Ranking Steven Gerrard's Liverpool Under-18 Squad on Their Potential

Rob Lancaster@RobLancs79Featured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2017

Ben Woodburn and Rhian Brewster are two of Liverpool's bright young things.
Ben Woodburn and Rhian Brewster are two of Liverpool's bright young things.Matt Blyth/Getty Images

Playing for Liverpool is special, but playing for Liverpool under a legendary figure must leave some of the club's current crop of youngsters pinching themselves.

There are few better for the Reds' promising teenagers to learn from than Steven Gerrard, who has opted to start his coaching career in familiar surroundings by taking over as Liverpool's under-18 coach.

"If I was to pick one individual who embodies the characteristics and values we are looking to instil into our organisation at Kirkby, it would be Steven Gerrard," youth director Alex Inglethorpe told Chris Bascombe of the Telegraph.

The new boss knows what it takes to come through the ranks and make it at Anfield.

The early signs are promising, too; Liverpool are unbeaten in the league under Gerrard and opened their UEFA Youth League campaign with a 4-0 hammering of Sevilla.

But can some of these bright young things make it all the way through to the first team? Bleacher Report picks out the potential stars who could thrive while under Stevie G's stewardship.

       

10. Glen McAuley

Age: 17

Position: Striker

Having found the net consistently for Liverpool's under-18s last season, Dublin-born Glen McAuley's scoring form sees him squeeze inside our top 10.

Goals will get you attention, and the Irishman has built an impressive reputation at Kirkby as someone who can take the chances that come his way. 

He's also willing to work, though. McAuley is a nuisance for opposing defenders to cope with, an old-fashioned forward who has quickly made a mark on Merseyside since heading across the Irish sea.

       

9. Luis Longstaff

Age: 16

Position: Attacking midfielder

Signed away from Newcastle's academy at the age of 13, Luis Longstaff is an attack-minded player with an eye for goal and the ability to line up anywhere across the midfield.

The England youth international was an unused substitute in the European game against Sevilla but has started for the under-18 side in league action.

Despite only turning 16 in February, Longstaff was called up to train with the full squad before the Premier League fixture away at West Bromwich Albion in April.

8. Liam Coyle

Age: 17

Position: Defender/midfielder

While Liverpool's attack-minded players may steal the attention when turning out for the youth teams, Liam Coyle deserves recognition for the role he plays in the under-18s.

Normally a holding midfielder who is good on the ball and willing to put his foot in, the Liverpudlian lined up at right-back against Sevilla. Wherever he plays, however, you can expect a wholehearted performance.

"This diminutive midfielder, a Scouser, reminds me of former Liverpool player Sammy Lee. He is tenacious, with a big heart and a football brain," the Secret Scout told the Daily Mail.

7. Kamil Grabara

Age: 18

Position: Goalkeeper

Polish goalkeeper Kamil Grabara appeared for Liverpool's first team in pre-season.
Polish goalkeeper Kamil Grabara appeared for Liverpool's first team in pre-season.MB Media/Getty Images

Liverpool have a host of talented young goalkeepers on their books, including Daniel Atherton and Ben Williams, who have started in domestic action for Gerrard this season.

However, Kamil Grabara was selected between the posts against Sevilla. The Polish stopper is normally a regular at under-23 level after joining the club in January 2016, but he still qualifies for these rankings.

Per Andy Hunter of the Guardian, Grabara "had trials with Manchester United and Manchester City after attracting widespread attention at Ruch Chorzow but has agreed a move to Anfield for an initial £250,000."

Involved in first-team friendlies during the pre-season, the 18-year-old looks a real prospect. Liverpool will hope he can continue to develop and, eventually, become an option for the first team.

6. Conor Masterson

Age: 19

Position: Centre-back

Liverpool's defensive frailties are a topic of discussion that never feels too far away. While Conor Masterson isn't the answer in the short term, he might have the characteristics required to make it in the long run.

The Irishman—who left his homeland to join his favourite club—captained the under-18 squad last year but is now part of manager Neil Critchley's under-23 squad.

However, Masterson qualifies for this list on a technicality, as he is still able to play under Gerrard in Europe.

Masterson found the net in the crushing win over Sevilla, although his primary role is keeping opponents out at the other end of the field. Comfortable in possession, it will be interesting to see if he remains as a centre-back when he eventually steps into the pro ranks.

