As this year comes to a close for the first team, it has also closed for the Liverpool Reserves and Academy teams. Next year I plan on providing more constant updates on the Reserves and U18's (and scores for other teams when available; both Reserves and now U18's matches are shown on LFCTV, while other Academy sides aren't shown at all), but for now I will summarize the prominent Academy players and how they've progressed through the year. Many of these players will be making their first team debuts for Liverpool sometime in the next year or so, and I've always found it to be great fun to watch their progression up from the U18's. Join me as I explore the seasons of the Reserves and U18's.
The Reserves were managed by John McMahon until the middle of March, when he was replaced by Pep Segura, who had been the Academy's technical director. The Reserves finished the year in third place in a group of Blackburn, Sunderland, Everton, and Blackpool. However, they were only 3 points off the leaders Blackburn. This is a great achievement considering the lack of depth many believe Liverpool have in the Reserves. Their last match of the season is the Liverpool Senior Cup against Everton, which is tomorrow at 2PM BST/9AM EST. Some of the more exciting players to play for the Reserves this year were:
- Danny Wilson: A fixture at CB for the Reserves through much of the season, the Scottish international (with 3 caps already at age 19) will likely be looking to push into the first team next year.
- Jonjo Shelvey: While we also saw much of him in the first team, mostly as a super-sub in the midfield, Shelvey was also a constant fixture in the Reserve matches.
- Tom Ince: The son of former Liverpool player Paul Ince, Tom Ince is a left winger/forward who was a staple in the Reserve first team. He's a quick athlete, and has decent technical skills. However, at 19 Ince is older than some other prospects on the team and his play can be very selfish at times. He is also have contract issues with the club, and believes he deserves more money than they are currently offering. It will be very interesting to see what develops with him over the summer, and if he stays or is sold.
- Toni Silva: Only 17, he started the year in the U18's but made the move to the Reserves as the year went on, often lining up on the wing opposite Ince. His style of play can be most easily compared to that of Nani of Manchester United (though, fortunately, without the excessive diving). If he can continue to develop his physical and mental skills, Silva is a player I can see breaking into the first team in a year or 2.
- Andre Wisdom: An 18 year old central defender, Wisdom is a strong player and even stronger leader, as he captained the Reserves this season. Despite his strength, Wisdom is more than just a large body. He is very good both positionally and on the ball. Wisdom will likely be competing with players like Danny Wilson and Daniel Ayala for a first team spot next year.
- Conor Coady: Like Wisdom, Coady is a natural leader. He captained the England U17's to victory in the European Championship last summer, and had been the captain of the U18's when the played for them. He started as a CB, but as moved into the midfield, and will likely continue to play and develop there as a box to box player.
- Jesus Fernandez (aka Suso): Suso, 17, was Liverpool's hottest prospect until the arrival and emergence of Raheem Sterling. Suso is a left-footed central playmaker (though he often lined up on the wings of the 4-2-3-1 for the Reserves) who is most known for his excellent vision and passing range. Suso reminds me of Iniesta in his play, due to his attacking mentality and excellent passing. Despite being eligible for the U18 team, Suso played the entire year with the Reserves, only dropping to the U18's for the Youth Cup matches. Suso will likely get a first team debut next season.
- Adam Morgan: Morgan is a natural goal scorer who scored in 14 consecutive games this season for the U18's despite only turning 17 in April. He will likely stay with the U18's to start next season, but look for him to make the move up to the Reserves next year if they need a striker.
- Krisztian Adorjan: An advanced playmaker in every sense of the word, Adorjan loves to play "in the hole" behind the striker. Born in Hungary, he captained their U17 side in the past. 18 years old, Adorjan will move up to the Reserves next season where he will hopefully continue to improve. Adorjan is a player I believe will have a bright future, as he always has a big impact on games with both assists and goals.
- Raheem Sterling: The "crown jewel" of the Liverpool Academy, Sterling was bought from Queens Park Rangers at age 15. Despite only being 16, he is a very quick winger who also has great technical skills, and will likely develop well physically as he continues to grow. He is a player many who closely follow the Academy wish had gotten first team minutes this year, though it looks like we will have to wait until next year.