Liverpool travel to Chelsea for their second Premier League fixture of the season on Sunday.
The game at Stamford Bridge kicks off at 4.30pm BST and will be shown live on Sky Sports in the UK.
Two minutes of highlights will be available to watch on LFCTV GO two hours after the full-time whistle and extended match action can be viewed from midnight.
Make sure you don’t miss a kick by using the code 2021GOFREE to start a free one-month trial of LFCTV GO now – this can be cancelled at any time.
Our live Match Centre will be running throughout the day on Liverpoolfc.com and the official LFC app, bringing you all the build-up to the game, minute-by-minute updates, audio commentary, interactive features and much more.
For global broadcast listings, click here.
Liverpool U23s are back in action on Friday night as they face Derby County in Premier League 2 - watch the game live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO from 6.50pm BST.
Kick-off at Loughborough University is scheduled for 7pm as Barry Lewtas' side look to build on last weekend's opening-day win over Everton.
Supporters are reminded that this is a behind-closed-doors fixture. All matches will take place behind closed doors until October at the earliest.
Watch Jürgen Klopp's pre-match press conference live with us from 12pm BST today.
The manager will preview Liverpool's Premier League trip to Chelsea by answering journalists' questions remotely from Melwood.
Watch Klopp's media briefing via our live YouTube stream by returning to this page shortly before the start time.
Last Updated: 18/09/20 6:13am
The winner of Liverpool's Carabao Cup tie against Lincoln City, live on Sky Sports Football next Thursday, will face either Arsenal or Leicester in round four of the competition.
Spurs could face Chelsea if they each progress past Leyton Orient and Barnsley respectively, while the winner between holders Manchester City and Bournemouth will play either Millwall or Burnley.
Brentford could have a chance to exact revenge on Fulham for last season's Championship play-off final, if the Bees beat West Brom and their west London rivals beat Sheffield Wednesday.
Manchester United or Luton will come up against whoever is successful between Preston North End and Brighton, and a win for Aston Villa against Bristol City would see them play either Stoke City or Gillingham.
Fleetwood or Everton will take on West Ham or Hull, and the victors of Newport against Watford will get either Morecambe or Newcastle in round four.Everton will face either West Ham or Hull if they beat Fleetwood in round three
The round four games will be played in the week commencing September 28, with four - to be announced at a later date - broadcast live on Sky Sports.Carabao Cup round four draw
Four round three ties have been chosen for broadcast live on Sky Sports:
Round three ties to be played in the week commencing September 21:
You read correctly. Do not miss your chance to scoop £1m for free in this week's Super 6 round. Play for free, entries by 3pm Saturday.
Thursday night’s Carabao Cup fourth-round draw paired Lincoln City/Liverpool with Leicester City/Arsenal.
The Reds are set to face League One side Lincoln in the third-round stage on September 24.
The winners of that tie will progress to a home meeting with either Leicester or Arsenal, following the competition’s latest draw.
Fourth-round ties are scheduled to be played in the week commencing September 28.
With the transfer window bringing inevitable talk of new signings at Liverpool, and all quiet at Anfield so far, Andy Campbell assesses the Reds’ squad depth and title hopes.
Soak it up, savour it. Breathe it in.
Every last intoxicating trail of smoke from the celebratory fireworks. Each and every angle of Klopp’s dazzling dance moves. Every precious, tantrum-induced, salty tear stain from rival supporters.
For the first time in 30 years, Liverpool took to the field as league champions as the season kicked off. The trophy lift will feature in every opening segment of Match of the Day, the infamous shuffle in all its HD glory for the entirety of 2020/21.
Martin Tyler can no longer drone on about the long wait, whether it’s on Sky Sports or infuriatingly every single game of FIFA featuring the Reds. Alan Smith will still ramble on about ’89 at Anfield mind!
For a significant section of the fanbase, this is uncharted terrain. And that’s putting aside the post-apocalyptic young-adult fiction vibe COVID-19 brings.
Previously, the standard summer cycle typically involved varying degrees of squad overhaul, new management and squabbles over who would be this year’s final piece of the jigsaw.
That those arguments are now largely played out across social-media platforms with strangers of unspecified age, knowledge and motive reflects the insanity of modern dialogue on…well, everything really.