     

5. Liam Millar

Age: 17

Position: Forward

Canadian Liam Millar arrived at Anfield via a spell with Fulham. He made an instant impression at Liverpool, though, marking his debut for the under-18 team last season with a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers.

Having signed his first pro contract a year ago, the forward has continued to demonstrate how he has the happy knack of being in the right place to take chances.

"What I like about him is he can run down the side of defenders; he runs in behind; he gives them real problems with his movement, and he's a good finisher off both feet," former under-18 manager Critchley told Andy Kelly of the Liverpool Echo.

4. Curtis Jones

Age: 16

Position: Midfielder

An energetic midfielder who can play centrally or out wide, Curtis Jones has a wonderful opportunity to learn from Gerrard, one of the best in the business when it came to playing the position.

Jones—who scored twice in the 4-0 win over Sevilla—was called up to train with the first-team squad last season, giving both the player and management a chance to see how he coped alongside the big boys.

"How Jurgen has them working is 100 per cent every time, so to go in there at the age of 15 was a big thing for me. The standard was unbelievable," he told David Lynch of the club's official website.

The local lad coped well considering his age, and he has the physical traits and footballing abilities to suggest his development is ahead of the curve.

3. Edvard Sandvik Tagseth

Age: 16

Position: Midfielder

While he had already agreed to sign for Liverpool, Edvard Sandvik Tagseth officially joined the academy this summer after turning 16.

It seems the left-footed midfielder was worth the wait—he scored one and set another up on his debut for the Under-18 team, helping his new club record a 3-2 triumph over Blackburn Rovers in August.

Tagseth represented Norway at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship earlier this year, including playing in a 3-1 defeat to England that saw his now-Liverpool team-mate Rhian Brewster score twice.

There are seriously high hopes for the industrious playmaker back in his homeland. "He has a lot of what (Martin) Odegaard had plus a little more," the Norwegian FA’s head of development, Hakon Grottland, told Dagbladet (h/t Neil Jones of the Liverpool Echo).

High praise indeed—it's now up to the talented Tagseth to live up to the hype.

      

2. Rhian Brewster

Age: 17

Position: Forward

Rhian Brewster was promoted to sit on the bench for the first team last season.
Rhian Brewster was promoted to sit on the bench for the first team last season.Matt King/Getty Images

Before last season, Rhian Brewster hadn't even made an appearance for Liverpool's under-18 team. By the end of it, he'd not only forced his way into the under-23s but also sneaked onto the first-team bench.

While he never had the chance to get on the field in the Premier League game with Crystal Palace, the Londoner's selection as a substitute was evidence of just how much he'd impressed the hierarchy.

"Personally, I'd rate him higher than Woodburn—and perhaps that's saying something about Brewster's quality—but I feel like this is a player Klopp will keep under wraps for the time being," This Is Anfield's Jack Lusby told Bleacher Report earlier this year.

Brewster—who opted to leave Chelsea and further his development at Kirkby—is an England youth international with huge promise.

Still, despite his potential for club and country, he has to settle for second place in these rankings.

        

1. Ben Woodburn

Age: 17

Position: Forward

Ben Woodburn has enjoyed a rapid rise to become a first-team squad member at just 17.
Ben Woodburn has enjoyed a rapid rise to become a first-team squad member at just 17.Ian Walton/Getty Images

Ben Woodburn was cleared to play in the Youth League opener, an added bonus for Gerrard considering the Wales international's consistent involvement with Liverpool's first-team squad.

He isn't likely to be seen too often in the under-18 ranks over the course of the season, though. Still, his appearance against Sevilla qualifies him to appear in these rankings. Actually, he tops them.

It's not hard to work out why, either. Against Sevilla, Woodburn stood out like a sore thumb. It's not that he's physically bigger than the others—it's that his footballing brain is, at times, on another level.

In becoming the club's youngest goalscorer (he was 17 years and 45 days when he found the net in a League Cup tie against Leeds United) last season, Woodburn became a recognised name.

Yet the signs are he won't be a flash in the pan who fades away. Liverpool have unearthed some gems down the years—the Chester-born teenager could be the next superstar to come through the system.

The forward has also dazzled this season with Wales on international duty of late, including scoring a stunning goal on debut in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Austria at the start of September.