Roberto Firmino believes Liverpool must 'maintain their focus' as they aim to respond to back-to-back defeats when they travel to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.
The Reds have suffered 2-1 losses to Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers in their last two outings in the Premier League and FA Cup respectively.
Nevertheless, they hold a four-point lead at the summit of the top flight and will be aiming to strengthen their grip on first place by picking up a victory at the Amex Stadium.
But Firmino knows anything less than generating a 100 per cent performance level will be punished by a Seagulls side who’ve only lost one of the last seven matches at home.
Ahead of the game, our No.9 sat down with Liverpoolfc.com at Melwood to look ahead to the fixture, as well as discussing his own run of form that has yielded four goals in his last two starts.
In addition, Firmino offered his congratulations following Mohamed Salah’s coronation as the CAF African Player of the Year for a second year running and reflected on the senior debuts of three Academy starlets at Molineux earlier this week.
Read on to see what the Brazilian had to say…
Firstly, Roberto, how important is it to bounce back at Brighton on Saturday after two defeats?
It’ll be a difficult game. Losing is obviously always bad; nobody likes to lose, and certainly not me. But now we’ve got to bounce back. We’ve worked hard every day so we’re prepared for the weekend. It’ll be a big game, a difficult game and we’ll do our best to get the three points.
Defeat at Manchester City last time out in the league, but we’re still four points clear at the top…
That’s what the Premier League is all about - it’s intensely competitive. If the team at the top stutters, the second place will overtake them. We know we can’t go to sleep and lose silly points. We must maintain our focus until the end of the season.
You’ve scored four times in your last two league games. How pleased are you to be back among the goals?
I’ve always loved scoring; I love to help my team with assists and goals. It’s what I always go out there with the aim of going to do. I love football and will do my best on the pitch. I’m really happy with everything at the moment. As players, we live for goals, victories and assists. We have to be prepared for what is in front of us and always be confident that a goal is coming, but we know you’ve got to work really hard for this to happen. All round, we have to maintain our focus.
Your understanding with Mo and Sadio looks like it’s continuing to grow…
It’s not just the understanding with Sadio and Mo Salah - it’s with the entire team. We’re in a great place at the moment. We’re maintaining this high level in the big games, and we need to carry on like this. I hope we can sustain it.
How much work goes in on the training ground to your partnership as a front three?
As I said before, the development has to be constant, the Premier League is very demanding, so your focus has to be 100 per cent and you have to work as hard as possible. You have to be consistent, which is the result of the hard work you put in working towards victories. It’s about effort, hard work day in, day out and the way we organise ourselves in training. That’s what it is.
Mo was named African Player of the Year for the second year running this week. Did you happen to see his dance?
I saw it on the internet! I would like to congratulate him on winning the African Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year. And yes, I saw that they tried to make him dance… he tried, but I don’t think it’s his forte!
Have you got any tips for him?
No, I might ask him about it later, though! His strength is playing football and scoring goals, that’s what he knows.
Back to the weekend, what do you expect from Brighton?
A difficult game, as always. There are no easy games in the Premier League. It’ll be another difficult game, but one where we’ll do our best to win. We have to maintain our focus and consistency to stay at the top.
Brighton’s home record is very impressive…
It is - and that’s one of the reasons why it’ll be a difficult game. It will be tough. It’s a good Brighton team, so we’ll have to be at our best to try to win the game. It’ll be a great game, an excellent match, very competitive.
Away from Brighton, what did you make of the debuts of Curtis Jones, Rafa Camacho and Ki-Jana Hoever earlier this week?
I think it’s really special. Three ‘debuts’ - as you say in English - from three great up-and-coming players. I really like the way they play football. Unfortunately, we didn’t win at Wolves, but they’re young - they’ll get even better and develop further.
What would be your advice to them at this stage of their young careers?
To keep their feet on the ground, to never get carried away and start thinking you’re too good. This is where it all starts for them, but they haven’t won anything yet. They need to remain focused, work hard and one day they’ll be able to show their full potential.
