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A view to the future - Harry Wilson (Part two)

The New Year brings more opportunities for a crop of Liverpool youngsters to continue to experience first team football while on loan.


There were some very impressive performances and exciting progress made by some of the players in the first half of the season, along with some setbacks for others along the way.


However you take the good with the bad, and as a developing footballer you are bound to learn plenty of important lessons along your journey.


One player who has impressed plenty of observers with his attitude and natural ability is Harry Wilson. The Welshman is key to the Rams playoff push and if you take advantage of a Betfred promo code for new customers to bet on a Derby promotion, you could be quids in at the end of the season if Wilson continues in this form.


In a recent poll run by Ollie Wright from Derby County Blog, two thirds of Rams fans voted to keep Wilson permanently over fellow loanees Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori (both from Chelsea). 


In part two of our chat with Ollie, we look at the impact Rams manager Frank Lampard has had on Harry's development, and a possible area of his play which the Welsh international can look to improve....



It must have been a relief for all Derby fans that the loan was not cut short in January and Harry is staying with the club for the rest of the season?


Had he gone back, there would have been zero chance of Derby replacing him with anybody remotely as good and I honestly think that it would have knackered our season.  He’s been absolutely outstanding and what could initially have been written off as a freak run of stunning goals has simply carried on, remorselessly - he leads the Championship with seven goals from outside of the box and in all competitions, he has nine goals from long range, out of a total tally of 12.


Harry is arguably in the best form of his senior career. While he showed positive signs in the first half of the season, it is a different thing altogether to do on consistent basis. What do you believe has made him go to this next level?


Simply put, the opportunity to play every week in a competitive team was all he ever needed.  Frank Lampard has made him a crucial part of Derby’s midfield and he has risen to that responsibility.  It’s abundantly clear that he is loving his football, particularly playing alongside the Chelsea loanee Mason Mount - the duo seem to have struck up a close understanding on and off the pitch, sharing digs as well as a central midfield partnership.


You mentioned in our previous chat that the League Cup victory against Man United was Harry's standout performance, has he since surpassed that game in your view?


It would be difficult for any player to surpass a goal like that.  However, the best team performance of the season so far was definitely the 4-1victory over West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns in October and Wilson was a huge part of that.  The fizzing energy and skill of Derby’s front five was too much for West Brom that evening and while the team’s rich promise has only been seen in fits and starts since then and has been too much to reproduce consistently through a gruelling Championship winter, it’s there - with Wilson clearly integral to the fast, technical, pressing style of play Frank Lampard wants to see.   


It’s worth pointing out that Derby have played four cup games against Premier League opposition this season - Manchester United away, Chelsea away, Southampton home and away - drawing three times (all 2-2) and losing only once (2-3, at Stamford Bridge), with Wilson having started in three of those games.  He missed the home draw with Southampton through injury, but came back to score yet another free kick and then assist Martyn Waghorn’s equalising goal at St Mary’s in the replay.


As your own performance level increases, naturally the opposition take a fair bit of extra notice. How has Harry handled that extra physical attention?


He is still young and we are yet to find out whether he can weather the physical demands of a 46-game league season, plus cup exploits - including a 100 minutes plus at St Mary's and with the fifth round of the FA Cup yet to come.  Still, he’s well on the way to proving his durability, having made 25 starts in all competitions for Derby already, so touch wood, his fitness can be managed through the second half of the season.  He’s a marked man and, as such, there are inevitably spells in games where his impact is limited - but he only needs one chance to unleash a left-foot Exocet and the game has turned on its head.  




Harry was injured for your clash with top of the table Leeds a few weeks ago.  Was his absence and subsequent defeat in that game a sign that he has become Derby's most important player this season?


There's definitely an argument to say that he has been.  He’s one of our key players and match-winners, without question, alongside Mount, the striker Jack Marriott and centre backs Fikayo Tomori and Richard Keogh.  Losing any of those players for any length of time would be a huge blow to Derby’s hopes of promotion    


Have you noticed the impact that Frank Lampard has had on his game as the season progresses and can you discuss some of the things he has altered in Harry's game?


I don’t know whether Liverpool expected him to be used as a central midfielder in a 4-3-3 system.  When he signed, the general expectation was that he would play as a wide forward, but he has proved to be comfortable in the centre and remains just as much of a goal threat, while also putting in more tackles per game than any other regular Rams’ midfielder.  


He is not a player who is ever going to win much in the air, but he understands that hard graft is not an optional extra - proving that he can flourish in the muck-and-nettles of a Championship midfield battle, for a team who try to play possession football and press the opposition hard when they don’t have it, will be ticking boxes, for Jurgen Klopp’s scouts, I’m sure. 


While producing a couple of assists in more recent times, Harry has only registered two in the league this season (and one in the FA Cup vs Southampton.) Is playmaking something Harry can look to work on in your view?


