Liverpool U21 and U19 manager Barry Lewtas has had a front row seat to see some of Liverpool’s brightest young talent come through the ranks in recent seasons. This season, he has been witness to the meteoric rise of 17 year old Ben Doak.
The young Scot was signed from Celtic this summer on a hefty compensation for a 16 year old. Doak has done nothing but exceed expectations this summer, rising from the ranks of the U18s all the way up to a couple of senior team appearances this winter.
Ahead of the Liverpool U19 UEFA Youth League knockout round match with Porto, Lewtas took time to describe just how impressive Doak has been in the Academy sides European campaign.
“Ben was a really important player for us in the group stage, away at Napoli to get it going and then when we went down to 10 men against Rangers, and I think there was a bit of extra motivation there for him as well,” said Lewtas.
“He was a real threat for us. Obviously he has been out for a couple of weeks with a little knock then he returned last weekend for us against Chelsea and I thought he was excellent.”
This past weekend, Doak had a hand in FIVE (5) goals in the U21 side’s thrashing of Leicester City. He’s certainly making waves within the club, making an impact any time he is on the pitch. For Lewtas, he’s thrilled to see Doak making the most of his opportunities.
“We work closely with the first team and our job is to develop the players, put them in an environment where they can flourish and hopefully then, with the support we have from Pep and Vitor in particular, we are able to move boys across. Ben has done ever so well. It’s OK getting an opportunity and earning it but I think Ben has grabbed it and done ever so well, so it’s up to him to maintain that but he’s a real focused boy and I’m sure that he will do.”
While Doak is not a senior team regular at the moment, he has a chance to help the younger Reds continue to steamroll their way through the UEFA Youth League. The U21s qualified for the knockout rounds by finishing top of their group, with a single loss to Ajax being the only blemish. Now they get Portuguese side Porto on Wednesday, a team that several of the staff are quite familiar with.
“I think whoever you draw it’s going to be a tough game. FC Porto is a standout youth set-up. We played them a couple of years ago in the group stage and we played against their B team in pre-season. We know a lot about them and obviously Vitor [Matos] and Pep [Lijnders] worked there, so we know what a challenge it will be, and it is going to be a tough game.
But I think that’s the idea of the competition and we want to test ourselves against the best teams and I certainly think FC Porto is going to be one of them. It is a real opportunity for the boys to showcase what they are about.”
Let’s hope the younger Reds put together a more comprehensive performance than the senior team did in their knockout round first leg.