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LIVERPOOL FOCUS: Which Reds academy stars are destined for the top?

Liverpool's youth academy has developed and nurtured many quality players in recent history.

The likes of Raheem Sterling, Jon Flanagan, Jordon Ibe and Suso have graduated from Kirkby in the 2010s while names such as Gerrard, Carragher, Fowler, Owen and McManaman have previously garnered decent careers after starting life as a junior in a Reds shirt.

Tribalfootball have shone the spotlight on the 2015/16 version of the LFC Academy to try and give some insight into who are the most promising youngsters being churned out of the Merseyside production wheel.


Jordan Rossiter

18-year-old midfielder Rossiter has already made an impression on the Liverpool senior squad.

The local product, who has been with the Academy since 2003, stepped out for the first time in a League Cup clash with Middlesbrough in September 2014, scoring his debut goal in the 2-2 draw to be the club's second youngest goalscorer behind Michael Owen.

This season, Rossiter has featured four times for the first team including two starts in the Europa League against Bordeaux and FC Sion and a second-half cameo when making his Premier League bow against Arsenal back in August.

Rossiter won the 2013/14 Liverpool Academy Player of the Year award before captaining the U19s for the 2014/15 UEFA Youth League campaign, leading the team to the Round of 16 where they were beaten by Benfica.

Since then, the England U19 international has stepped up to the senior side with aplomb which prompted reports in October that the Merseyside outfit could lose his talents if they do not tie him down to a new contract.

Tottenham, Manchester City and even Udinese have been linked with the youngster, who has been compared to Steven Gerrard by Robbie Fowler, but is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.

The first occurrence of the problem prompted Jurgen Klopp into a war of words with the English FA of whom he accused of treating Rossiter 'like a horse'.

“This is a special story I would say," said the German at the time.

“I have never heard of such a young player being asked to play three games in five days. I don't know who I need to speak to about this but people from the club will be contacting the FA because this is not OK.

“These young players are our future. If we handle them like horses then we get horses. We would prefer them to have time to develop and not feel too much pressure. Three games in five days for an 18-year-old is just wrong."

One of the many Reds struck down by Klopp's hamstring curse, Rossiter is eyeing a return to action as early as possible in the new year in a bid to force his way back into the first team fold as the business end of the season unfolds.


Yan Dhanda

Dhanda, now 17, was rewarded for showing enormous potential in the academy when the club offered him a professional contract in December.

Gleefully, he signed on the dotted line to become one of just a few British Asians to have penned a pro deal with a top flight English club. He also became just the second British Asian presently on the books of a Premier League club, joining Swansea City's Welsh-Indian Neil Taylor.

Birmingham-born Dhanda, of Indian heritage, is now contracted with the Reds until the summer of 2018 and is developing nicely in the U18 setup under Neil Critchley.

The former West Bromwich Albion youngster has been affected by injuries this season but whenever he has been on the pitch, he has been able to conjure moments of magic such as this free-kick against Manchester City in November.

No doubt a brilliant talent, albeit slightly inconsistent at times, Dhanda has a bright future and will surely flourish if he follows in the footsteps of Philippe Coutinho who he continues to mould his game on.


Pedro Chirivella

Since we last featured Liverpool in our 'Next Big Thing' column two years ago, the Spaniard has appeared twice in the Merseyside club's first team.

18-year-old Chirivella made his Reds debut in the Europa League against Bordeaux in France in September, coming on in the first half to replace the injured Kolo Toure, and taking up a central midfield position alongside fellow youngster Rossiter.

The Valencia product then added another appearance to his fledgling tally when stepping onto the St James' Park pitch in the 2-2 draw with Exeter City in the third round of the FA Cup earlier this month.

Prior to the 2015/16 season, cultured midfielder Chirivella was named as one of three players to watch by the club's chief scout in Spain, David Vizcaino, who told Marca in May: "In very little time we will see Pedro Chirivella, Sergi Canos or Madger in the first team, and some of them playing regularly.

"Just talking about Pedro Chirivella gives me goosebumps. In England there would have to be 100 Pedro Chirivellas in order to revolutionise English football.

“Chirivella is football, he is intelligence, control, technique, personality. I expect great things from him."

Enormous wraps on the teenager who appeared for a third time in Liverpool colours in the 3-0 win over Exeter in the FA Cup replay on January 20.


Ryan Kent

The highly-rated winger has been developing his game in League One with Coventry City over the first half of the 2015/16 season.

19-year-old Kent arrived at the Kirkby Academy as a seven-year-old back in 2003 and progressed through the ranks to make his senior debut in the FA Cup third round fixture with Exeter City which finished 2-2 on January 8.