I tend to look more at ‘key passes’ (shooting chances created) more than assists.  An assist, after all, could be a two-yard toe-poke for someone to belt it in from 40 yards, whereas a through ball from heaven could end up being sliced wide - key passes tells you whether a player has been making things happen on a more consistent basis.  


For key passes, Wilson is Derby’s second highest contributor, with 35, behind Mount (53).   He has not been among the top Championship midfielders for this measure, but when you have a shot like Wilson does, you’ve got every right to have a go, instead of looking for a killer pass.  12 goals in 24 appearances is a record most strikers would be pleased with and so it would be churlish to complain about a comparative lack of assists.


In terms of the future, you previously spoke about your perfect scenario which sees Harry staying on loan for another season in the likelihood of Derby getting promoted to the Premier League. Knowing Harry's overall feeling for the club, is that a distinct possibility?


I would love to think so, but there are a lot of things which would have to fall into place for that to happen.  Firstly, we have to fight our way out of the Championship, which we know by now is an incredibly tough task.  Secondly, Liverpool would have to be amenable and thirdly, Harry himself would need to weigh up whether it was the right move for him (if he is available again next season, I’m sure there would be no shortage of Premier League, or maybe even Bundesliga suitors).    


All I can say with certainty at this stage is that he has hugely boosted his reputation and done himself proud with his performances. If he carries on in his current vein of form, he will help to give us a real chance of glory this season.

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4 minutes ago, aRdja said:

Lallana’s replacement. 

Decent call in the light of the role he's playing at Derby.


Would be a shame if he doesn't get a chance with us next season.


He's probably already a £30m player in today's inflated market.

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It's just speculation as to whether we'll ever use him. I think there's a higher chance we'll sell him. A bit like Grujic, it seems Wilson has proven himself, but does Klopp rate him? Who knows. He did send him on loan which would maybe indicate he doesn't. Although one thing in his favour is that he's homegrown. 

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From the offal:


It was the harder times that pushed Harry Wilson forward.


The Liverpool and Wales winger is enjoying the most progressive season, in terms of sheer numbers, of his budding professional career during a loan spell with Championship side Derby County.


Wilson has scored 12 times in 27 appearances in all competitions for the Rams to help Frank Lampard’s team maintain a place in the play-off picture and reach the FA Cup fifth round.


All signs suggest an exciting future is ahead of a player who found the net with thrilling regularity at the Reds’ Academy and made his international debut before his 17th birthday.


But Wilson’s turning point, the catalyst – his ‘epiphany’, as Alex Inglethorpe describes it – came not at a moment of peak form or breaking ground, but amid his toughest experience.


A temporary stay with Crewe Alexandra in 2015 included only seven outings for the young forward and was cut short; in the long-term, however, the education it gave him proved invaluable.


“He had a dismal time there and if you speak to Harry now, his evaluation of that experience is fantastic because I think what it did was give him a bit of an epiphany of what was needed,” Inglethorpe, the club’s Academy director, tells Liverpoolfc.com.


“I think he thought it was probably going to be easier than it was. There weren’t many bumps in the road up to that point and I think [the time at] Crewe probably robbed him of confidence.


“But I think he grew up. He came back different, he came back with his eyes far wider in terms of being open to suggestions about what he needed to work on. 


“He became obsessive about becoming stronger, obsessive about being a bit more two-sided in his possession and finishing, and I think it probably took that bump in the road to be the epiphany he needed.


“He was really well placed to take the steps he’s taken after that, because his mindset was far more on growth, whereas before it was more fixed, and I’m really proud of him.


“He’s someone that wants to improve and get better, but part of the Academy’s role is that if things don’t work out, if there’s another bump in the road, then we’ll be there to help, to support and advise if we’re called upon.”

Every player’s path is unique.


Talent, dedication, fortune and circumstance launched Trent Alexander-Arnold into the Liverpool first team and a World Cup before his teens were finished, for example.


Wilson’s arc, by contrast, has taken the 21-year-old away from the club on several occasions, with a seven-goal spell at Hull City last term a bridge to more opportunities in senior football.


There is simply no blueprint, Inglethorpe asserts, no right or wrong route.


“If someone gave me a blueprint of ‘this is how you create a player’, I’d doubt the validity of it,” he says.


“If you look at someone like Mo Salah, he had to go and accrue something like 250 games across three or four different clubs to get the opportunity to play for Liverpool. The 17-year-old Mo Salah wouldn’t take the place of the 26-year-old Mo Salah, that’s just fact, no matter how much potential he had. 


“Therefore, the 17-year-old Mo Salah would have had to go through all the experiences he’s had to become the player that he is and the player that we all enjoy watching.


“That’s normal for a lot of players, so maybe Harry, or Ryan Kent, or Ovie Ejaria, whoever it is who is on loan at the moment, maybe they’ve got to go and accrue their 150 games and they still might not be good enough to play for Liverpool. That’s a fact.