They obviously train with you here at Melwood. What are they like in the sessions?
The three of them are really impressive. Rafa Camacho is your typical quality Portuguese player; Curtis, as well, is quality on the ball. Ki-Jana is, again, an excellent player - and he played really well in the game against Wolves. My congratulations go to the three of them for their debuts, but now they need to keep focused and keep their feet on the ground to make the next steps.
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Watch Jürgen Klopp's pre-Brighton and Hove Albion press conference live and free from 11am GMT today.
The boss is set to address the media at Melwood before Liverpool make the trip to the south coast to take on Chris Hughton's team on Saturday.
And you can tune in to Klopp's press conference in full - via our official YouTube channel - by returning to this page shortly before 11am GMT.
Potent enough to score four or more goals on 10 occasions already and spirited enough to hit six winners in the 90th minute or later, the team has so far been spearheaded by a pair of 17-year-olds – in Bobby Duncan and Paul Glatzel – with such an insatiable appetite for finding the net that they’d done so 36 times between them by Christmas.
Overseeing their development is a 37-year-old from Fazakerley who took the reins last summer and has clocked up 17 wins from 21 matches in all competitions, including the UEFA Youth League.
So, is the side’s ultra-entertaining – and, to date, successful – style down to Barry Lewtas’ personal approach, the overarching philosophy of the club or simply the fact he has so many gifted attackers at his disposal?
“It’s probably a mixture of all those things,” the U18s manager tells Liverpoolfc.com.
“Obviously at the Academy we’re trying to develop players who can attack and dominate the ball and handle that part of the game. And that’s my role as well; so in terms of me, I’m really keen for us to play a particular style of football that I think will prepare the boys for the next level.
“I certainly believe in that type of football but obviously you need the type of players that can execute it, and we’ve got boys who are comfortable on the ball and brave, especially under pressure – scoring some of the late goals, team moves from end to end.
“In the end, it’s the boys who execute it. We’ve got to drive it as a set of staff, but the tough bit is doing it under pressure week to week, and that’s credit to the players.”
Bobby Duncan and Paul Glatzel celebrate
But it would be a disservice to Lewtas’ charges – born in the year Gerard Houllier’s Reds did the treble – to describe them as merely entertaining.
Ruthless and gritty, too, when circumstances demand, the U18s head into Friday night’s league clash with Sunderland at the Academy – their first fixture back after a three-week recess – just one point off the top of the division.
Progress to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup and the quarter-finals of the Premier League Cup was secured before the turn of the year, while in Europe, a Lewtas-led U19s group have again reached the last 16 of the Youth League after topping a group that mirrored the senior team’s Champions League section.
And, for good measure, as recently as last Sunday a Liverpool U18s delegation claimed victory in the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup, a prestigious indoor tournament held in Stuttgart.
Lewtas and his charges have laid the groundwork for a memorable campaign, but the paradox of youth management means success is ultimately defined by players graduating to the U23s and the first team.
The former Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers coach remains confident, however, that the right balance can be struck for his side to remain competitive in 2019.
“One thing I’d say is, we’ve got a big squad, and some probably deserved to play more than they have,” he explained.
“We had a meeting at the beginning of the year where we said we wanted to compete on all fronts, but I’m quite clear on what we’re trying to achieve, which is to progress boys onwards.
“I also feel that if you are a part of this club, being in all the cup competitions and quarter-finals and semi-finals is part of what the club’s about. The experience of being at the top of the league, in the last 16 of the UEFA Youth League, the quarter-finals of the Premier League Cup, that’s hopefully the environment they’re going to be moving into – if they’re good enough.
“So it’s a real fine balancing act. The league table is probably not something I’ll lose sleep over, but it’s nice that the boys are in and around it because it creates that pressure and responsibility, and it makes the games a little bit more significant.
“We did say the boys who start the season might not necessarily finish the season, and what’s quite nice is that the boys who’ve got us to this point will maybe hand the baton over to the next lot if there is movement, and it’ll be their job to play the next round of games.
