Youthful exuberance is an exciting and precociously unpredictable factor in football. The thrill of a young unknown emerging to take senior football by the scruff of the neck is seldom matched.
When a player does it at your club it’s like winning the lottery, and right now there are several potential winning tickets at Liverpool.
The rigours of elite level first team football mean that often early promise is not fulfilled. The hyperbole is often hollow and premature. Liverpool’s fervent support base creates an echo chamber of deafening expectation for even the most fleeting talent.
For every Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher there are legions of Martin Kellys, Neil Mellors and a whole host of Spanish hopefuls throughout the Rafa Benitez years.
Now, however, there are signs of genuine quality within the ranks of the club’s underage set-up. The under 19s side, managed by club legend Gerrard, boasts a handful of youngsters who can make an impression on the first team. On Wednesday night they handed out a 4-0 drubbing to their Sevilla counterparts in the U-19 UEFA Youth League. This season is shaping up nicely for those of the group with the drive and talent to really excel.
Liverpool are back in the Champions League, expected to challenge for the league and will contend two domestic cups. With such a large number of games to play, question marks over many of their established starters and such poor depth within their squad, in comparison to their rivals, manager Jurgen Klopp will need to make the most of his promising fledgelings.
Current under-19 Ben Woodburn has been making headlines following his late winner off the bench for Wales in their recent World Cup qualifier against Austria. Woodburn made his first team debut last season and has kicked on since to be in regular contention for the match day squad. A technically gifted footballer with a decent burst of pace over the first few yards, he’s still a month off his 18th birthday and is yet develop physically. When he does, he will fit the mould of the Klopp midfielder perfectly.
Curtis Jones is another 17-year-old showing promise. He bagged two goals against Sevilla on Wednesday evening during the Reds’ 4-0 win over their underage counterparts and looks to have that knack of arriving in and around the box at just the right time. He also has an eye for a pass.
Canadian Liam Millar is another exciting prospect with a velvety first touch. His impressive close control allows him to dribble past defenders like they’re stationary training cones. He’s also got off-the-cuff invention in his play.
Then there’s Ireland’s Conor Masterson, a young centre-back who is highly regarded at Liverpool. The former Lucan United player has come a long way, featuring in the occasional first team squad since 2016. Masterson, more than any of the others, will fancy his chances of getting minutes given the calamitous performances of Liverpool’s back line at times this season.
On Wednesday he showed he can play a bit too. He broke into the opposition box before taking the ball on his chest and calmly slotting past the keeper for Liverpool’s fourth against the Spaniards.
Finally, 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold is an elder statesman in comparison but he’s already getting regular first team football.
Klopp subscribes to the ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ adage. Many of these youngsters will already be in his thoughts and if they continue to perform the way they did versus Sevilla there will be plenty of minutes to go around.
The second and third goals scored by the Reds can be seen below.
Stephen Vaughan, Pundit Arena