When news broke that Liverpool were recalling youngsters Ryan Kent and Sheyi Ojo from loan, speculation was that the moves were in response to the injury crisis at Anfield that sees the club down a dozen first team players and two games a week to play through at least the end of February.
According to Jürgen Klopp, though, the real reason is that he wants to see young talents develop within the club. Unlike the club’s previous manager, Klopp says he values having Liverpool’s youth players on hand to train with the first team and compete with a reserves side that mirrors the approach of the first team.
"It’s important we take our players back like with Kent, Ojo, and [Tiago] Ilori," said Klopp. "In my opinion the best talents should be at their own club so they can play together and develop as a team, and so you always have them around. That’s how I think it should be. Now we take them back and it’s a big chance for the boys."
All three of the returning loanees are expected to at least be in the squad on Friday against Exeter City, and with no fit senior centre halves available, Ilori is an almost certain starter. This after the 22-year-old Portuguese failed to log a minute for a struggling Aston Villa side that had a vested interest in Ilori coming good.
For whatever reason, Ilori failed to impress at Villa, but he looks set now to get his chance, and it will be down to the player to make the most of it in what Klopp admits will be difficult circumstances. Exeter’s pitch has looked rough of late, and tomorrow’s home side will be fired up for their Premier League opponents.
"We watched Exeter’s last game, and their pitch is not in the best shape," said the Liverpool manager. "They are a good time. The quality of their players is not in doubt—they are good professionals. We will enjoy it but it’s a lot of work at this moment and not too much joy. Now it’s Exeter, then five days until Arsenal.
"I think that’s nearly a break, so maybe I’ll think about flying off for a holiday."