“I’m quite balanced about it. It’s part of the job and it’s not something I’d make excuses about.”
Lewtas took charge of Liverpool U18s last summer
Lewtas stepped into coaching immediately after finishing university in 2003, recruited by Wigan to begin a career that has been spent exclusively in the north west.
Much like the players he manages, the qualified teacher gradually moved up through the age groups, working with boys aged 10-13 in his first role and then with 11 to 14-year-olds at Bolton before joining Liverpool in 2013, where he took charge of the U16s until the opportunity to succeed Steven Gerrard as U18s boss arose last summer.
“It was never a case of wanting to be in certain places at certain times,” he states. “As the years go on, you develop, but I never look too far.
“It just so happened that I was with the U16s and obviously Steven moved to Rangers, so I spoke with Alex Inglethorpe and was offered the opportunity. I thought Steven did a fantastic job last year, and obviously a lot of those players are in my team now.
“Steven has been in, and it’s nice, he asks how the lads are doing, because obviously they played a big part in his first coaching role.
“For me, it was about picking up the baton because the team was left in a good place, and the advantage I had was I’d worked with the players the year before at U16 level, and the second years at U15-16. So, knowing those boys, we were able to carry on that style; they probably knew what I was looking for and that made it a little bit more straightforward.
“The attention we’ve had probably comes from the games and the goals, I think we’ve served up some good football that has been quite exciting, and obviously the two boys up top have put the ball in the net.”
Lewtas considers the experience Liverpool’s aspiring talents have gained from a productive UEFA Youth League adventure this season to be invaluable.
From travelling abroad to facing a variety of tactical challenges to playing home games in St Helens, the competition serves up pressure situations to learn from.
“I lead the team out and my name is on it,” he says. “But [U23s manager] Neil Critchley has played a big part in a lot of the stuff that we’ve done with the U19s in terms of game plans and stuff.
“It’s probably a little bit closer to the actual thing, and the matchday experience at St Helens has been fantastic, it’s a great facility.
“Red Star Belgrade and Napoli were both set up to stop us playing, which is great, a challenge for us to overcome, whereas Paris Saint-Germain was more of a shootout.
“The styles of play, the experience of travelling, playing in front of lively crowds away from home, dealing with suspensions and injuries – it was great; different, but enjoyable.
“It’s the same style but we set up a little different formation-wise, with more width on the pitch. There’s been a lot of difficult decisions, with Adam Lewis and Yasser Larouci fighting over the left-back spot and having to leave out one of Glatzel and Duncan.”
LFC U19s ready for UEFA Youth League action
Duncan and Glatzel have, inevitably, been the subject of growing interest as a result of their prolific form this term – both as individuals and a strike partnership.
But Lewtas insists no special measures are required to keep the pair grounded, with the teens just as concerned with totting up assists as they are bagging goals.
“I can’t control what’s said outside, we’ve just got to treat the boys the way we normally do, and there’s certainly no hype at training,” notes the U18s boss.
“It’s great for them to get the headlines, that’s what they do, but there certainly seems to be a humility there, which is good to see. We’ve got a genuine team spirit; whoever gets the goals, the boys value each other and the contribution each player makes.
“It’s probably under the radar how well the goalkeeper [Vitezslav Jaros] has done this season, in and out of possession, and he’s made some big saves for us as well.”
Looking to the future, Lewtas is keenly anticipating the day when Academy and first-team operations are brought together at an expanded complex in Kirkby.
“As a club, getting it onto one site is certainly exciting and I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity for movement [through the ranks for players],” he adds.
“Being able to look out at the first team and think, ‘That’s where I want to get to’ – it’ll almost be in touching distance and that’ll be quite powerful in terms of motivation and the psychology around it.”
For now, though, the Academy is sure to be an exciting place to be every time Lewtas’ side take to the field.
‘Behind the Badge’ is a regular feature on Liverpoolfc.com which aims to tell the individual stories of the numerous men and women who work tirelessly away from the spotlight in an attempt to make Liverpool FC successful.
