A dozen “Academy hopefuls” trained with the Liverpool first team for a few sessions before taking part in an 11v11 internal match at the AXA Training Centre this weekend.
Barry Lewtas, the U23s manager, believes the opportunity was brilliant for the younger lads, who got to test themselves against the Premier League Champions.
“It’s a little bit of a taste of working with the first-team staff and obviously the manager, which is good, so they have got to hear certain things from the horse’s mouth. They might start believing me a little bit more when I tell them little bits now!
“Obviously the senior players that played in the game are top professionals who have done an awful lot in the game so we’re really fortunate that when our boys go up there, they’re not just able to learn off the staff but they will have learnt an awful lot off the players as well.
“What the Academy is about is trying to make sure that we get as many boys as possible the best opportunities at the right time, and certainly the last week has been an unbelievable opportunity.”
The match ended 5-1 to ‘Team Red,’ with Ben Woodburn scoring a hat-trick alongside a confident strike by Kaide Gordon and a showpiece header from distance by Rhys Williams. Billy Koumetio scored a set-piece header for ‘Team Black.’
The match was solid experience for the young players, but also showcases the positives of the new integrated training complex, which includes space for the Academy players (though it does not host the women’s team, at least at this time).
For his team’s part, Lewtas notes that “[we]’re unbelievably fortunate here in terms of the strong link we have between the first team and the Academy, so the manager and his staff are always watching.
“They watch games in the flesh if they can and if not they watch the games back on video and obviously there is a lot of communication between the staff on both sides of the building. So it’s a fantastic opportunity for the boys to see it but eyes are always on them and they never quite know when the next opportunity will come.”
A number of the first team players not away on international duty featured, including James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Fabinho — the latter looking even more like the “lighthouse” Pep Lijnders has previously referred to him as in amongst the younger squad.
The goals and highlights are available on LFCTV GO alongside other Inside Training features.