Is it really worth arguing over Liverpool’s fiscal position and consequent transfer options with an eight-year-old on their lunch break in Valparaiso, Chile, who it turns out was a Porotos Granados-munching Everton fan on the windup all along? Le faltan palos para el Puente!!
A supremely talented squad, that has already delivered success, is still in its peak years in terms of age profile and has no glaring long-term injury issues surely only needs tweaking.
Instead, Twitter user @LFCDavidSilvaSuperFanNudes, who may or may not be a bot, explained the glaring holes in the team and why they’ll be lucky to finish above Norwich.
To suggest a schism in the fanbase is probably a step too far but there’s certainly differing opinions on what’s needed in this season’s squad.Mind the Gap
The current Reds team have an outstanding and well-established starting XI. There’s strength in depth, exemplified by players coming off the bench to impact games across the 2019/20 title win.
So where are the gaps? Are there areas that can be improved?Goalkeeper?
Alisson is, perhaps, the best goalkeeper in world football. The undisputed No. 1 at Liverpool. He’s a majestically handsome bastard to boot!
Yes, he cost Liverpool with expensive errors in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid and yes, he cost me personally.
That exclusive Karl Thyer mug was irreplaceable frankly, let alone the cost of replacing my TV that evidently isn’t shatterproof. So much for the lavender-scented zen calming candles.
Yet overall, Adrian’s contribution was positive.
On a more practical level, it’s simply not feasible to go out and waste a restricted transfer budget on someone who’s unlikely to match Adrian’s 11 appearances of last season.
VERDICT: All good here, but time for Karius to move on.Centre-back?
This is a first-choice pairing even peak Mourinho would have looked at with snide, envious glances. Respect.
Gomez’s 43 appearances last term suggest a young player overcoming earlier serious injury concerns, but beyond the first-choice pairing, problems are evident.
Matip is a first-rate performer and when fully fit would compete fiercely with Gomez for a starting slot. Unfortunately, he’s injury prone and has been throughout his career.
Lovren is gone, no need to debate his merits anymore.
All told, the Reds are short in this department. That’s not to say there aren’t options. Fabinho is excellent when required to step back into defence but he’s a big loss from the middle of the park.
The youngsters Koumetio, Van den Berg and Hoever all represent promising and varying degrees of unknown talent, and it would be a significant gamble, and show of trust, asking any of the kids to step in as fourth-choice centre-back.
VERDICT: I’d like to see game time afforded to the young players, so have no issue with any of them (likely Koumetio) filling the fourth-choice slot.
The problem is the sadly excellent but rarely fit Joel Matip. For that reason, another centre-back is an essential purchase.Full-backs?
Complementing the best centre-back pairing in European football are two of the finest full-backs around.
Trent’s solid defensive abilities continue to improve, while his creative output puts him up there with the best playmakers…and no he doesn’t need to move into midfield!
On the other side, Robertson is almost as prolific. Albeit in a more traditional fashion.
These two are critical to Liverpool. Not simply for their play down the flanks but crucially for their ability to quickly and accurately switch play, exposing opposition vulnerabilities.
Kostas Tsimikas offers welcome cover at left-back, affording Robertson much-needed relief from his previous workload.
Whether Neco Williams is comparable with Alexander-Arnold is, to an extent, irrelevant at this stage. He falls into the ‘raw but promising’ category and will get game time to develop.
VERDICT: Two elite full-backs and two adequate backups. Gomez and Milner able to cover in an absolute worst-case scenario. The Reds have got this covered.Midfield?
This is proving the most contentious department for obvious reasons. Across much of Klopp’s tenure, there’s been an almost wilful ignorance demonstrated about how the unit functions.
I’ve touched on it before but a first-choice trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum is the fulcrum of the side.
They offer a perfect balance of tactical awareness, selfless defensive instincts and the ability to chip in with a few key goals or assists. It’s not their primary purpose but don’t mistake that for an inability to deliver.
That said, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders are more aware than anyone that teams are trying to solve the puzzle of closing down the full-backs without exposing a soft underbelly to Liverpool’s lethal front three.
Allowing for the slight post-lockdown dip, it doesn’t really appear anyone is close to solving the conundrum.
Arsenal have certainly posed questions in the last two meetings, yet for all Arteta’s obvious tactical acumen it’s largely been based on an ultra-defensive approach that even Roy Hodgson might’ve blushed at, along with uncharacteristic defensive errors and pre-season fatigue.