We speak to various members of staff across the first-team, Academy and Women’s set-ups who dedicate their lives to the club each and every day, covering a variety of different roles that make a vital contribution in preparing the Reds for action.
Did Andy Robertson become a left-back because he couldn't be a striker? How many girlfriends did he have at school? And who is the 'real boss'?
For the answers to each of those questions - and much more - the Liverpool defender recently took the Kop Kids lie detector test, presented by Joie Baby.
Robertson even treated his interrogators, two players from the club's Academy, to an a cappella rendition of his karaoke number, Sweet Caroline.
Watch the video in full below...
Go behind the scenes at Liverpool's pre-Brighton and Hove Albion training with our exclusive footage from Wednesday's session at Melwood.
The LFCTV GO cameras were inside the Reds' West Derby base to see the squad's preparations for their trip to the south coast this weekend.
A competitive series of rondos featured on the training agenda - and you can take a look in the montage above.
Not yet signed up for LFCTV GO? Join now and claim a month's access for free.
The match-worn, signed Liverpool shirts auctioned by the Disasters Emergency Committee have raised a total of £13,186 for the Indonesia Tsunami Appeal.
The jerseys, worn by the team during the Champions League tie at Napoli, were donated to the DEC in October, when they launched their Indonesia Tsunami Appeal following the tsunami on September 28 that devastated the island of Sulawesi.
The disaster caused more than 2,000 fatalities, and at least 2,500 people were seriously injured.
Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged, and 200,000 survivors - around a quarter of whom were children - were left in urgent need of clean water, food, shelter and medical care. 133,000 people are still displaced and living in temporary shelters.
Monies raised from the shirt auction will go towards generating much-needed funds to help the survivors of the disaster cope with the trauma and rebuild their lives and communities.
Reds fans can support the DEC Indonesia Tsunami Appeal by donating here.
Mohamed Salah's hat-trick strike at Bournemouth has been voted Liverpool's Goal of the Month for December.
Having already scored twice against the Cherries in the Premier League clash, the No.11 broke clear and dribbled around a series of challenges before coolly sealing his treble from close range.
The effort took the most votes in our poll here on Liverpoolfc.com to claim the prize, ahead of Salah’s crucial winner past Napoli in the Champions League tie at Anfield.
Roberto Firmino’s slalom against Arsenal took third place, Divock Origi’s unforgettable decider in the Merseyside derby was fourth, and Salah’s second at Bournemouth came fifth.
Watch the top five again in the video above.
It's Alex Inglethorpe's metaphor and it strikes a chord.
Liverpool’s Academy director is talking about Ki-Jana Hoever - and you already know the headline facts about him, of course. He is a 16-year-old boy with a place in the Reds’ history books.
In replacing Dejan Lovren early on in Monday’s FA Cup third-round meeting with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Hoever became the club’s third-youngest debutant and their youngest ever in that competition.
The Netherlands youth international was just 16 years and 354 days old when he performed with remarkable surety and confidence in central defence during a testing tie that ultimately ended in a narrow defeat.
“Ki-Jana played really good,” was Jürgen Klopp’s assessment when he spoke to Liverpoolfc.com post-match at Molineux.
“A bit wild: a few times we had to tell him ‘don’t run there, don’t run there’, but you saw a really confident boy. Physically he has to improve, he has to grow in the best way, so that’s cool.”
Breathtakingly fast progress has characterised Hoever’s nascent Liverpool career.
Since arriving on Merseyside from Ajax last September, the Amsterdam-born youngster has represented the club’s U18, U19 and U23 teams with distinction.
A promotion to train regularly at Melwood followed and, post-Wolves, Klopp’s senior side can be added to that list, too.
“I think that he’s an outstanding talent,” began Inglethorpe’s considered analysis, during a recent conversation with Liverpoolfc.com at the Academy.
“The thing that surprises me about him is not just how good a footballer he is, but what a good person he is. He’s highly competitive, he doesn’t like losing.
