When Calvin Ramsay left his boyhood club Aberdeen in July, he would have been forgiven for thinking his start to life at Liverpool would have been far more straightforward than the struggles he has tolerated so far.
Having only made six professional appearances for Aberdeen prior to July 2021, the 19-year-old used the 2021/22 season to showcase his talents in what was a fine individual breakthrough campaign. In total, Ramsay made 33 outings in all competitions for the Scottish Premiership side and provided one goal and five assists as the Dons finished ninth. Impressively, he also added European pedigree to his already exceptional resume as he started all six of his side’s Europa Conference League qualifiers before the club were eventually knocked out by Qarabag FK in the final round.
But since sealing his switch to Anfield in early July, for an initial fee of £4.2m, the defender has spent his early time at the club following an individual rehabilitation plan away from his new team-mates after the club’s medical staff were alerted of a pre-existing back injury during his medical.
While the source of the issue was not initially disclosed by manager Jurgen Klopp, Ramsay stayed at the club’s training base in July as 37 of his team-mates jetted off to the Far East for the club’s first pre-season tour in three years. However, the reigning Scottish Football Writers Association’s Player of the Year was named as part of the club’s training camp in Austria just a few weeks later, which was viewed as a more moral-boosting time away from Merseyside than the taxing routine of a commercial-driven pre-season tour halfway across the world.
Such an issue meant that Ramsay has been unable to make his debut for the Reds, yet alone train with the rest of Klopp’s squad. But on Thursday afternoon the defender was pictured taking part in full training with the rest of the squad for the first time, in what was a huge milestone for the youngster as he bids to finally get his career south of the border up and running after a frustrating eight-week period.
“Calvin’s not ready to play but I’m over the moon that he can train now,” Klopp told reporters at the AXA Training Centre on Thursday afternoon. “It’s really good. He just needs training, training, training and there will be a moment where he plays U21s so he can get a game because we play now all the time.”
Klopp also revealed how extensively his recruitment staff had examined the right-back prodigy prior before bringing him to Anfield this summer. It’s no secret that Liverpool’s full-backs play in such a distinctive system and therefore the qualities they must possess are vastly different to those of the other 19 Premier League clubs. With Trent Alexander-Arnold currently the Reds’ undisputed first-choice, finding a player who would be able to interchange with the England international and cause minimum disturbance to the side’s balance was always going to be a huge demand in the current market.
Former defender Neco Williams, who was a member of the club’s Kirkby academy from the age of six, ultimately decided to embark on pastures new at Nottingham Forest in the summer after enjoying a fine spell six-month spell on loan at last season’s Champions winners Fulham. Yet despite all of Williams’ attacking qualities, he struggled to prove himself as a sufficient deputy to Alexander-Arnold during his three-year spell in the first team. That in itself highlights the task that lays ahead of Ramsay over the coming years of his Anfield career.
Of course, Alexander-Arnold has been the subject of plenty of discussion throughout the media during the past week as England manager Gareth Southgate omitted the defender from his squad for the 3-3 draw with Germany on Monday evening and later stated Kieran Trippier was superior to Liverpool’s No.66 in his all-round game.
While Southgate’s comments may not resonate too kindly with many of those on Merseyside, they do however amplify just how unique the system Klopp deploys on a weekly basis at Anfield is, given that a Ballon-D’or nominee and a three-time PFA Team of the Year member is deemed surplus to requirements for the Three Lions. It is hoped that Ramsay’s long-term development will allow his senior right-back to take a much-needed breather at times, with Alexander-Arnold’s recent form a worrying illustration of the burnout he has suffered from his endeavours in recent years.
“An outstanding talent. We scouted a lot of games of Calvin and he did exceptionally well. For a young age and the way he plays, he’s involved in everything,” added Klopp, continuing his praise of the 19-year-old on Thursday. “A real talent. I was really excited about him, and I am excited about him. Then he arrived here and had this issue with the back so since then he was out.
Now I’ve seen him two or three times but it’s the first three sessions. Now we know more about him as a boy; outstanding, well-educated, friendly, confident. A really good boy. Now we start working, that’s it. It’s how it is for all of them in that age group, the sky is the limit.
“So I have no idea where it can go for him but the start in his career was really good, now we had a little interruption, next year it’s now done and we are through this and now we have to make sure we can work as much with him to give him just the good chance to have the best possible career.”
With Liverpool having 13 games across three different competitions between October 1 and November 12, their final game before the English calendar breaks for the Qatar World Cup, Ramsay could find himself emerging from the bench over the next six weeks as Klopp gradually introduces him to the frenzied demands of being a professional footballer at an elite-level Premier League side.
As the German confirmed, it will be at the club’s Kirkby academy where Ramsay’s first outing as a Reds player will come. Although it won’t have been the introduction to life on Merseyside Ramsay had expected when he rebuffed the opportunity to stay as a nailed-on starter at Aberdeen in order to further his career, the importance of him finally being able to put his earlier struggles behind and show those at the AXA Training Centre his talents first-hand cannot be understated.
Given the magnitude of Liverpool’s games between now and November 12, Ramsay may be forced to wait a little longer for his first-team debut as clashes home and away against Rangers, Napoli, Manchester City, and Arsenal await during the immediate frantic fixture scheduling. Meaning the clash with League One outfit Derby County in the League Cup third round at the start of next month could finally hand the 19-year-old his Anfield berth.
But for Ramsay this week has been all about milestones, and getting back on the pitches of the AXA Training Centre marks an absolutely huge one.