Ahead of their FA Cup replay with Shrewsbury Town tomorrow, Liverpool U23 boss Neil Critchley has been speaking to the media about Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp won’t be present at the replay as he has chosen to allow his first team the two week break they were supposed to get during this period. Instead, he has sent Critchley and the youth team to take part in their second first team game of the season.
Critchley on Klopp and his influence
“The manager has made [things] quite clear with his statement and what he said prior to the game,” said Critchley in his press conference today.
“He gives myself, the staff, the players unbelievable support. I can speak to him whenever I like when I’m down here. He supports the young players unbelievably well, as he has shown so far this season.
“His presence, even if he isn’t there, is always felt by our younger players and by me. I also think maybe one per cent that came into his thinking around his decision [was] the way we played against Aston Villa, maybe he thought the boys deserved another opportunity.”
Strength of the Liverpool first team
Liverpool have lost just one game in domestic competition this season – the Carabao Cup semi-final against Aston Villa back in December. That also happened to be the other game wherein the youth team had to step up and play a first team game – that time due to Liverpool’s commitments in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The first team have been an unbelievable and unstoppable force this season – Critchley says they’ve had a positive influence on his youngsters.
“The strength of the first team, what you see all the time, and I don’t think it gets spoken about enough – sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on it and describe it – but when you are around it you see the culture they create,” he said.
“That’s through the people that they are. For our players to be in and around that on a regular basis, it can’t help but rub off on them.
“I think that has been one of the biggest changes I’ve felt in our younger players – when they’ve had an opportunity to be in and around the senior players on a more regular basis, which a lot of them have had this season.
“When you talk about the season Liverpool are having, which is quite staggering, for our manager to still support our younger players and give them opportunity is quite remarkable really. There has been a real connection between the younger players and the first-team players and long may that continue.”
Curtis Jones and the responsibility he has to shoulder
Shrewsbury’s visit to Anfield tomorrow will get underway at 7:45pm. Critchley will lead out a very youthful Liverpool side – likely including Curtis Jones, whose heroics helped Liverpool get past Everton in the 3rd round.
As such, Jones is one of the more senior players Critchley will have at his disposal tomorrow – how will he handle the responsibility of being a senior player?
“I think he gave a good answer to that in the game against Everton,” exclaimed Critchley.
“Self-belief is probably not one of his weaknesses. But that is also why he is who he is. He’ll be looking forward to the game tomorrow night, no doubt about that. A few of the other players have had some experience of these types of games this season – Arsenal, Everton, Aston Villa, tomorrow night.
“So that little bit of experience in and around the team we’re going to have, even though you’re talking about experience when Curtis has only just turned 19 and we’re going to have players who are eligible in the U18 team.
“People say it’s an U23s team – we’re not, we’re going to be U19, U20 at best – but a lot of people speak about young players not getting an opportunity in this country. They are going to get an opportunity tomorrow night and they have already had an opportunity this season, because that’s what the manager does. I can’t wait.”