Neil Critchley was given the reigns for a cup competition game for the second time this year. The first time, his young team succumbed to Aston Villa in the Carabou Cup. This time, however, he was able to guide his squad of U-23 players to the victory in the FA Cup replay versus Shrewsbury Town. Critchley was understandably chuffed with how everything went on the day
“I’m only standing in for tonight and the players have done the club proud tonight. The support we had was incredible, a full house – absolutely ridiculous for them to turn up and support those young kids. They were so appreciative of it. They stayed right to the end because they saw boys giving everything on the pitch. We played like a Liverpool team and I’m so proud of them.”
“As a coach you picture the game beforehand, you visualize it and you try to predict what’s going to happen. Obviously with young players you’re never quite sure, but I have to say from the first whistle the maturity those young boys showed to play that game was remarkable. They actually calmed me on the side and I think over 90 minutes we had the better chances and were just about the deserved winners on the night.”
While Critchley didn’t have any of the senior squad at his disposal on the field, James Milner offered to spend time with the youngsters while he worked on his own recovery from injury.
“He trained with us yesterday and he asked whether he could come along. I was like, ‘I think the answer is yes to that one! Of course you can!’ He was very respectful to ask. He said, ‘Can I come in the dressing room?’ and you’re thinking, ‘What do you think? Of course!’ He has achieved so much in the game because of who he is; he was giving words of advice to the players, he was getting right behind the players, he was vocal in the dressing room and he was animated behind me – I could hear him! He was genuinely delighted with how the boys performed and I can’t thank him enough for being here tonight. I don’t think he is available yet, I am not sure he is ready for that moment yet, but he was certainly jumping up and down behind me so I think he was desperate to get on!”