ROB Gutmann spoke to Liverpool’s under-23 coach Michael Beale earlier in the week regarding the relationship between the academy and the first team, as well as the influence Jürgen Klopp has on the youngsters.
The academy has produced some great players for Liverpool over the years, and it is still producing quality today. In fact, Liverpool were the “best developers in England” last year according to Beale, mostly down to the Reds’ first team manager granting more debuts to youngsters than any other manager in England during this period.
Equally important is the emphasis on getting the youngsters from the academy training at Melwood, to experience being in and around the first team. Beale says: “There are almost two groups at the moment, you have got seven or eight that train every day at Melwood, and then you have got a core group here.”
Klopp’s willingness to develop, has been shown at his previous clubs. During his time at both Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, he built a reputation as a coach with an eye for a future star. Notable protégés include Mario Gotze, Neven Subotić, Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus, among others. Those sort of names should have fans excited, in the hope he can produce a similar crop of talent for the Reds.
One of the big factors in managing the step up is the similarity between the tactics and training sessions of both the senior and youth sides. A shared footballing philosophy between the two can often result in a player developing much quicker than if he was stepping into a brand new way of doing things.
Beale outlined how the academy “try to keep the tactics very simple” and that they are “maybe 89% following the first team”. It makes more sense, if Jürgen and his staff are watching, to “see similarities” in the way the teams are playing and what role each player has within the team. Again, this seemingly small aspect of the relationship between the two campuses, has a big impact on Klopp’s ability to spot potential stars.
The German’s personal relationship with academy players is also a big part of their development according to Beale. He said: “The big thing is he knows all the players. If the manager doesn’t, then it tells you where his priorities are.”
A big part of most players’ mentality is confidence, a clear blueprint to follow in order to make the step up, and being close to the manager certainly helps foster that.
Beale also spoke about his relationship with coach Pep Lijnders, claiming they are “best friends”, which is important as Lijnders is seen as the link between the academy and the first team.
He told us: “Me and Pep were together for breakfast this morning, just talking for an hour and a half about the players.”
This casual relationship will no doubt positively impact the youngsters at the club.
The benefits of having such a strong academy are many in number. If not only for the fact the club does not have to always rely on buying new players to strengthen, further allowing players to make the transition, as Beale says: “The transfer window shutting helps us in that sense.”
With Klopp and Liverpool both having a history of development, it is good to hear that the German maintains a strong relationship with the academy, and that he shows such a willing from Klopp to promote.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a current academy player could emulate those who have come before, to become the Reds’ next star.
Transcribed by: @jacobroutledge
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