Michael Beale has revealed that the aim for his Liverpool U21 players is to reach 100 league games for the first team. The Reds have seen 15 players make their first-team debut in recent years after progressing from the Kirkby Academy, including the likes of Cameron Brannagan and Sheyi Ojo. However, the Liverpool U21 Head Coach wants to see his players firmly establish themself in Jurgen Klopp’s side now that they have had the experience, but doesnt change his approach.
Beale told AnfieldHQ: “The players are aware of the aims we set for them and they set for themselves. It’s to reach 100 league games as soon as possible and not to rest or settle for less. My coaching methods don’t change, if anything we are stronger on standards and work ethic.”
Despite fielding a very strong side in their last U21s game which included ten players who have played for the first team, Liverpool suffered a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland. Beale was disappointed with how his side couldn’t break down the Black Cats’ defence, but insists that his players will learn from it.
He said: “Our energy and focus wasn’t at its usual levels and therefore we were beaten on the day. That’s youth development and each player was given feedback specific to them. It was frustrating as we didn’t solve the problems that Sunderland were trying to pose for us. We knew exactly what they would be and had the solutions required to do better in the game. As a collective, we have to know what styles hurt our playing style and be more intelligent in our game.”
Midfielder Matthew Virtue missed the game after being forced off with an injury in the win over Middlesbrough, and Beale recognises the void that he has to fill and will look to address these problems in the immediate future.
“Matt’s personal development has been the highlight of the U21 season. He has given the team everything this season both in training and games. We will now look to other options in the short either with a Number 6 or a Number 10.”
Ryan McLaughlin also missed the Sunderland game after featuring in the victory over Middlesbrough. The Northern Irishman played on the right-side of midfield after developing as a full-back throughout his career. Despite this, Beale has hinted that McLaughlin’s versatility will be useful in the coming weeks, and has not ruled out that playing further forward will be a priority.
He said: “Ryan McLaughlin is equally effective as a full-back or a wide player. We have lots of competition in both positions and a fit McLaughlin is a big part of that and an asset to any team.”
Liverpool U21s were meant to be playing Manchester CIty in the Premier League on Sunday 28th February, but that game has subsequently been postponed. Their next league fixture is on 7 March, and Beale revealed his side will be organising friendlies during this period.
“In total we arrange up to 25 additional games to make sure we are giving the boys enough football. It’s important we try and replicate the first team “type” of schedule and give our players a game each week. We play Burnley [this week] and then Nottingham Forest on 3 March in friendly games at the Academy.”
More exclusive interviews with the U21s Head Coach can be found at www.anfieldhq/academy/