Mentality. The great intangible in sports. It can’t be measured. It doesn’t show up on any stat sheet. And yet “you know it when you see it.”
It’s easy to understand why the regular first team starters—the ones who conquered all of Europe—would be “mentality monsters.” But that mentality is apparently filtering down through the rest of the squad, into the academy.
We said before the game we’re going to dominate the ball and we knew we’re going to hurt them,” academy left back Adam Lewis said after the match. “It was just an unbelievable performance from the lads.”
Lewis, a 19-year-old Scouser and Liverpool academy product, was handed his debut after an untimely injury to Yasser Larouci. This, of course, was also on top of Jurgen Klopp’s decision not to play any senior players. Regardless, Lewis was thrilled with the experience.
“It’s unbelievable, I can’t even put it into words. My whole family was there and it was just a dream come true for myself.
“It’s not nice that someone gets injured like Yasser – I don’t think like that. But I thought I’ve been injured and he’s taken his chance as well, so now it’s my time to prove to the manager that I can cope at this level.
“I think I have done tonight, I’ve proved myself and I’ve just got to keep going.
“It’s like the glory of the FA Cup. As they say, anything can happen and credit to lads, we dug in over 90 minutes and obviously got the win.”
Even at the worst of times, taking that step up from academy to the first team is often a bridge too far, even for the most talented youngsters. Considering the heights the first team has reached, that gap is arguably as wide as ever.
Regardless, Klopp trusted the players with first team responsibilities (even if it was in the midst of a pissing contest with the FA). It was a special evening for the academy players, no matter where their careers go from here, they will always have Tuesday night. And it’s encouraging that Liverpool are creating a culture of winning and domination right the way through the squad.