Klopp has hinted at a tactical shift over the summer to combat such scenarios.
It’s not really about the myth of Liverpool struggling to break the low block. Rather it’s when they encounter games against higher quality opposition using stifling tactics. Again, think Arsenal, Spurs or even Man United.
A fully fit Naby Keita has been a frustratingly, flitting illusion in his time at the club but he remains an enticing prospect. A very different profile from the rest of the midfield, there’s a sense he could yet offer increased creativity without sacrificing defensive solidity.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s problems with injury are a worry but he continues to be a more-than-useful line-breaking option.
Curtis Jones is the wildcard here. Only 19 years old but already established as a first-team squad option. Eye-catching technique, confidence and he’s starting to find an end product.
He’s nowhere near his physical peak at this point, which could drastically alter the kind of player he’ll become. His development will be fascinating over the next couple of seasons.
VERDICT: Did someone mention Thiago? I heard a rumour James Pearce caused a Kardashian-esque stir today on the internet, some breaking news around him apparently…Thiago that is, not James Pearce!
There’s been more than enough impressive insights written on This is Anfield around his merits already, so there’s little to add there.
He will offer the additional tactical flexibility that Jurgen desires and arguably needs. Indeed, his press resistance could well have afforded Liverpool increased control over the game against Leeds last weekend.
My only caveat being I wouldn’t want to lose Gini or hinder Curtis Jones’ exciting development by bringing him in.
Regardless, he’s a ‘here and now’ signing. A genuinely thrilling addition, who you suspect will delight fans with his ability and leave opposition players fearful of yet another attacking threat in the Reds’ armoury.Forwards?
This will be a bigger question in the next couple of years. Not this season, though. Salah, Firmino and Mane are peerless as a front three and still in their peak years.
Support from the bench is a bigger question. Minamino looks a clever and promising alternative, as does Brewster.
I sometimes wonder if Origi’s complete unpredictability is what makes him an asset to Klopp. Even Divock seems uncertain of what he wants to do at times, let alone the opposition. The problem is he doesn’t frequently enough impact games.
Shaqiri? The quiff alone is worth keeping him as an option, if he’s content grabbing minutes from the bench.
VERDICT: As much as I adore him, it’s time to seek a more reliable option than Origi.
Brewster might not be far from usurping him as the go-to option from the bench anyways and if Edwards can pull off his usual magic-man routine, then the funds from Origi’s sale would be welcome—funds that should also be boosted by the sale of Harry Wilson.Can this team win it TWICE?!!
Cover at full back has been secured, which was vital. Thiago looks to have been sealed, so there’s now a surplus of options in midfield.
Perhaps in this intense, compacted season that will prove a sensible approach giving Klopp an array of fresh options and legs rather than prompting sales. They now need to find a centre-back as a priority.
Funds remain tight, a sentiment only heightened by the collapse of the Premier League’s deal with Chinese streaming service PPTV.
However, a replacement for Origi or Brewster could provide further freshness and, ideally, a different threat from the bench, one that puts pressure on our fabled forwards as well as the opposition.
This will only happen if a buyer is found for the cult Belgian, I suspect.
Chelsea and Man United look better placed with the business done so far but it shouldn’t be understated how abysmal their respective points tallies were last season and bedding in new players isn’t always a straight line to success.
Improvement should be a given, but it’ll have to be considerable to mount a challenge.
This Liverpool squad has the right age profile, know-how and, more importantly, talent to deliver back-to-back titles for the Reds’ faithful.
Desire and consistency could be their biggest obstacles rather than City.
After two seasons of outstanding achievement, going again is a big ask and an understandable dip will be difficult to avoid.
But Klopp, Edwards and dare I say FSG have surely earned our trust to deliver a 20th title back to Anfield.
Liverpool have made an enquiry into the availability of Watford winger Ismaila Sarr, as their summer business finally picks up in the final month of the window.
Sarr has long been known as a target for the Reds this summer, with Jurgen Klopp eager to add depth to his attacking ranks following the collapse of a move for Timo Werner.
The Senegalese was part of the Watford side to suffer relegation to the Championship last season, but is yet to feature in their matchday squad this time out amid claims of an injury.
