Best Prospects Currently Playing for Liverpool's Under-21s
Whilst most Liverpool supporters’ pay attention to the first team’s attempts at trying to catch up with the elite, the Reds’ under-21 side continues their impressive progress.
Alex Inglethorpe’s youngsters will face Manchester United in their Barclays Under-21 league playoff semi-final at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening, where a victory would seal a place in the final following what has been an encouraging season.
Plenty of players in the side have come into consideration for the first team both during Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge and under previous boss Kenny Dalglish, and their task now will be to push on and look to gain more experience in the new campaign.
Here are four names for Reds fans to look out for next season:
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The absences of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel in Sunday’s win at Fulham, plus Rodgers’ decision to start with a three-man back line of Jamie Carragher, Sebastian Coates and Andre Wisdom, created a vacancy on the bench for a centre-back, and Lloyd Jones filled it.
The giant 17-year-old is highly rated around the Anfield corridors of power following some strong displays for both the youth team and the under-21s, and the Welshman could be seen taking the step up sooner rather than later.
Liverpool’s need for centre-backs this summer is already well-documented, and the Welsh youth international appears to have jumped above the likes of Stephen Sama and Jakub Sokolik in the race to provide one from the Academy ranks.
A former Plymouth Argyle player, Jones is being tipped by many to star under Rodgers in the near future.
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Another with brief exposure to the first team, Jordon Ibe was named on the bench for the 3-1 defeat at Southampton in March.
A real talent both on the wing and upfront, Ibe started life with Wycombe Wanderers and has impressed both in Liverpool’s under-18 and under-21 sides whenever he’s been called upon.
Tipped to make the breakthrough into the Reds’ first-team plans in the same manner that Raheem Sterling has, next season could be a crucial one for Ibe as he seeks to continue his rapid progress.
He already has professional first-team experience at Wycombe, and Ibe should be extending that with the Reds very soon.
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After captaining the Reds’ under-21 side to a recent 1-1 draw against Manchester United, Conor Coady finally made a long-awaited Premier League debut when he came on as a substitute for the impressive Philippe Coutinho against Fulham on Sunday.
His only other first-team appearance for the Reds this season was when he started the 1-0 Europa League loss at Anzhi Makhachkala, and it is tempting to think of him as more of a member of the first-team squad than the youth one given his exposure to life at the top.
The locally produced talent has been given a "mini Steven Gerrard" tag by many who watch the Reds in Academy action, and although that is a huge reputation to live up to, Coady appears intent on doing all he can to try and get as close to it as possible.
Should he prove impressive in preseason then the 20-year-old―who can play in both defence and midfield―looks in a strong position to progress even more next season.
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There are many who will have expected creative Hungarian Krisztian Adorjan to have made his Liverpool first-team bow by now, and given that he doesn’t even possess a squad number you get the feeling that this will be a crucial summer for him.
The hope is that he hasn’t stalled following eight goals and a massive 19 assists for the under-18s in 2010/11, but his quality is still capable of shining through on occasion.
To put his Reds’ career progression under the spotlight, he is only six months younger than Coutinho, whilst he has a year on Suso and almost two on Sterling, and so he simply has to make the breakthrough now or never.