We interviewed Liverpool’s Under 21’s Manager Michael Beale about the progress of some of the clubs young players, as well as Jurgen Klopp’s influence on the academy.
How hard is it as an Academy coach to find that balance between developing players for the first team but also achieving results on the pitch?
“As an academy coach, it is our sole aim to support and provide players to the first team. In the last two years, that has been my sole purpose and debuts for Pedro, Rossiter, Brannagan, Kent, Ojo, Stewart, Randall and Williams has given great belief to the younger players in the academy. To win the U21 Premier League is almost a direct sign that you haven’t developed or pushed players to their next challenge. This isn’t the Liverpool Way.”
You’re in the U21 Premier Cup Semi-Finals, would you say success in these competitions is just as important as bringing players through the youth setup?
“It’s never as important as bringing players through to first team. For example if we play a cup game on same day as first team game then it’s obvious what takes preference. However, as an U21 manager I have set winning this cup as a group aim. It’s a semi-final and therefore we are excited and looking forward to the game. As a general practice we only worry about our performance and development. We never look at opponents. Our sole focus is on our players and playing to a high level. Our Aim is to win this competition.”
Matty Virtue has been a very good player since coming into the U21 set up even though he didnt play that many games for the U18s, what is it about him that you admire as a coach?What do you do in your role as coach when some of your U21 players are in the media spotlight (For Example, the stories in the press regarding Jerome Sinclair etc)
“Matt is a boy I signed as an 8 year old at Chelsea and when I arrived at Liverpool we continued where we had left off. His family moved to Liverpool aged 10 and he is a big Liverpool fan. Matt is a summer birth and needs time for his physical development and technical excellence to align. He has a very bright future ahead.”
How different is it to prepare your players for games against sides such as Brighton who you haven’t played before this season compared to the league opponents, where you play them more regularly?
“I treat all players as equal and not reading the media has a big part to play. These boys all have a chance in the game. I’m not sure if the media making a big thing out of the U21s is a good thing. I’d much prefer the boys to develop under the radar and outside media spotlight.”
Finally, what’s your opinion on the loan system, Jurgen Klopp has come out and said that he isn’t a fan, so does that affect you as you are coaching most of the players who have been out on loan this season?
“Naturally the manager has a huge influence on decisions made around the young players who are close to the first team squad. Jurgen is keen on players staying in house and fighting for a chance to play. He has followed these words with appearances for a huge number of U21 players in the first team and this has been excellent for the whole academy.”
“For me, if a manager is going to play and develop a player, then this would always be my first choice over a loan. A loan has a big benefit for players who are not yet involved with first team or need a bridge between U21 level and the First team. Each case should be made on individual basis.”
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Interview Conducted by @ScottTaylorUK