After a breakthrough in the pursuit of Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Liverpool have now made an approach for Sarr.
That is according to the Mail‘s Dominic King, who reports that the Reds have enquired about a possible deal for the 22-year-old, who became Watford‘s record signing upon his £30 million switch in 2019.
King claims the Reds have “discussed his situation,” but as of yet “no bid has been made.”
However, he adds that the winger is “seriously considered as a backup option for the front three,” though any move would likely need the Hornets to reduce their asking price of around £36 million.
Sarr largely operated on the right flank for Watford last season, but is also comfortable on the left and up front, which would provide ideal cover for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and, at a push, Roberto Firmino.
Already a Senegal international, Sarr has a strong relationship with Mane, which could aid his transition if he does swap Vicarage Road for Anfield.
There have been times over the past two seasons in which Liverpool have looked short in attack, with concerns over how injury to any of Klopp’s established front three would impact the side moving forward.
Signing Sarr would give another versatile option along with the likes of Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi, though his arrival would likely be contingent on the sale of Harry Wilson, and possibly even Xherdan Shaqiri and Rhian Brewster.
Earlier in the window, claims of an enquiry would have been met with pessimism, but with Thiago now close to joining Liverpool, a move for Sarr seems increasingly likely.
Liverpool are closing in on Thiago Alcantara as a second signing of the summer…but there’s other news of a non-Thiago variety, too!Full focus on a difficult retention challenge
The Reds fulfilled the dreams of many when they won the title last season – but in true Ronnie Moran spirit, that was last season.
Now it’s all about 2020/21, when another league title is up for grabs and we’ve got to be just as good to earn the trophy again.
The squad concur, and as difficult as they know it’ll be, they are fully focused on being up to the task.
And the boss says that the Reds are fully committed to self-improvement, saying it’s our desire to get better which pushes us to improve in training and transfers, rather than teams around us spending to catch up.
It all bodes well for another year of the mighty relentless Reds.Watford “set price” for Ismaila Sarr – and Reds are in for him
Last season’s destroyer of Reds’ hopes and dreams of going an entire league season unbeaten, Ismaila Sarr, has been rather heavily linked with a move to Liverpool.
It’s an on-again, off-again sort of rumour rather than a daily update of developments type, as Thiago has been, but there’s solid reasoning behind the interest.
He’s young, improving, has just had a first season of reasonably good impact in the Premier League – but there’s far more to come.
Sarr is also a good mate of Sadio Mane‘s, fills a couple of positions the Reds could do with depth in and has the pace and goalscoring potential to be a decent acquisition over the longer term.
The downside then? £40 million, say the Mirror, is the asking price.
It’s an amount we’d expect only to shell out if there are departures this summer, particularly concerning Origi or Wilson, as they’d fill similar squad spots as well as raise that type of funding if sold.
“No bid or formal contact” at this point, says the report in the Mirror – but Dominic King of the Mail says the Reds have enquired and are “seriously considering” him as a back-up option for the forward line. He also notes a slightly reduced asking price for the winger.
Transfer pace is picking up!Countdown to Thiago…!
OK, ok…we’ll give you what you came for! Here’s all the latest on Thiago to Liverpool…Quickfire LFC news
Leeds came under fire for making Kiko Casilla captain in midweek, with the goalkeeper being banned for racist abuse last season and having not apologised for it.
Marcelo Bielsa defended the decision by saying the squad “think he deserved to be” skipper – so, instead of a single player thinking racial abuse is fine, they apparently have an entire group of them.Tweet of the day
Thiago Keita and Fabinho at Liverpool next season pic.twitter.com/U30IZgRCPZ
— 19 Times (@LFCLiverbird96) September 17, 2020What we’re reading
Can Van de Beek play alongside Pogba and Fernandes? Mark Critchley asks the question for the Independent.
And if you’ve been considering more of an interest in the growing world of women’s football, this year’s a good time for it after a slew of elite signings joined the WSL this summer. BBC Sport investigates which new arrival will make the biggest impact.Worth watching tonight
We’re not going to actively tell you not to watch the Europa League qualifiers, but the best match on offer is Shamrock Rovers vs AC Milan at 7pm. Take it as you will.
Trent Alexander-Arnold insists Liverpool are fully aware they need to be even better than last season if they're to retain the Premier League title.
