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The Three Breakout Stars Of The Liverpool Academy

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Gerrard, Dalglish, Rush, Carragher and Fowler are but a few of the famous names to have made an impact for Liverpool and written themselves into the history and fabric of the club. A new generation has now dawned on Merseyside and Jürgen Klopp’s outlook on football is sure to give hungry young players a chance to emulate their predecessors and become heroes in their own right. Three in particular – Ben Woodburn, Ovie Ejaria and Trent Alexander-Arnold made a real impact in the EFL cup quarter-final victory over Leeds and we take a look at their future prospects:

Woodburn joined Liverpool aged seven and has progressed through the age grades, making his debut as a 16-year-old against Fleetwood in a friendly before the 2016-17 season. He scored in this game and then again against Wigan four days later. He made his competitive debut as a substitute in Liverpool’s Premier League win over Sunderland and in the process became the third youngest player to represent the reds. Three days later he came on in the 67th minute against Leeds. Fourteen minutes later, Woodburn ensured victory for the hosts with a cool finish following a sweeping attack. Klopp wants to protect the youngster from media hype after Woodburn overtook Liverpool legend Michael Owen as their youngest scorer by 98 days, but that wish, expressed post-match, was followed by headlines in the national media, including Young King of the Kop, Owen Mk II and Heaven 17.

A complicated situation means that Woodburn could end up playing for either Wales or England but he has made no secret of the inspiration he has gained from senior Wales stars saying that “Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey are world class and I want to replicate what they do”. It now falls to Wales manager Chris Coleman and, perhaps, his England counterpart Gareth Southgate to decide if, when and for whom Woodburn makes his international bow.

Ejaria featured for Liverpool in pre-season against Fleetwood and Wigan then most notably in the US against Chelsea but an injury kept him out of the beginning of the season before he made a comeback for the Under-23s. He finally made his first team debut against Derby in the EFL cup and then in the next round started and played the full game against Spurs. Another eye catching display in the win over Leeds has made us take notice of his huge potential, “I have always played in the middle of the pitch,” he says. “Sometimes when I’ve been playing with the U23’s this season I’ve been used out wide on the left, but I don’t find that too hard because I’m used to playing in a No.10 position. So I can come inside on occasions and play as a second No.10”.

Ejaria was born in London but is eligible to represent Nigeria through his family. He started playing football competitively in south London where he met then-Chelsea coach Michael Beale, who now works with him at Liverpool. In 2005 he joined the Arsenal academy and moved through the age-groups, impressing coaches at clubs across the country including Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United then in 2014, having played for Liverpool as a triallist at the AEGON Futures Cup in the Netherlands, Ejaria agreed to move to Merseyside on a permanent basis, despite the attentions of Manchester United.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was another who impressed for Liverpool in the EFL Cup clash with Leeds having been a ball boy in the fixture between the two sides seven years ago! Before Klopp even arrived on Merseyside, Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard had tipped the 18 year-old to be a success. Quite the praise for the teenager who admits he used to pretend to be Gerrard when he was playing as a kid. He was born in West Derby and grew up dreaming of playing for Liverpool. He played in the Under-16s under Neil Critchley, where he was made captain and a string of good performances earned him a call up to the England Under-17 side. He has scored twice in seven appearances in Premier League U23 league this season, including a scorcher against Spurs.

The 18 year old is a central midfielder, with a really good engine and the ability to get forward. He has a superb range of passing and his ability to play at right-back showcases his versatility. The Liverpool No.66, who now trains regularly with the first team, has impressed his Under 23 boss Michael Beale this season. “He’s young and playing ever so well. It’s not too long since he had his Under-23 debut against Manchester City and that was hard for him,” he said. It appears he’s on the fringes of the first team and after signing his first professional contract last October, his future looks bright. Off the field, he attributes his rise to his faith, as he looks to make his mark.

About the author – Liam Bailes

Liam has been a football fanatic since the early 1990s and continues to be delighted by the sport today. He follows the 5 bog European leagues as well as the npower championship and major cup competitions both domestically and internationally. He is an FA level 2 coach and loves to be involved with football at every opportunity.

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