Liverpool U21s continue their season with a trip to Tottenham Hotspur on Friday evening
A glimpse at the respective benches at Old Trafford on Monday evening made clear the injury crisis affecting Liverpool at present. But absences from the first team have also shone a spotlight on the work being done at the Academy.
Both Bobby Clark and Stefan Bajcetic, who were involved through pre-season, were among the substitutes at Manchester United, along with reserve goalkeeper Harvey Davies.
All three had featured for the under-21s two days earlier as they earned their first Premier League 2 win of the season with a 1-0 triumph against Blackburn Rovers at the Academy, with versatile Clark and defensive midfielder Bajcetic given the first 45 minutes to keep their fitness ticking over.
And U21s boss Barry Lewtas, whose team are at Tottenham Hotspur on Friday evening, has been impressed with the attitude of the teenage duo.
They have been as a good as gold,” he said: “There are no airs or graces around them. Stefan is a really chatty kid and Bobby is quite quiet, which doesn’t come across in how he plays!
“They both talk really well about the game, which is really interesting. They are good thinkers and have both really impressed me both on the pitch and off it.”
The continued likely involvement of Bajcetic and Clark in Jurgen Klopp’s squad for Saturday’s Premier League visit of Bournemouth would rule them out of the U21s’ trip down south.
Liverpool’s winner against Blackburn was scored by Max Woltman, the striker who last season featured in the Champions League and FA Cup but featured on the left flank last weekend.
For Max it was a little bit of a different role,” said Lewtas. “The front three can interchange. But I thought he took his goal really well. You know what you’re getting from Max in terms of being a threat. He has good technique and understands the way we want to play. And Max has that little bit of experience even though he’s only 19.”
With Layton Stewart serving a one-match suspension, Oakley Cannonier was given a first start at U21 level having scored 33 goals in competitive games for the U18s last season.
And Lewtas said: “It’s hard as it’s a big step up. The boy scored a lot of goals last year and you don’t lose that, he just has to find his way and I’m sure he will. He is an excellent technician and links the game really well and plays off the shoulder. And we have to learn how to get the best out of him as well as a team.
“It’s going to be different for him. It’s a step up for him but we are really excited by the work he is doing and the training.”