The Reds opened up the defence of their top-flight crown with three points on board after beating Leeds United and now head to Chelsea for a much-anticipated clash on Sunday afternoon.
With opponents even more determined to take points off the reigning champions, the No.66 stressed how the squad require even more hunger to secure victories and further silverware in the campaign ahead.
He told Premier League Productions: "Nothing's ever perfect, you're never going to play 38 perfect games or going to win every game over the course of the season.
"It's tough, it's difficult but for us it's not about topping the points that we got or score more goals, it's about if we can all develop as a team and keep winning, that mentality – that's the main thing that helped us get this far.
"We know what it takes to win now, we know that there's obviously a big target on our backs now being champions and stuff like that and teams are going to be extra motivated when they play us.
"We need to match that mentality and take it to the next step and understand winning it back-to-back is harder than winning it once."
The Liverpool right-back was speaking after collecting his Premier League Young Player of the Season award at Melwood.
He claimed the prize after a stellar 2019-20 campaign saw him enjoy success both on a collective and individual basis.
On his rise from the club's Academy to Premier League and Champions League winner, the 21-year-old said: "At that young age it's about development, you can't get attached on other players and what they're doing and achieving at different ages because people hit their prime at 30 years old, people hit their prime at 20 years old – it's different timings, no career's the same.
"So you can't compare yourself to other players, it's about knowing what's best for you, find out what works for you as quick as possible and getting into routines.
"I think it's those routines and habits make good players and make good decisions for you.
"It's 24/7, it's on and off the pitch, it's about having the right people around you. There's a lot of factors that go into it. But at the end of the day, it's about how much you want to put into it because that's what you get out."
Liverpool Football Club has launched a new levy initiative and is helping two local Anfield organisations to train their staff and plan for the future.
The Reds will donate nearly £50,000 of their Apprenticeship Levy to fund training programmes for staff and volunteers at Homebaked bakery and Anfield Sports and Community Centre.
The initial donation, which is 14 per cent of the club’s available levy transfer funds, will fund six employees to enrol in training programmes across a number of different areas from advanced bakery to digital marketing and sports coaching.
The Apprenticeship Levy is paid by employers who have a salary bill of over £3m per year. The money is held by the government and businesses can apply for funding to pay for apprenticeships. Up to 25 per cent of a business’ unused levy can be transferred to other businesses.
Lynne Stockton-Howard, SVP HR at Liverpool Football Club, said: “The ability to transfer some of our Apprenticeship Levy is enabling us to help some local organisations we already work closely with to train their workers through apprenticeship schemes and continue the great work they are doing.
“Many organisations only use around 14 per cent of the funding pot they pay into and so transferring some of it is a great way to help local organisations in our area that may not usually have the funds available to offer this sort of training.
“We’re now looking to support more small businesses or charities who could take advantage of this scheme and would welcome enquiries from organisations in the Merseyside area who believe we may be able to help”
The skills brokerage service delivered by Growth Platform on behalf of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has helped the club to successfully navigate the levy transfer process by identifying the needs of the recipients, understanding where gaps in their skills are and then sourcing the best training to meet their needs.
Homebaked on Oakfield Road, opposite Anfield’s Kop, is a co-operative cafe and bakery established in 2010. One of the founding members of Homebaked, Angela McKay, said: “As a community business we’re not financially able to pay for recognised qualifications for staff. The levy means so much to Homebaked bakery as it enables us to actually offer training opportunities for our team.
“Most of our staff are from the local area and have joined Homebaked by volunteering. This training opportunity is a gateway for our staff to feel confident and broaden their education and job opportunities for the future.”
Adam Clarke Jones, from Anfield Sports and Community Centre, said they will focus on upskilling in operations to support the centre’s future. He commented: “As a community organisation based in Anfield with a small work force in a large facility, the levy will enable us to strengthen the operations within the centre.
“The levy will allow us to put staff on courses and training, which we would not necessarily be able to fully fund as a business. This opportunity will help gain further knowledge and skills in the overall operations of the centre to ensure the sustainability and support within the centre.”
Liverpool Football Club are committed to continuing to support the local community with this levy initiative. If you would like to know more about how the club can help, then please contact LevyInitiative@liverpoolfc.com.
Elijah Dixon-Bonner has welcomed the arrival of Gary O'Neil at Liverpool and believes he can learn plenty from the U23s' new assistant coach.
