Numbers can be important in football, with each new generation of players seeking to add their names to the history of them. To be worthy of wearing the ten, the eight, the nine, six, or one. To perhaps even do enough to become synonymous with it.
Then there’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, now in his fourth year as a first team star at Liverpool and having already, at 21, put himself firmly in the conversation for the game’s best fullback. Wearing the number 66. With no sign of that changing any time soon.
“Generally what you get after maybe a year—if they stay in and around the first team—is that request to see if they can move down,” said Lee Radcliffe, Liverpool’s kit manager, who gave Alexander-Arnold the 66 ahead of a 2016 pre-season match.
“We don’t like to give them a low number in case they sort of think they’ve made it straight away. You pick it out because it’s a free number and it’s around that sort of number you think, ‘We’ll give that out because he’s only just come down.’”
The local Scouser’s rise, though, happened so quickly by the time it began to feel as though he had to switch to a lower number—for the sake of football purists if nothing else—he had rather already made something of a name for himself wearing 66.
“When you see him now lifting trophies and celebrating with No.66 on the back, it’s a weird feeling,” Radcliffe said. “It’s weird to see such a high number. We always used to keep his training kit and match shirt until the last minute in case we got that call.
“It’s just never happened and he’s obviously happy with it. Now because it’s actually been kept by Trent, I think it’s already quite an iconic number and it’s only going to become more iconic I suppose as the years go by and the more games Trent plays.”
For a very brief time, probably near the start his second season with the first team where he made 33 total appearances, a change felt inevitable. By the end of that season, though, the thought of such a change began to feel difficult, even a little wrong.
“I think it’s a number quite close to a lot of fans’ hearts now, as well as staff, because it’s a local lad that’s come through,” added Radcliffe. “The amount of kids you see walking around in a ‘66’, it’s weird that it’s actually stuck.”