“He has potential, he has serious potential, and his rate of progression I suppose after pre-season hasn’t surprised me because he’s someone that it was very, very clear from very, very early on had an awful lot of the pieces that you would need to become a top player.
“A lot of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are in the box and I guess we just have to put them together. He’s a very exciting prospect.”
Which of those pieces piques Inglethorpe’s intrigue most, though?
“I think he’s driven but at the same time very level-headed,” came the response.
“He carries himself ever so well, he’s got confidence around him and real belief in what he’s doing. OK, yes he can play, he’s technically very good and physically very good, but it’s how he thinks that has drawn me in.
“I like the attributes he shows in terms of his mental capacity, that’s what I like. That’s the bit that interests me at the minute.”
Lovren’s misfortune at Molineux saw Hoever thrust into first-team action at centre-back.
He is, however, equally adept at right-back, and Inglethorpe believes it is too early to say with certainty where his long-term future lies positionally.
“I think a lot will depend on how he develops physically,” the Academy director continued.
“He’s got a lot more to come, you can see that he’s not done physically yet. But I think a lot of that will depend on where he plays in terms of the height he gets to and how he fills out in time.
“He’s someone at the minute that, in the older age groups, is likely to play on the side of the pitch, yet in his own age group plays more centrally. But time will tell.”
Not yet 17 years of age, time is clearly something Hoever has in abundance.
“He’s young, he’s a baby,” Inglethorpe nodded.
“He’s got a long way to go and a lot to do, but he’s making nice progress at the minute. I think we have to be realistic in terms of our expectations of him, but he’s made a lovely start to his time at Liverpool and I hope I get the opportunity to work with him for many more years yet.”
Check in on Liverpool's preparations for the Premier League clash with Brighton and Hove Albion in our latest training gallery from Melwood.
The Reds will look to bounce back on the south coast this weekend following consecutive defeats so far in 2019.
Our photographer was at their latest session ahead of the trip, on Wednesday afternoon, to provide the snaps below.
Photos by John Powell
Liverpool's FA Youth Cup fourth-round tie with Accrington Stanley will be played on Monday January 21.
The game, to be held at the Totally Wicked Stadium in St Helens, is set for a 7pm GMT kick-off.
Tickets will be priced at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions, with entry free for LFC season ticket holders and Members.
Nairobi has been confirmed as the next stop for LFC World presented by Standard Chartered.
The free two-day fan experience will see the creation of an LFC World Hub, which will be open from 11am to 7pm at St Mary's School in Kenya's capital on February 23 and 24, 2019.
LFC fans in Kenya will be able to enjoy a whole host of activities for all ages and meet Reds legends John Barnes, Sami Hyypia and Vladimir Smicer.
Now in its third season, LFC World presented by Standard Chartered has already visited nine countries across the globe, bringing a truly authentic LFC experience to thousands of Reds.
Hyypia said: "For Reds in Kenya, LFC World Nairobi is the place to be. We know not all our fans can make it to Anfield, so this is our way of bringing Anfield closer to them. We can't wait to meet everyone, it's going to be a fantastic weekend."
Within the Hub, fans will be able to have their very own taste of Anfield with recreations of iconic landmarks such as the Shankly Gates, the This Is Anfield sign and LFC World's very own version of the home dressing room, where fans can sit under the shirts of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino.
Supporters also have the opportunity to have their photo taken with one of the most iconic pieces of silverware in world football: the Champions League trophy.
There will be lots of fun activities for fans to take part in throughout the event, and special prizes and giveaways provided by presenting partner Standard Chartered Bank and other event partners, including Western Union and Carlsberg.
Not only can supporters take part in all these free activities, but they can also enjoy a free-to-attend viewing party on Sunday February 24 at the LFC World Hub, where they can watch Jürgen Klopp's team take on Manchester United.
Live on-stage activity with Hyypia, Barnes and Smicer is set to start at 3pm, with kick-off at 5.05pm local time.
Lamin Manjang, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Kenya, said: "In Kenya, we have celebrated this partnership since 2013 when we launched the first five-a-side football tournament, 'The Road to Anfield'.
