Analysis from Theo Squires after Liverpool’s Under-23s slipped to a 3-2 loss to Accrington Stanley.
RAMSAY A PLEASANT SURPRISE
When Jurgen Klopp offered his latest injury update at his West Ham United pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon, he suggested Calvin Ramsay was set to feature for Liverpool Under-21s in Saturday’s Merseyside derby against Everton. Little did listening journalists know the young Scot’s Reds ‘debut’ would actually come later that night away at Accrington Stanley.
The right-back has had to wait a long time to represent Liverpool for the first time, having joined from Aberdeen in a deal worth up to a potential £6.5m this summer. An injury was spotted in the teenager’s medical, while he suffered a setback earlier this month after taking a knock to his ankle, having been named in a senior matchday squad for the first time at home to Rangers.
As a result, the 19-year-old will have been hungry to just get back out on the pitch following his delayed start to the season. Never mind mark his first appearance for the Reds with a goal.
An emphatic first-time finish into the top corner, it was an early sign of the attacking full-back Klopp was so delighted to lure away from Aberdeen.
Beyond his goal, with Accrington at one point threatening to run away with it, his introduction in the 63rd minute helped calm his team-mates as they forged a late comeback. Boasting a year of senior football in Scotland under his belt, he dealt well with the physical League One opposition, while he was also comfortable on the ball and not shy to get forward.
You’d expect further Under-21s minutes will follow as promised, with Everton next up, but the first team beckons for Ramsay. His Liverpool story might have officially started in Accrington, but he is already destined for greater things as the teenager looks to provide back-up to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
WINGERS TO WATCH
Ramsay wasn’t the only Scottish substitute to impress off the bench as Ben Doak scored his first goal for the Under-21s in only his second appearance for Barry Lewtas’ second-string.
Granted, it was not as spectacular as his winner for the Under-19s away at Rangers last week, instead scrambling home on the goalline, but it will be a cherished strike for the highly-rated 16-year-old against Football League opposition all the same.
He also had an assist of sorts as his low cross was half-cleared, gifting Ramsay with the chance to score. Meanwhile, Stefan Bajcetic very nearly scored from one cutback from the wideman too.
With a blossoming partnership with compatriot Ramsay on show, Doak remains one to watch. He’d only made a late seven-minute substitute appearance for the Under-21s before this eye-catching showing against League One opposition.
Frequently impressing in the Academy to earn his U21s promotion in the first place, expect the teenager to remain a regular at this level from hereon in.
Klopp recently praised the quality of the Scottish market as a place to shop for exciting young talent and Liverpool are already seeing the benefits of that this season. Throw in Ramsay’s introduction and the German has certainly been proven right.
While Doak had a goal and assist to show from his performance, starting wingers Mateusz Musialowski and Melkamu Frauendorf both had impressive moments during the first half before the young Reds tired against Accrington.
The ‘Polish Messi’ tormented Stanley defenders throughout the first half, running at them for fun and helping create Liverpool’s disallowed goal for Frauendorf. The young German was equally lively on the opposing flank beyond his chalked off strike.
Jurgen Klopp might have a headache on the wings in the first team after losing both Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota to injury, but it’s a different story for the Under-21s. Yet whether any are ready to step up to fill such gaps, it is admittedly too early despite previous senior experience.
Fraunendorf made his senior debut in the FA Cup last season, while both starting widemen featured in pre-season. Meanwhile, Doak played for the Celtic first team in an Old Firm last year no less.
Yet with a League Cup clash at home to Derby County looming, along with a mid-season winter training camp in Dubai during the World Cup, perhaps they will be handed further auditions to catch Klopp’s eye both on the pitch and behind closed doors in the weeks ahead.
PAPA JOHN’S PROGRESS
The Papa John’s Trophy has been a steep learning curve for Liverpool since they first entered an academy side in the tournament back in 2019. Eliminated at the group-stage in each of the previous three campaigns, this season has been no different with the young Reds’ fate already set in stone even before they took to the field against League One Accrington.
Yet this season there has been clear progress for Barry Lewtas’ side. From their 11 games in this tournament prior to Tuesday night, they had lost all 11 and boasted just one point to show for their efforts – awarded for a penalty shootout defeat to Fleetwood Town after a 1-1 draw in September 2019.
There have been plenty of heavy losses along the way too with Liverpool shipping five goals to Accrington when they met three years ago, six goals to Wigan Athletic and four goals to Port Vale in 2020 and four goals to both Rochdale and Bolton Wanderers as well as another five to Port Vale last year. While scoring 12 goals in this tournament, they had conceded a hefty 38 from those previous 11 matches.
Such totals had risen to 41 goals conceded, and 14 goals scored, come the final whistle at the Wham Stadium on Tuesday, yet only six of those goals have leaked in this season. From a minus 12 goal difference last season, this year it stood at minus three as the young Reds held their own against Football League opposition only to suffer the narrowest of defeats.
It is a step in the right direction for the next generation of Liverpool youngsters as they look to break into Klopp’s first team. Ultimately results matter little at this level, it’s all about the experience gained and preparing players for the senior set-up.
The next time Liverpool face Football League opposition it will be in the League Cup at home to Derby County. While the young Reds’ Papa John’s Trophy exploits might be over for another year, a number of them will be hoping to impress enough in the weeks ahead so their next meeting with League One opposition is against the Rams next month.