“But what you are hoping for is them to get more experience and that with every year that passes, they become more and more credible in the club’s eyes and then become more of a solution to the first team.”


Does that path differ depending on a player’s position? Is it more beneficial to an attacking player to gain minutes elsewhere than a goalkeeper or defender?


Inglethorpe’s assessment is based on the evidence supplied by statistics, but also notable case studies of Reds stars past and present.


“Goalkeepers and defenders tend to be trusted less and come through a lot later,” he replies. “Full-backs might be different, but centre-halves then I think it’s very unusual that they would go straight in when they’re young.


“If you look at [Virgil] van Dijk, by the age of 20 he hadn’t played many first-team games, whereas if you look at someone like [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, he played loads of games by the age of 18 or 19. He was well on the way to getting that experience, but Virgil was a later starter – maybe because that position requires greater trust, or because the experience and the physical capabilities you need to play in that position comes with a bit of age. 


“Jamie Carragher’s a really good example of someone who had to start his career, ironically, up front, but for Liverpool it was in midfield and then it moves to full-back and eventually centre-half. It took him a fair bit of time to work his way inside the pitch and get the experience before he became an incredible centre-half. 


“Going back to Harry or whoever is on loan, I think you’re probably right. I think as a forward you get opportunities off the bench: if the game’s in a neutral state or you’re a goal down, it’s a gamble and an easy decision [to bring them on].


“A young centre-half, you don’t tend to bring them on to shore things up in the last 10 or 15 minutes, you probably throw on an experienced centre-half who you know is going to deal with what the opposition are doing at that time.”


After Wilson’s adventure with Derby concludes in May, the Welshman will return to Liverpool for another chance to impress first-team boss Jürgen Klopp.


His challenge then will not be easy. “Is there a higher bar?” Inglethorpe asks rhetorically of the standards required to grasp a spot in the senior squad.


But Wilson will approach the task loaded with the understanding of its difficulty, the inherent necessity of having to displace world-class teammates.


At this level, that has to be the litmus test.


“It’s not the Academy’s position to say whether he’s ready or not,” states Inglethorpe. “That’s purely down to the manager and his staff to assess he has hit the criteria that they demand for someone to go in to the first team.


“That’s the challenge he has got to face: their bar, whatever it is they’re demanding, Harry’s got to prove he’s capable of doing that.


“You’d have to say that’s the challenge. If Harry wants to play for Liverpool – and I believe in him, I believe he can reach the level and he can do it – then he’ll know there’s some unbelievably good, world-class players that he’s got to compete with.


“But that’s the challenge, that’s the fun of it. It shows what an amazing club it is when players have got to think that way.”

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Really insightful stuff in that Inglethorpe interview. We might keep loaning out the likes of Grujic and Wilson (maybe Kent as well) until they're 23/24. Makes sense, as that's the age of most of the player sign.


Let them develop, don't make any decisions on them until they're 23/24 unless they're either dynamite and ready for the first team, or just shite and never going to make it.

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52 minutes ago, dave u said:

Really insightful stuff in that Inglethorpe interview. We might keep loaning out the likes of Grujic and Wilson (maybe Kent as well) until they're 23/24. Makes sense, as that's the age of most of the player sign.


Let them develop, don't make any decisions on them until they're 23/24 unless they're either dynamite and ready for the first team, or just shite and never going to make it.

I dislike the cunt but Lingaard is a great example of a late developer.

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A colleague of mine is a Derby fan and says Wilson is a sensation there. Reckons he's easily good enough to provide backup to our attacking players for a year or two and then become a first team player.

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15 hours ago, Grinch said:

Would like to see him at a premiership side first.   Isn't that impressive scoring goals in the championship.. 

He's not exactly Dave Nugent knocking in tap ins, most of his goals coke from outside the box.


The way I try and size it up with loan players is by asking the question "would we sign them if they weren't Liverpool players?" I think we'd definitely be interested in Wilson but would likely let him go to a mid table team first.

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On 2/16/2019 at 10:11 PM, dave u said:

Really insightful stuff in that Inglethorpe interview. We might keep loaning out the likes of Grujic and Wilson (maybe Kent as well) until they're 23/24. Makes sense, as that's the age of most of the player sign.


Let them develop, don't make any decisions on them until they're 23/24 unless they're either dynamite and ready for the first team, or just shite and never going to make it.


The level of competition is so high now, both in terms of in the league, as well as within the squad for starting spots, that this really should be the plan for the majority of youngsters we have in my opinion. Wilson is probably good enough for a place in our squad now, playing in the cup games, getting minutes off the bench and the odd start if there is an injury. But if we have him in that role for the next couple of seasons, then in 2 years I think there is a lower chance that he is good enough to permanently replace those ahead of him than he would have starting the majority game for 2 seasons.

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