On the weekend, a team made up largely of Liverpool reserve and youth players handed a full-strength Everton side a 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup. It’s a result local Reds will be able to hang over their Blue neighbours for years to come.
For the club, though, there are more important takeaways than a chance to gloat. For the club, the most important thing is the promise the performances of those players says about the state of Liverpool’s recruitment and development system.
“I was really proud to see those players play in that game the way they did,” U23 manager Neil Critchley told The Liverpool Echo. “I thought they grew in confidence, and to watch them play in that type of game, the way they did, was fantastic.
“I was really made up for all of them and I have to say, I thought the senior players, Joe Gomez, the goalkeeper Adrian, Adam Lallana, James Milner when he was on, Divock Origi, I thought they were all great influences.”
The impact of those senior players was key—and a key difference to Liverpool’s defeat in the League Cup to Aston Villa when scheduling issues forced them to run out a full U23 side—but the role of Critchley’s young players can’t be ignored.
There were some nerves to start, rough patches in the first half that Adrian in particular helped to cover over, but by the time the second half began it was the young Reds who looked like the established Premier League side.
Everton’s veterans by comparison looked unsettled, uncertain, and a step off the pace once Liverpool’s young prospects found their feet and began to smoothly pass and press just like the senior team are called on to do.
“When you come into a group like that, it makes it so much easier for the young players [to get] help from the senior players,” Critchley added. “I couldn’t have been more pleased and proud of those players.”