"Through this partnership, we have rolled out several brand awareness activities across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. As a bank that puts clients at the centre of everything that we do, it is our commitment to provide only the best experiences to our clients.
"I believe bringing LFC legends, the interactive experience from one of the world's best football clubs and soccer clinics targeting young budding talents would be the perfect testament of our commitment."
Fans wishing to attend the event will need to register online for their free tickets: https://www.liverpoolfc.com/lfcworld/nairobi
More information on LFC World presented by Standard Chartered can be found here.
James Milner wants Liverpool to do their talking on the pitch as they aim to respond to a 'blip' so far in 2019.
The Reds have suffered back-to-back defeats since the beginning of January, losing 2-1 to both Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The latter result, at Molineux on Monday night, saw Liverpool eliminated from the FA Cup in the third round.
Milner is confident the downturn in form will be short-lived but accepted the responsibility is with the players to guarantee that with actions rather than words.
“We have to make sure we bounce back and look at where we can get better,” said the vice-captain, with a trip to Brighton and Hove Albion up next this Saturday.
“You’re never going to go a full season without having blips. I think at the start of this season we weren’t playing our best but we were getting results.
“[It’s] back-to-back defeats now, which really isn’t good enough for us, but you have blips in a season. It’s about how you respond.
“I think you’ve seen the character in the squad in the last few years, and the players we have, to know we will bounce back.
“We have to show that, though. It’s easy saying it in an interview, we have to do it on the pitch at the weekend.
“The games keep coming thick and fast and hopefully we can get a few of the injured lads back as well.”
Liverpool fell behind to Wolves when Milner was caught in possession near the halfway line and Raul Jimenez raced away to sweep a finish past Simon Mignolet.
Divock Origi’s thump brought the Reds level six minutes into the second half, but Ruben Neves thrashed in what proved to be the winner moments later.
“When you’re a team like us, with the players we have, you want to win every single game,” said Milner.
“We’re disappointed to not win and go through. We want to progress in every game we play.
“There were changes but we all train together all the time. I think we just didn’t get going really, didn’t get the passing going, just weren’t quite at our level.
“It was always going to be a tough game; they’re a good team, well organised. It’s not an easy place to come, we knew that from the game a few weeks back.
“I should have done better. The pitch all night was a bit tricky and balls were a bit lively, but it’s the same for both teams.
“It wasn’t as easy to get the passing going in those tight areas as we would have liked, but it was my mistake for the first goal and it cost us ultimately. Without that maybe it’s 1-1 and we get a replay.”
Jürgen Klopp made nine changes to his starting XI at Molineux, with Rafael Camacho and Curtis Jones handed senior debuts.
An early injury to Dejan Lovren then enforced another switch – meaning a first appearance for defender Ki-Jana Hoever 11 days before his 17th birthday.
And Milner, who captained the team on the night, praised the recruit from Ajax for the way he handled the occasion amid difficult circumstances.
“On the plus side, I think it’s good for the young boys to come in and get that experience,” the midfielder added.
“It’s not good to taste defeat but you normally learn more in a defeat than you do in a win.
“Ki coming on and playing like he did was absolutely outstanding. He’s going to be a top, top player – you can see that straight away. His temperament, he’s comfortable on the ball.
“Rafa and Curtis as well, it was tough because it wasn’t the easiest game to get on the ball and get the passing going and get Curtis into the game as much with his dribbling, but you get those games, especially in the FA Cup.”
LFC Foundation is encouraging new members to join its football and multi-sports programmes.
Sessions take place throughout the week across Liverpool city region and there are activities suitable for all ages and abilities, including those with complex and additional needs.
Find out more about the available programmes below:
Premier League Kicks
LFC Foundation delivers over 18 Kicks Football sessions every week, for children and young people aged seven to 19, in nine of the most high-need areas across the Liverpool City region.
The free-to-attend sessions are run by FA Qualified coaches and utilise the power of the LFC Crest to increase sports participation and improve the health and wellbeing of children in our community.
