The Liverpool way

The Liverpool way
Liverpool head of football operations and coach Nicholas Marshall (in black), speaking to Liverpool's Under-15s on 13 August 2015 ahead of their Lion City Cup campaign.
PHOTO: The New Paper

With five European Cup titles and 18 Premier League trophies - and many of them inspired by players who came through their youth ranks - Liverpool Football Club are one of the greatest in the world.

Over the last 20 years alone, the club have produced the likes of Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, and Singapore fans could well catch a glimpse of a star of the future when the Liverpool Under-15s take on the National Football Academy Under-16s tonight at the Jalan Besar Stadium on the opening day of the Lion City Cup competition.

Liverpool's head of football operations Nicholas Marshall told The New Paper yesterday that the Reds are here to win the competition.

Doubling up as the Under-15s coach, Marshall said: "That would be on the list of reasons why we are here, but it would be near the bottom.

"What's on top on our list is to give our players a different experience, playing in different conditions. It's part of their development as individuals to experience different cultures on and off the pitch. It's part of a long process to go through to become very good footballers."

After an exciting start to the Premier League season where 16-year-old West Ham United midfielder Reece Oxford grabbed headlines with an accomplished performance in a shock 2-0 away win at Arsenal, Marshall believes Singaporeans could witness the birth of a future Liverpool star at Jalan Besar too this week.

He said: "At Liverpool, we grade young players on potential and not how good they are now.

"So you can see a player tomorrow and go, 'Whoa, what good player he is'.

"But a good 14- or 15-year-old doesn't mean he is going to be a good 18- or 19-year-old. Another player might just do okay, but actually the potential he has is very high.

"The only way to know is if you work with them day in, day out and understand them. Only then can you make a good judgment of whether they have a chance. We think in this group, there will definitely be players who have the potential to play for Liverpool's first team."

Marshall bemoaned the fact that Liverpool are the exception rather than the norm in terms of emphasising youth development.

"We are very fortunate at Liverpool because our manager (Brendan Rodgers) and owners are very enthusiastic about playing young players," he said.

"Over the weekend, we had Joe Gomez, 18, and Jordan Ibe, 19, but there are very few clubs like us in the Premier League because there is a lot of money in there and it's very hard because most managers will go for the tried-and-tested players who they know will play well.

"A young player is a big gamble because you don't know whether (he) can handle the situation.

"It's the hardest league in the world to get young players in and it's a big problem for English football.

"Liverpool are fortunate because looking at last season's statistics, we have the most young players making their debuts. We were the youngest team, we have the most players in the England Under-21s, and we are in a very good position as a top club giving young players a chance, but I think the whole climate in England is not very good for that."

After a 32-hour journey - from the time the boys woke up to depart England to the time they went to bed here last night - the players looked like they were raring to go as they were put through the paces by Marshall in hot and humid conditions yesterday.

Internet forums threw up names like midfielder Rhian Brewster, left winger Kieran Holsgrove and forward Paul Glatzel as players to look out for, while Harrison Coady is the younger brother of Wolves midfielder Conor, who was captain of the England Under-17s that won the 2010 European Under-17 Football Championship.

But Marshall would not be drawn into naming potential stars.

"If I give you names, and because Liverpool are a big club, there will be people back home looking out on the Internet for reports, the expectations for these players get very high," he said.

"And the players who don't get named may think people don't rate them as good players."

Marshall did say fans would be able to witness the Liverpool style of play - speedy, possession-based football.

"We like our players to make their own decisions," he said.

"You won't find us hitting many balls long. We want our players to be fluid in possession and be good decision-makers."

This article was first published on August 14, 2015.
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