Rhian Brewster has been on the senior men squad’s radar for a while. He’s part of the reason why Klopp didn’t bring in any attacking players over the summer. He’s young and dynamic and exciting and ready to play a multitude of attacking positions for depth. He’s also still building his match fitness after a pretty horrific injury last year that kept him out for most of the year, rehabbing alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He featured quite a bit during the preseason as he started to build his fitness again, and has rejoined the U23s as he keeps that going. Academy boss and U23 manager Neil Critchley is pretty encouraged by his progress, too, even as he took part in the 4-0 defeat to Spurs over the weekend.
“Rhian needs to build up volume of football. He’s had a good pre-season where he has stayed fit and has managed some minutes for the first team and scored a couple of goals for them,” Critchley told The Echo this weekend.
“He just has to keep playing games. If he does that, I’m sure at some point his fitness and general all-round game, co-ordination, his agility, his touch, his awareness, that will come back. You have to remember how long he was out for. There were really good signs from him.”
“He had a great opportunity in the second half when he was played in had to square it to Elijah (Dixon-Bonner) and just overhit. When he has his rhythm back and plays more games, he just slides that across and Elijah taps that in and we equalise. He just needs time.
“He looks lean and trim and fit, he has definitely developed physically.”
While the game ended pretty disappointingly against the Spurs academy, it was only the first match of the season and Critchley could still see there were good things happening — for Brewster and the rest of the squad, including a couple of the new kids we picked up this summer in Harvey Elliot and Sepp Van Den Berg.
“We gradually improved in the first half and in the second half I thought we were in the ascendancy but the second goal killed us, really,” continued Critchley. “We could have defended it better.
“I was disappointed with the way we ended the game. The result possibly makes the performance look worse than what it was. But we have to do a lot better in certain moments in the game.
“Harvey seems happy and is mixing in well with some of the boys already. He had a couple of lovely moments in the first half in and around the area. You can see he has a lovely eye for a final pass, and I’m sure he will get some goals as well.
“What I’ve seen so far from him, I’m really impressed.”
There are definitely times, as fans of the men’s team well know, where the performance doesn’t always line up with the result, and this academy match was one of those times. There’s loads of games ahead, for the men’s team and the academy, and this is just the start of a long journey and a long season. Plenty to build towards, says Critchley.
“We want to play games, we have to get volume of games into our players,” said Critchley.
“We want them to be building that resilience, perseverance especially when things aren’t going well, is important, and maybe we showed a bit of frailty in certain moments against Tottenham.
“If they are going to survive in the hard world of football, they are going to have to learn, and in certain areas against Tottenham I thought we were a bit weak.”
Rhian Brewster continuing to build his fitness and the added strength of Harvey Elliot and Sepp Van Den Berg should hopefully help fill in those weak areas, but they’re all ultimately kids who will eventually move up through the season to the men’s team. They’ve already survived the world of football to get to one of the biggest clubs in the world.