Respect 4 All
Respect 4 All is the LFC Foundation’s Inclusion project, providing free weekly multi-sports and physical activity sessions for children and young people with complex and additional needs across the Liverpool City region.
Aiming to remove potential barriers that can exist regarding accessibility to sport for disabled people, the sessions are fun, relaxed and offer a great opportunity for both participants and parents to come together, make new friends, learn new skills and share experiences.
Open Goals sessions are delivered by qualified LFC Foundation coaches, supported by Liverpool John Moores University volunteers and are designed to bring families and communities together in local parks to socalise and get active.
The fun-filled games and activities are suitable for everyone aged five years and over and are inclusive to all abilities and additional needs. Pre-registration is not required - everyone is invited to just turn up and play.
LFC Foundation’s Military Vets’ free football sessions give participants the chance to increase their physical activity and exercise levels, whilst improving their mental wellbeing through the formation of new friendships with like-minded people.
Through the provision of weekly football sessions at both the Liverpool FC Academy and Netherton Goals, and national football tournaments, the LFC Foundation seek to recapture the ‘spirit of service’ and comradeship that is so powerful amongst ex-military personnel and often lost on their return from service.
For more information - including session times and dates - download the latest PL Kicks, Respect 4 All and Open Goals timetables here.
Monday marked another milestone to celebrate for the Academy.
Three graduates from Kirkby were handed their senior debuts during the FA Cup tie with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
They were moments that Rafael Camacho, Ki-Jana Hoever and Curtis Jones will always remember and came as culmination of years of hard work – by the players themselves and the system around them.
As Liverpool’s Academy director, Alex Inglethorpe would have been entitled to a sense of personal pride when the teamsheets were submitted at Molineux.
His satisfaction, however, comes from seeing the club’s youth policies pay dividends and the affirmation that the approach can continue to successfully bring talents through the age groups, with Camacho, Hoever and Jones representing three different pathways to senior level.
Born in Portugal and now a youth international for his country, Camacho caught the eye during a trial for the Reds three seasons ago and has quickly moved up the ranks to the Melwood training group.
Hoever joined the club from Ajax at the beginning of the season and, with a maturity beyond his years, has taken advantage of defensive injuries to impress at every step of his rapid development – culminating in an appearance at Wolves aged 16 years and 354 days.
Jones, meanwhile, is a Scouser whose affiliation with Liverpool began at U9 level and acceleration to the first-team stage brought the attack-minded midfielder a debut before his 18th birthday.
“Throughout the Academy now what we have got is greater difference, people from different cultures and ethnicities,” Inglethorpe told Liverpoolfc.com.
“I think our Academy is more representative of what our first team looks like now. I think we’re more inclusive and broader in our thinking and I like that.
“I think if you were to come and see our Academy sides play, there is a similar dynamic, a similar representation as what you’d see in the first team and I like that.
“It’s important that from our demographic, we select from everyone that is available and we look and identify what long-term potential looks like. We don’t need the best U9s team, but what we do need is the best U9s potential. There’s a difference.
“The best U9s potential might have a fair share of summer birthdays, as the first team would have, whether it’s a Jordan Henderson or an Adam Lallana or whoever it would be.
“That’s what I love about football – that it is inclusive. Anyone can play and what I do think is important is that we have people that are capable of identifying what long-term potential looks like.”
Jones became the latest in a line of Scousers to fulfil the dream of representing the first team when he took to the field as part of Jürgen Klopp’s starting XI at Wolves.
The manager and his coaches are on record with their commitment to maintaining a local presence in the Liverpool side whenever possible, with Trent Alexander-Arnold a shining example in recent seasons.
And although by nature the Academy recruitment process must look both within and beyond Merseyside, Inglethorpe and his staff are committed to the ‘heartbeat’ too.
“The Academy is made up predominantly of boys from the north west, so we have more than our fair share of Scousers in the Academy but we’ll also have boys [from elsewhere],” he explained.
