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News & Notes
Since we last met, there have been some interesting developments in academy-land. As mentioned above, I'll recap results tomorrow, but for now let's get to some news and notes.
Much has been made of Adam Morgan's ticking clock at Liverpool, and today it was confirmed that the young striker, along with midfielder Craig Roddan and forward Kristoffer Peterson has left Liverpool on one-month loans to Yeovil Town, Carlisle United, and Tranmere Rovers respectively. For Morgan and Roddan, the moves are made with a view towards a permanent deal, whereas Peterson, who turns 19 today, is expected to return to Liverpool in January.
With the standard best-wishes being applied per usual, the more interesting discussion is of how these moves fit into the overall shakeup of the academy being undertaken at the moment. Morgan and Roddan have seemingly been around the reserves team for ages with varying levels of having impressed. Morgan, especially, was in and around the first team squad early last season, but never truly staked a claim for regular playing time. Yes, he's a good finisher, but he never showed the other elements to his game to indicate he could be a long-term success at Liverpool. Roddan, too, has proven to be a versatile tool at the disposal of the various reserve team managers in recent years, having been deployed at left-back, right-back, and all over the midfield, but he, too, has never stood out as a top performer. Peterson has, in fact, shone at times, so it makes some sense that his move is temporary, but overall, these loan moves are only in part due to the players' performances.
There is a serious bottleneck of talent building up at the academy. Part of the cause is the improved level and number of players coming through the youth system, and part of it is due to a lack of matches at all levels—no Europe or Carling Cup this year for the seniors, very few matches for the U21s as we've discussed, especially with no NextGen this year—from which to correctly discern performance. It's rare for a player who goes on to become a star—or even a regular first-teamer—to not make his debut at the under-21 level by age 17. A well thought-out academy, then, must leave room for its best talent to exceed age groups and move up quickly. Players like Harry Wilson and Jordan Rossiter, who have made their debuts for the U21s this year, aged 16, have proven that the talent exists for this pipeline to occur in the academy, and there is a host of players at the U18 level (Adam Phillips, Ryan Kent, Sergi Canos, Pedro Chirivella, to name but a few) nearing the readiness stage for a similar promotion.
Perhaps in an environment where the U21s have abundant matches scheduled to accomodate this plethora of talent one could make the case that Liverpool should continue providing Morgan and Roddan, among a few others already loaned out earlier this year, match time. But this lack of matches truly exacerbates the issue, and puts Liverpool in the position of needing to be absolutely ruthless with the minutes allocated by Alex Inglethorpe. Until something structurally changes with the U21 league, Morgan may well be the last we see of his breed, given years to impress at the reserve level after turning 18. All in all, it's a bittersweet moment for these lads, but interesting for us, because it implies there simply is no more room at the Liverpool Football Club academy to be anything less than extremely promising.
Borrell and McParland Leave the Club
Speaking of an academy shakeup, Noel already discussed the departures of Academy duo Rodolfo Borrell and Frank McParland. That the loan moves discussed above occurred so soon after these releases should not be viewed as a coincidence, and I thought I'd lend some thoughts, now that a week or so has passed.
First, my general thoughts are that this was inevitable. Rodgers came to Liverpool with a strong youth development pedigree, and from the beginning rejected the idea of working under a Director of Football. Pep Segura, then Rodolfo Borrell and McParland held positions that were more academy coaching philosophy type roles than actual coaching roles. It makes sense, then that Rodgers would not necessarily feel the need to have others dictate to him what the club philosophy vis a vis youth development ought to be. Rodgers brought in his own coaches for the youth levels, Inglethorpe for the under-21s and Neil Critchley for the under-18s, themselves highly accomplished and respected in youth development circles. Simply put, with Rodgers' vision for the academy, and his own coaches in place, there was no need for Borrell and McParland.
Yesterday, Swansea City's Head of Academy Tony Pennock left the club on mutual consent, citing "a new challenge" as one the reasons. Today, two well-entrenched players left the club on a soon-to-be permanent basis. Whether Pennock joins Liverpool, and whether Rodgers found some resistance in letting Morgan and Roddan go from his academy bosses remain to be seen. All that is clear, for now, is that Rodgers is putting his stamp on the entire club. I, for one, have plenty of time for Brendan Rodgers, and am happy to see him mold this fine academy in his own vision.
In a piece of news that seemed to slip under the radar, attacking midfielder Cameron Brannagan and versatile central midfielder Marc Pelosi signed new contracts with Liverpool. Pelosi hasn't played since February after a horrific tackle shattered his leg, but reports of his recovery have been positive, and he will hopefully be back to recapture his excellent form in the new year. Brannagan has escaped overt mentions in this column, but has really come on this year. The 17 year-old debuted with the U21s late last season and has been playing almost exclusively under Alex Inglethorpe this season. He tends to play in the number 10 role, and lately has shown a goal-scoring streak to go along with his clever movement and quality technique.
Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers from The Liverpool Offside staff!