Harry Wilson looks set to become the latest Academy star to be given an opportunity in the first team as the Reds prepare to take on Plymouth Argyle in an FA Cup 3rd Round replay on Wednesday night.
The 19 year old Welshman has had to wait patiently in the wings while most of the team-mates he’s come through the ranks with have been handed their senior debuts by Jurgen Klopp. Some, such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejari and Ben Woodburn have moved to Melwood full time, while others like Ryan Kent and Pedro Chirivella have been loaned out to gain experience. Wilson, however, was left behind at the Academy to play in the under 23 side.
He was named skipper for the season (perhaps to give him some encouragement after seemingly being snubbed) and to his credit he has certainly responded in the best possible way, having banged in 19 goals so far this season. The call up to Melwood has been a long time coming but he was eventually handed his opportunity to train with the first team this week and was omitted from the under 23s last minute loss to Manchester United at Anfield on Monday night.
Klopp revealed that the Welsh youngster could be involved at Plymouth, which would potentially make him the sixth teenager in the line up should he start the game. In the first meeting between the sides two weeks ago, five teens were in the starting line up as Klopp fielded the youngest team in club history.
Producing your own players is a sure fire way to save a club millions in the transfer market, and more often than not it’s easier to hold onto those players because of the affinity they feel with the club, having come through the ranks from a very young age.
The ultimate goal is to produce the next Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher or, just imagine, Steven Gerrard. That’s the dream scenario, but even if their time at the club is short lived it can still be of great benefit, as the big profit from the sales of Raheem Sterling, Jordon Ibe and Brad Smith demonstrate. For very little initial outlay the Reds were able to cash in big time on those players. From the club’s point of view this was like hitting the jackpot at Thrills online casino.
Alex Inglethorpe seems to get it. Not only is he a talented coach with a good track record of developing youngsters, he seems to be big on the character aspect of it too. Speaking to the Liverpool Echo this week he highlighted the importance of ensuring none of the Academy players get too big for their boots, and if any of them show up in a car deemed “too flashy” they aren’t allowed to park on club property and have to leave it in the sports centre next door to the Academy.
A salary cap of £40,000 per year for under 18 players has also been implemented, and Inglethorpe took the admirable step of bringing Steve Heighway and Dave Shannon back into the fold. Both played pivotal roles in the development of Liverpool’s most successful home grown players but left the club when Rafa Benitez was in charge.
Inglethorpe is well aware of what they have to offer because he had already brought back Fowler and McManaman to work with the club’s youngsters and they will no doubt have spoken in glowing terms about the massive role Highway and Shannon played in their formative years.