“We can recruit from either 60 minutes or 90 minutes away from Kirkby, depending on the age group. Of course, as they get older that extends out, but what we don’t want to do is take away the heartbeat.
“If anything, what we have tried to do is focus more on the local area. We’ve really tried hard in our pre-Academy to get the recruitment right in there and to look after the age groups.
“I’m really excited about some of the boys who are at the Academy, there are boys here who should and will play for Liverpool – I have no doubt in that we have boys here who will represent this club.
“So, for me, I think it’s important that we are well represented from staff and from players from the Merseyside area, but of course that’s going to extend out into the north west. That’s logical.”
Mohamed Salah has been named CAF African Player of the Year for the second successive year.
Just as he did 12 months ago, the Liverpool forward held off competition from teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to land the award.
A poll of CAF’s national teams’ head coaches and technical directors, members of the governing body’s technical and development committee and a panel of media experts selected Salah as the continent’s outstanding footballer in 2018.
The Egyptian received the accolade at a ceremony in Dakar, Senegal, on Tuesday evening, where he was also included in the Africa Best XI for 2018 alongside Mane and Naby Keita.
He scored 44 times during a 2017-18 campaign in which he helped his club reach the Champions League final, before then netting twice at last summer’s World Cup.
A further 16 goals in 29 appearances across all competitions for Liverpool have followed so far this season, while Salah also contributed four goals in three Africa Cup of Nations qualification outings for his country in 2018.
The 26-year-old’s performances throughout the year also saw him retain the BBC African Footballer of the Year prize and finish sixth in the Ballon d’Or standings.
LFC International Academy will be hosting a series of Soccer Schools in Liverpool during the spring school holidays and you can book your place now.
The two and three-day courses will take place in February and April at the club's Academy in Kirkby and will be delivered by professional LFC coaches.
Children aged from five to 15 can learn to play ‘The Liverpool Way’ on a course designed to develop technical areas of their game, including control, dribbling, passing and shooting.
Each two and three-day course will aslo include mini-tournaments, with each child taking home a certificate of attendance.
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Ki-Jana Hoever sent a message to Liverpool fans after making his first-team bow for the club.
At the age of just 16 years and 354 days, Hoever became the third-youngest debutant in the Reds' history on Monday.
The Netherlands youth international played 84 minutes of Jürgen Klopp's team's FA Cup third-round loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers after Dejan Lovren was forced off with an injury in the early stages at Molineux.
And Hoever posted the following message on Instagram on Tuesday: "A disappointing result last night but happy and proud to have made my debut for @liverpoolfc. Fans were brilliant #YNWA."
Curtis Jones described representing Liverpool as an honour after making his senior debut in Monday’s FA Cup third-round tie with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
A 17-year-old Scouser and product of the club’s Academy, Jones played 70 minutes at Molineux before being replaced by Roberto Firmino.
A 2-1 defeat saw the Reds eliminated from the competition, but January 7, 2019, is a date that will be etched into Jones’ memory forever.
“It was a big thing for me. I was grateful, I was honoured, and I can only thank the boss for putting me out there,” the attacking midfielder said.
“As a 17-year-old boy coming from Liverpool, it’s every kid’s dream being a footballer and going out there and playing for Liverpool. So to do that at 17 it’s a massive achievement for me and I’m absolutely buzzing.
“I wouldn’t say [I was] nervous. I was more excited than anything. I tried to go out there and play how the boss wanted me to play and I enjoyed it.”
Jones, who has trained regularly at Melwood since last February, also revealed details of a pre-match chat he had with James Milner.
“I spoke to Milly before the game and he told me to be myself and be confident so I was trying to get on the ball and play the way I normally play [with] confidence, skill, flair,” the teenager continued.
“But it’s good opposition and, give them credit, they know how to deal with players that are good on the ball. I was trying to do what I can and, as I said before, I’m absolutely buzzing to make my debut.
“For any player that hasn’t had a lot of game time for the first team getting a chance to come on, the only thing the players want is to get back out there and show their talent and what they’re capable of doing.”