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Pep Lijnders Hails "Pure Gold" Talent Group

First team development coach Pepijn Lijnders reveals the methods that he thinks will lead to a new generation of exceptional homegrown Liverpool players.

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The Wu-Tang Clan had it all figured out over two decades ago: CREAM was and is the word, not only on the crime side, the New York Times side, but everywhere else as well, not least of all the world of sports. As has been shown time and again, the ability to spend money is highly predictive of success in English football. The advent of FFP was supposed to even the playing field, but seems instead to reward clubs that are already commercial juggernauts or beneficiaries of suspect sponsorship deals, and when sanctions are brought into play, they are utterly inconsequential.

FSG are well-known for their application of the Moneyball principles in their baseball ventures, and since their takeover of Liverpool in 2010, much has been written about how these ideas would be applied to the football club. The overwhelming majority of these writings seems either misguided or confused, throwing phrases like soccernomics and soccermetrics around without understanding the principles of these concepts, and without any real insight into how they would be implemented at LFC.

In short, because they don't make as much money, and thus can't spend as much money as the more financially successful clubs, Liverpool must find ways to extract more value from their expenditures than the competition. Unearthing undervalued talent such as Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge is one of the avenues to this end. Developing £5m youngsters into £50m performers, as with Raheem Sterling, is another.

One of the most important figures in this latter process is Pep Lijnders, who in his newly created role of first team development coach is responsible for what is called the Talent Group, the goal of which is to bridge the gap between the youth teams and the first team.

"The best players of the Academy - the manager of a big, big club doesn't have time to go and watch them.

"So what we introduced this year is the Talent Group so that the best players between 14 and 21, instead of the manager going to see them at Kirkby, we bring them to Melwood.

"We make a selection of players and they train every Tuesday under the eye of the manager and he can see them develop, he can bring them to the office, he can talk to them.

"Everything is organised and each single player has a special programme above their normal Academy programme. "

The Dutchman seems to subscribe to the idea of mirror neurons, and believes that the best way for young players to learn is to train with the best, to assimilate what they see into their own game.

"We have players of 16 years old training with the first team on a weekly basis, with Philippe, with Adam.

"A 15-year-old training with an 18-year-old, an 18-year-old training with Philippe, and then learning from them how they can move, how they can create space for themselves, how they shield the ball, how they hide it, how Philippe assimilates with it.

"That's gold, that's pure, pure gold in terms of development - nothing will beat that, not one session. "

The former U16 coach goes on to describe sessions with Jürgen Klopp as attending a "masterclass" and the whole thing is generally very positive and definitely worth a read.

So there it is. Expectations for the coming generation of Liverpool yutes set to "Inappropriately High". Maybe one of them will even be a fullback. And not injured. A fan can dream.

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