MICHAEL Beale has revealed that Liverpool would have entered a team in the controversial rebranded EFL Trophy this season, had the matches fallen at different times.
This season, for the first time, Premier League and Championship teams were allowed to enter youth teams in the tournament. However many of the top clubs declined to do so, including Liverpool, surprisingly perhaps as many involved in the club, past and present, have complained about a lack of competitive football for developing players.
However Beale told The Anfield Wrap that he would have liked to have seen the Reds enter had the games been “right”.
He said: “It’s disappointing that we are not in what was the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (now known as the Checkatrade Trophy), but with the games being in the international window, it just wasn’t right. But, if the games had fallen outside of it, you could see that the kind of team we had out in the last couple of games could have done well in that competition.”
It is all part of the constant battle for The Academy in getting the right sort of test for Liverpool’s young teams, something that Beale is hoping will come in the form of Wolfsburg who Liverpool Under-23s play tonight.
“It’s going to be really tough. Porto and Wolfsburg second teams both play in a full league, every week against men. So physically they will be used to handling something that we’re not. We played Porto B last year and they were physically outstanding. They looked like a Premier League team on the pitch, they looked like men.
“So that will be a really good test for boys like Ovie (Ejaria), Trent (Alexander-Arnold), Connor Randall and Kev Stewart, they are the sort of games they need now. They need to play some teams that are slightly older and stronger.”
For the Under-23s it’s about getting the balance between making sure they have enough game time and ensuring games are competitive but also knowing which players will be available.
“We’ve actually always had 16 to 18 friendlies per year but they haven’t had as much coverage, as they were behind closed doors. But the Qatar one (which Liverpool Under-23s won 6-1) is a national team, so they want to televise it back home, so it gets more coverage.
“But we have entered more cup competitions, so the Premier League Cup has six games, the International Cup has three, with Wolfsburg and Porto quite high-profile games. We’ve also entered The Lancashire Cup where we play Burnley in the quarter finals. So it’s just trying to add more games. We’ll play in tournaments around that as well.
“We are mindful, though, this year that my team is quite young. The FA Youth Cup starts shortly and we certainly won’t be denying those players the opportunity to play in the Youth Cup. So there is lots of football for the players. It’s just making sure there are enough games for those not always in the team, especially if you are in a position that is particularly strong.”
The Under-23s face German side Wolfsburg at Prenton Park tonight at 7pm in the Premier League International Cup.
Tickets are just £4 for adults and £1 for children and concessions. Members and season ticket holders can gain admission free of charge.