side who limped through the campaign hampered by seemingly relentless injury problems.


Across the way from the AXA Training Centre at Kirkby, the treatment room at the Academy was just as busy as many of the next generation of Reds hopefuls spent as much time on the sidelines as on the pitch.


The season was particularly testing for the under-18s, who used almost 30 different players as youngsters from the U16s were fast-tracked into the upper age group ahead of schedule.

Such inexperience – and, it must be said, obvious lack of full physicality given the tender years – contributed to the team going more than six months without a win in the U18 Premier League North before a strong end to the campaign saw them claim an admirable top-half finish.

That being said, it’s a situation where there were moments where you could see real development, and changes in mindset and character. The boys have developed a resilience and strength that individually they’ll look back and lean on. Nobody wants to lose but sometimes winning at this age can be more than just the scoreline.”

Summer signing Ben Doak started the first five games of the season for the U18s – contributing two goals and two assists – before being quickly elevated into the U21s and subsequently the first team.

It was therefore left to others to take on the attacking mantle. Lewis Koumas, a midfielder converted into a striker, scored four on the opening day against Middlesbrough and had seven in six league games before injury struck. On his return in March, the 17-year-old scored five in seven and took his league assists tally to five.

“We tried something in pre-season to play Louie as a striker,” says Bridge-Wilkinson. “We spoke to Louie, got him on board and he was happy to try and play in that position. We talked about the strengths in his game and why we thought he might fit, and you have to give him an awful lot of credit because the first time he played centre forward was the week before the season started.

His performances have been great and his understanding of the role has come on leaps and bounds. It was a shame he picked up the injury when it was a really strong period for him. But for him to then come back and hit form in such a short period was impressive.”

Koumas wasn’t the only breakthrough forward. Trent Kone-Doherty, brought in last summer from Derry City, was becoming established before his season was ended in March, Jaydon Danns was a regular in the second half of the season playing across the front line, while 16-year-old Keyrol Figueroa stepped up after an impressive showing in the CONCACAF U17 Championship earlier this year.

“When Louie got his injury, it meant Jaydon got a run and Figgy got more of a look-in,” says Bridge-Wilkinson. “Then Figgy got injured, Jaydon continued and Louie came back. Their performances have been improving through the season. Trent was doing fantastically well, and from his point of view it has been a good start in a new club and hopefully he can continue that progress in the new season.”

Michael Laffey, a 17-year-old midfielder, and Miles – who broke into the U21s – played the most league minutes after goalkeeper Fabian Mrozek, while McConnell was impressive in the engine room when available. And Bridge-Wilkinson is hopeful any pain suffered this season by using so many younger players can become a gain in terms of valuable experience going into the new campaign.

“There are quite a few U16s who have been involved in the 18s programme,” he says. “Hopefully next season they can step up and already understand certain parts and we don’t have to go through it again. They start further along the line.”


Roberto Firmino sends touching message as Fabinho shares shock reaction to Liverpool forward’s exit

Welcome to your Liverpool FC morning digest for Friday, May 26.

Roberto Firmino sends new emotional message after ‘incredible’ Liverpool farewell

Roberto Firmino has thanked Liverpool supporters for the “incredible” reception he was granted after the Reds’ final Anfield game of the season against Aston Villa on Saturday.

Earlier this year, the Brazilian revealed he would be ending his eight-year stay on Merseyside to pursue a new chapter in his career upon the expiration of his contract. It comes after winning the Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup, Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Community Shield during a glittering career at Anfield.

And after scoring a last-gasp equaliser against Unai Emery’s side on Saturday, Firmino, alongside fellow Anfield departees Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and vice-captain James Milner, was afforded an emotional farewell by the 54,000 Kopties packed inside of Anfield, before celebrating his extraordinary career with the Reds during a private party with his family, friends and team-mates some 24 hours later.

Writing on Instagram to his 14.7m followers on Thursday, the 31-year-old thanked Reds supporters for the celebration of his career over the weekend, which coincided with the unveiling of a mural on Rockfield Road.

Read the full story by clicking HERE.

Fabinho reveals Liverpool squad shock at Roberto Firmino decision after contract pleas

Fabinho admits he was shocked by compatriot Roberto Firmino’s decision to leave Liverpool.

The Brazilian forward has called time on his glittering eight-year stay with the Reds. His last game for the club comes this weekend when Jurgen Klopp’s side travel to already-relegated Southampton.

Firmino, whose contract runs out this summer, will leave Liverpool in no doubt about how much he is adored by his team-mates and supporters. That much was clear on Saturday before and after he fittingly scored the Reds’ equaliser in the 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa. It was the 31-year-old’s final appearance at Anfield.

Firmino will be followed out of the Reds exit door by fellow Champions League and Premier League winners James Milner, Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, who also see their contracts expire next month.

But it’s arguably the talismanic forward’s impending departure that has brought the most outpouring of emotion. And Fabinho, in an interview with Sky Sports News, has admitted Firmino’s exit has surprised the squad.

Read the full story by clicking HERE.


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