Former Portsmouth and Middlesbrough midfielder O'Neil arrived at the Academy to work alongside new new U23s manager Barry Lewtas during close-season and has made a positive impression on the Kirkby training pitches.
The young Reds began their Premier League 2 season by beating Everton 1-0 last Sunday and Dixon-Bonner stated that confidence is high in the camp ahead of Friday evening's behind-closed-doors clash with Derby County - a game you can watch live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO from 6.50pm BST.
Read on for our pre-match interview with midfielder Dixon-Bonner…
On working under Lewtas and O’Neil…
They are great guys and really help the lads. I’ve known Barry since I was young, so it’s nice to be working with him. Barry is such a nice guy as well, so the team gels well with him. Gary as well, he has just settled in straight away. He gets on well with the lads and he’s a good player as well still, so it’s been nice. Gary has a lot of experience, so he has helped me a lot and helped the players and tells us what to do in different scenarios.
On the opening-day win against Everton…
We played really well. Everton are always a tough opponent but we coped well. We got the goal early and we just grafted throughout the game, we matched their intensity and it was good to come away with the win.
On taking the captain’s armband when he came on as a substitute for Ben Woodburn…
It’s nice. Obviously there’s younger boys coming up, so you’ve got to make sure you are helping them out. I know what it was like being their age, so it’s nice to be able to help them and we have a good team bond. There’s a good few leaders in this team and a lot of personalities and leaders who are willing to help each other and help the team.
On getting back to competitive action…
It has been good. It was hard being away for so long but once we came back we got straight down to work, got the fitness back – which was the hard part – and it’s just been good to be back amongst the lads. Being away from the game for so long made me realise how much I love to play football.
On Friday night’s encounter with Derby…
Derby are a tough team and we are going to have to be at our best, but I believe if we play well and match their intensity we can pose a lot of problems for them.
On his hopes and aspirations for 2020-21…
Just to keep doing what I’m doing and to have fun really. That’s what I like to do, I like to have fun playing football just like I’m a little kid! I want to get more goals and more assists.
On playing in the EFL Trophy again, with Liverpool to face senior teams Wigan Athletic, Tranmere Rovers and Port Vale…
It’s a tough competition to be in playing against more experienced players. We did have good spells in it last season and we have got a good team, so I feel we can definitely challenge. The most important thing is we keep our identity as a team and match the intensity. We are a good team and we’ve come up against experienced players before and we know how to cope.
On the return of Paul Glatzel and Abdi Sharif to the squad following their long-term injuries…
It’s great to see them back. It’s obviously been really tough for both of them. They did their rehab and I was in and around them watching them every day. They had ups and downs but they are back, fit and ready to play and training well. I’m sure when their opportunity comes around they will take it. It’s just nice to see them with smiles on their faces, which is the main thing.
As Marc Bridge-Wilkinson prepares to take charge of his first game as the new Liverpool U18s boss on Saturday, he has set out a clear message for his young players if they are to emulate the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones and Neco Williams.
The trio have all graduated to Jürgen Klopp’s first-team squad and the coach admits he uses them in team meetings as an example of the hard work his charges must adhere to.
Bridge-Wilkinson has a talented squad to work with this season, with a host of first-year scholars being joined by the arrivals of Germany U16 captain Melkamu Frauendorf from Hoffenheim and Poland attacker Mateusz Musialowski, while Scouser Layton Stewart will be hoping to continue a promising debut season by leading the line for the U18s.
The young Reds host Stoke City in their 2020-21 season opener at the Kirkby Academy on Saturday morning – a game you can watch live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO from 10.50am BST, with kick-off set for 11am.
Ahead of the behind-closed-doors game, we caught up with Bridge-Wilkinson to talk about his new role and his hopes for the development of the U18s…
On a very satisfying pre-season campaign…
From our point of view, it has been really positive. We’ve got everything out of it that we hoped to in terms of games, in terms of the levels of the games and fitness obviously. The boys have adapted to the situation quite well, considering they haven’t played football for four or five months. We’ve tried a few different things in terms of formations but we are not set on that as we do tweak and change depending who the players we have in the team. We’ve worked a lot on the principles and the core values of the football club and the Academy, of course – and they don’t change and they will be in for the season. It’s been really good, the boys have taken to it really well and in general things have gone in a really positive fashion. We are really pleased and we are looking forward to the season now.