Leading up to his first team debut for the Reds, Kent started 10 times for Tony Mowbray's Sky Blues for a total of 17 appearances in England's third division.

His time with Coventry prompted high praise from fellow winger Jim O'Brien who feels the England U20 international has a boundless ability.

“He's one of the most exciting players I've ever seen," O'Brien told the Coventry Telegraph in November.

“He can go past people as if they're not there and I say to him 'with my vision just imagine how good I'd be if I could do that'.

“If he gets his final ball right – which will definitely come because he's at a good club here and he's from Liverpool so he's obviously had a good education – he can achieve anything he wants."

Kent was in Klopp's match day squad for the replay win over Exeter and is expected to be given one or two chances in the second half of the season as the German tactician is determined to work with such talented youngsters.

“We need to have all of our best players here at Liverpool FC – Kent was on loan, (Sheyi) Ojo was on loan, Tiago (Ilori) was on loan, (Kevin) Stewart was on loan and a few more," said Klopp.

“We need to keep them here and then work with them."


Daniel Trickett-Smith

Trickett-Smith arrived at Anfield from Crewe Alexandra in April 2012 for an initial £300,000, with the fee rising depending on first-team appearances.

The Staffordshire native chose to ignore advances from Manchester City, instead deciding on following the footsteps of Rob Jones and Danny Murphy in making the switch from Gresty Road to Anfield.

Unfortunately, the attacking midfielder has not been able to break into a Liverpool side that features talents such as Philippe Couthinho and Robert Firmino occupying the same position.

Earlier this week, Trickett-Smith made his first start for the Liverpool U21 side for quite some time, scoring the only goal in the 1-0 Premier League Cup victory over Leeds United

Having signed a professional contract in the summer of 2013, the now 20-year-old will certainly be looking to break into the senior squad or at least look to gain first team experience outside of Anfield, whether on loan or a permanent move.

With three appearances in the Under 21 Premier League this season, Trickett-Smith can only continue to put in on the training field if he hopes of progressing his career on Merseyside.


Ben Woodburn

Talented youngster Ben Woodburn has been a revelation for Liverpool this season.

The 16-year-old winger has excelled playing for the Under 18 academy side, most recently netting a brace in his side's 3-0 thumping of Manchester United 18's.

Entering the U18 squad at a mere 15 years of age, Woodburn showed his class and consistency by remaining in the squad even when injured players and youth internationals returned.

Woodburn's versatility has also been on display. Being deployed as a more advanced forward has resulted in goals against United and in the derby against Everton.

An excellent first touch, dribbling, offensive awareness and finishing are the qualities Woodburn possesses in his repertoire.

So much so that This is Anfield analyst PJ Vaughan has described Woodburn as one of the most exciting wingers his seen in years, comparing him to £44million winger Raheem Sterling.

“Sterling was the best 15 year old I ever saw but Woodburn is the best one I have seen since him. He is a huge talent who literally has the world at his feet." Vaughan proclaimed.

There is no doubt that Woodburn has the ability to be something special and Liverpool fans will be hoping he can continue to progress and possibly feature in Klopp's side in the near future.


Toni Gomes

Two years ago Guinea-Bissau born forward Toni Gomes was fifteen years of age, kicking a football in his native land, dreaming of playing the sport he loves on the big stage.

The now 17-year old, who has been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride from West Africa to Lisbon to Liverpool, now resides at the Reds' Kirby base.

“It was a big surprise when Liverpool asked me to come here and then asked me to stay," Gomes told the Liverpool Echo recently.

“I didn't believe I'd ever find myself at the Academy of such a big club like this."

Gomes has emerged as one of the most exciting prospects at Liverpool. With his tall, physical frame and nous for scoring goals, comparisons have been made to former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.

The Portuguese youth international has unfortunately been hampered by injuries this season, including a hamstring issue, which sidelined him for six weeks in August.

Despite the setbacks, Gomes has managed to feature twice for the U21s and he will be looking to build upon a substitute appearance in Liverpool's 1-0 defeat of Leeds in the Premier League Cup earlier this week.

“My dream is to one day be part of the first team here. To achieve that I need to eat the right food, work hard every day and do the right things," he added.

“I love watching Christian Benteke and Daniel Sturridge. I watch their movement and how they get free to score goals.

“I go every game at Anfield that I can and I dream of one day playing there."

If Gomes can get himself fit and playing regularly, there is no doubt he will continue to develop and hone his skills as a potential number nine for the Reds.


By Andrew Slevison & Andrew Maclean

About the author

Tribal Football Staff

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