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Liverpool Academy Boss On Talent, Determination, and Becoming World Class

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Alex Inglethorpe hopes prospects find inspiration in late-developing stars like Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson

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Liverpool FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

If you want to contribute regularly for a side challenging for top honours in England and Europe, it helps to be world class—or at least not far off it. The route to get there as a player, though, isn’t always obvious or straightforward, and not every player who will become a star looks it as a teenager.

That’s Liverpool academy director Alex Inglethorpe’s message to the club’s young players. That not every player, when he’s 15 or 18 or even 21, looks on track to be that kind of a star that but that through hard work and determination some will still find a way to get there.

“It’s interesting the point about you have to be world class, and I understand that point,” Inglethorpe noted this week of where the bar is now set for any academy player who dreams of one day making the breakthrough to the Liverpool first team.

“But I think the great thing about the Liverpool team when I watch it is you see so many players in there who weren’t necessarily the high-flyers as kids. You look at Virgil van Dijk, who had a fairly late rise to prominence. Andy Robertson has had more than his fair share of challenges to overcome, Jordan Henderson as well.”

There has to be talent, of course, but as important as talent is determination, which is a message that certainly seems in line with the club’s approach on the pitch since Jürgen Klopp signed on, bringing with him a focus on maximising the talent he had on hand.

“That’s what I love about our first team,” Inglethorpe added. “I can see so much of our kids in them. They have had to work really hard to get into the first team and to get to Liverpool and stay there.

“They are world class now, but I’m not too sure how many of them would have been seen as child proteges or how many of them would have been seen when they were 15, 16, and 17 years of age that everybody on the planet wanted. I think it’s those sort of characteristics which can help you thrive at a club like this.”