On the goals flying in during pre-season and impressive performances…
We have worked really hard on the style of play we want from the boys during the five or six weeks we have had during the pre-season and the boys have taken to it. I don’t think it’s anything that is really too new to them and I think it’s just making sure we go over the basics and make sure everyone understands what they are doing. The boys have been brilliant. We have scored lots of goals, we have defended well generally in most games, so we are really pleased.
On the new additions making a favourable impression during the close season…
All the new additions have settled well, including the first-years that were with us at U16 level last year. It’s been quite satisfying and quite a smooth transition really. Obviously with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a bit difficult at the start but since then everything has ran really smoothly. The new boys that have come in have adapted really well to what we’ve asked them to do and they all look really exciting, so we are really pleased.
On starting his new role as U18s manager…
First and foremost, just to get back out on the grass is brilliant and to do it with this group – a group I know really well – it’s really special and I’m really grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity. So we’ll leave no stone unturned and we’ll do our best and see where we go.
On a young squad to choose from with great competition for places…
It is a young squad but age is a number. It’s no problem. We are just lucky with the players we have got. We have got good players not just in this group, but the group above and groups below. We are very lucky at the Academy that we have got good players all throughout. So we don’t worry about the age, we just want to make sure that these players get better.
On the aims for the team and individual players this season…
The first thing that comes to it is individually we are trying to improve every player. We’d like to get boys in and around the U23s. Who that will be and when that will happen, I don’t know – but that’s got to be the first aim to help each individual improve and get better. As a group and as a team, I guess it’s about performance and it’s about understanding the job that we have and understanding the way that we want to play football, and hopefully going out there and playing really entertaining and really positive football.
On the progress of Curtis Jones and Neco Williams following Trent Alexander-Arnold into the first-team squad and being an inspiration for the up-and-coming Academy graduates…
I think we have to mention that and it’s something the boys can see, I think, at every age group, not just the U18s. To see the lads who they are following in their footsteps get an opportunity with the first team, it’s fantastic. In some ways it really helps us and it does part of our job for us because they can see there is a clear pathway. They can see Neco or Curtis or Trent, what they’ve done and the effort and the sacrifices that they have made to get there. Ultimately, when they see that and when we can see that, it gives the boys that extra bit of energy and that extra focus that maybe it could happen, there’s a possibility it could happen. So we will use those players for the technical aspect and all the footage of them in action. In terms of the example they have set as well, it's fantastic.
On a close working relationship with U23s boss Barry Lewtas…
It’s really good. I’ve been really fortunate that when I first came here Barry was with the age group above and we’ve kind of moved up as we’ve gone along, so the relationship has always been really good and that won’t change. We speak quite regularly, we are in the office most days now and when things get back to normal we’ll be speaking daily about everything. So we have a really close relationship and hopefully that will continue.
On the support from Academy director Alex Inglethorpe…
Exceptional. First and foremost, Alex brought me to the football club, which I will be forever grateful for. He has shown a lot of faith in me bringing me here and also since then giving me different roles in the football club, this being the latest one. Alex has been brilliant. He is a fantastic coach and he is a fantastic person to work for and, above all else, he’s a great man. On the football pitch he’s brilliant in terms of the detail and the way that he coaches, not just the players but the staff as well [in] the way he helps us. When we talk about off the pitch, the way that he handles himself as an individual, the way that he treats us as staff and players, the dignity that he gives us all, it’s exceptional. It really is.
On his message to the U18s players this season…
Work hard, don’t waste a minute of your development, keep learning, keep listening to the experience that is around the building and ultimately go and play football with a smile on your face. In the whole world at the minute, not just in football, we’ve spent the last four or five months sat on our hands waiting for an opportunity to get out and do whatever it is that we all love doing – and these boys are no different. Let’s play with a smile on our face and not waste a minute of that. That would be the message from me.
On Saturday’s opening game of 2020-21 against Stoke City…
Stoke will be organised. They will be tough to play against, they will be physically ready for the challenge. So from our point of view, we’ve got to be ready for all those things. We’ve got to make sure we are willing to match them, if not better them in all those areas and hopefully we’ll have the quality to cause them problems.