Jürgen Klopp has been very vocal about his appreciation for a football club’s academy players. He sees the work happening at the developmental levels to be just as valuable to Liverpool’s success as first team training. And Klopp has been at the head of a push to consolidate the Kirkby and Melwood training facilities in order to create one super Voltron-esque training center to harness the power of a strong link between the youth players and the seasoned pros that will eventually be champions of world football.
So it was, in this commitment and desire to pepper in youth prospects to the big squad, that Klopp made a last minute decision to add u18 defender, Conor Masterson, to the training camp trip to Spain last week. Pep Lijnders did the honors with a text message.
“Pep asked me did I have my passport,” said Masterson. “I said, ‘yes’ and he said ‘good, because you’re coming to La Manga with us.’ I was chuffed, over the moon.
“I then had to get my passport as quickly as possible and then we were on the plane and off to La Manga. It happened so quickly and it was brilliant.”
That’s quite a boon for an Academy player who is going from strength to strength. Masterson was named captain of the u18s after Trent Alexander-Arnold moved on and has also had the privilege of being called on to feature for the u23 team.
Pep Lijnders will have recommended Academy players to the Liverpool manager to include on the La Manga trip. And for Conor Masterson, being selected in the way he was and getting that road-trip closeness with the first team and with Klopp, the experience was invaluable.
“He’s a great manager,” Masterson said of Klopp, “and he’s very good socializing with the players. He is very good on one-to-ones and giving you advice.
“He made me more tactically aware of what I need to do and it was a great experience.
“I learned so much from the trip. You are training with quality players every day and that was great for me and Yan (Dhanda), and we learned a lot from it.”
Stories like Conor Masterson’s and Yan Dhanda’s are solid publicity for the Liverpool Academy. Young prospects will know that a route to the first team exists. It’s there now and Jürgen Klopp will only be making that route more easily traveled in the future.