For many on the outside, Liverpool’s history of sending out heavily changed sides populated with youth players in the League Cup is a signal that the competition doesn’t mean as much to the club as the Premier League and Champions League.
While that might well be true, it doesn’t reflect how the players given a chance to play in these matches feel. For them, and especially for those younger players, it’s an opportunity—and one that means they care a great deal about the competition.
“For youngsters, it’s a big competition for us as we know we’ll get opportunities,” said goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher. “It’s everything for us if we’re involved and we want to win when we get the opportunity to show that we’re good enough.
“A Carabao Cup game is probably to the public not the biggest of games, but [my debut in the competition] was probably the biggest game of my life and a big moment for me. The competition for us players, when you get the chance to play, is really exciting.”
Kelleher debuted for the Reds nearly two years ago to the day, making his first appearance on 25th September, 2019 against MK Dons. For many of Liverpool’s youngsters it has been a similar story of senior debuts in England’s second cup competition.
Tonight, it could be that 16-year-old Kaide Gordon will be given the nod on the right wing. For other academy prospects, even if it won’t mark their debut, it will be a rare chance to show the coaches what they can do against senior opponents.
“A lot of youngsters I think might be involved,” Kelleher added. “For them, it will be a great experience. When they come up to train with us, it’s like none of them look out of place. The strength in depth we have in the whole squad is really good.
“It’s a great opportunity for every player to put in a good performance and get in the manager’s head for the next few games. There’s a lot of games coming up, so changes will be made. We just have to put in a good performance and go from there.”