Jürgen Klopp fielded a completely changed Liverpool FC side against Derby County last night. With a smattering of familiar backups from the senior team backing them, Klopp went bold with the youth infusion, giving starts to Calvin Ramsay, Stefan Bajcetic, Bobby Clark, Melkamu Frauendorf and Layton Stewart, with Ben Doak coming off the bench in the second half. (Fellow young people Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott also featured but they’re pretty much senior team members at this point, so you get it.)
After the game, Klopp was full of praise for the performance the yutes were able to give:
I liked it, I liked it again. It is the most difficult thing in football if you are put in a team together and you face an opponent who is deep defending, [has] a lot of legs, counter-attacking, long ball, set-pieces, all these kind of things. We obviously didn’t have a lot of time to prepare the game but we could at least train once because with this team, that’s why we changed. That’s what I said last year - people always don’t like it when you get knocked out and it’s like, ‘[The team was] Very young, you don’t take the competition serious.’
Was never true but we have to do two things: make sure we don’t risk anybody, that’s very important, and the other thing is that we really love to give the boys the opportunity. So you can now imagine, even if we lose the game tonight in a penalty shootout, if the people wouldn’t have seen Stefan, Bobby, Ben, Mel, Layton, Fabio is only a little bit older, if at all, Calvin of course, and then Harvey comes on so there were eight or nine really young boys and it’s so nice to see them, that you can give them the opportunity to play real man’s football against a team who wanted to get through obviously.
We all know, I am pretty sure, I didn’t ask anybody, for Derby these games would have been really important money-wise, another round, maybe another big Premier League team away or at Derby where they would fill the stadium themselves. And then to get through, it’s just a great experience.
He reserved some special praise for Ben Doak, who made his senior team debut on the 74th minute mark, coming on for Carvalho:
That’s Ben. His instructions were easy: do what you do all the time. He is really a lively boy, a smart player, good dribbler, fast, can use both legs. He’s good. It was nice to watch, really nice to watch - him coming in and immediately a lot of things are obviously natural to him, which is really helpful. I am pretty sure his family was here tonight. I can remember when I saw the family at the AXA when we signed the boy, how excited everybody was. Now having this night, it’s the next step, it’s cool. He showed up, obviously.
Up the young Reds! Fingers crossed we get some lucky draws along the way that will allow us to give the kids more game time.