Liverpool’s usual injury crisis has finally struck, with most of the starting squad looking at missing the rest of the season. With the Merseyside derby sandwiched between Champions League quarterfinals, an injury crisis isn’t really a thing any of us would like to be dealing with. Steven Gerrard, though, has been quietly preparing the first team for this eventuality. U18 players Rafael Camacho and Curtis Jones made their first appearance on the first team bench during Saturday’s derby and Gerrard couldn’t have been prouder of the kids.
“It’s massive for the Academy,” Gerrard told the club website recently.
”We are all in it together and everyone at the Academy is very proud of not just those two lads but Conor [Masterson] as well with the three of them getting on the bench.”
Masterson was on the bench for the match against Manchester City on Wednesday as well, after having been spotted at Melwood training earlier in the week. To their credit, both Jones and Camacho have also been at Melwood fairly regularly to train with the seniors - and get them ready for the day where the seniors fall apart and we need the kids.
“We all had our fingers crossed that they might get a cameo [role] but it wasn’t to be,” Gerrard continued.
“The manager has got an important point and that is more important than anything.
”They are there, they are knocking on the door and they are close. Whether that be through injuries or whatever, they are getting that chance to work in front of Jürgen, so they have got to keep pushing and pushing.”
The day where they might be well and truly called up to fill in could be coming sooner rather than later, with the second leg of the quarterfinals coming up and then games against smaller teams like West Brom and Stoke. Klopp himself has traditionally tried to protect the academy kids until the very last moment but has also been a big champion for the academy and the work that they do. The confidence his picking those three to sit on the bench for the Derby is not lost on anyone.
Maybe they’ll keep Liverpool from completely falling apart as we all race to the finish line of the season.