With the pre-season over for the Academy and the first matches finished for both the U18's and the Reserves, it's time to look back over their pre-season campaigns and to look ahead to their upcoming fixtures. While both sides are entering the year with many new faces, they both maintain high expectations after a disappointing year 10-11 campaign in which the Reserves finished third behind Blackburn and Sunderland, and the U18's finished second, only a point behind fierce rivals Everton.
The Reserves started pre-season in poor form, drawing Brentford and Bray before losing to Waterford. A home win over Birmingham became their only victory of pre-season, before losses to Tranmere and Manchester City. However, many of these losses and draws can be attributed to having both a new coaching staff (with Rodolfo Borrell as head coach) and many new players who were previously in the U18's. Several players who played with the Reserves towards the end of last year (such as Joe Cole and Christian Poulsen) were also omitted from the side as Dalglish and Comolli attempt to sell them. As last years U18 stars like Raheem Sterling and Krisztian Adorjan adapt to the Reserve side, the results should improve. And it it may not be as true as it is at the U18 level, but the belief that developing players is more important than getting results still applies.
As for the U18's, they enjoyed a much more successful start to pre-season than the Reserves, winning their first six games by a combined score of 33-3, before winning away to Middlesbrough 1-0 and drawing Watford 0-0. The U18's continued their (relatively) poor form into the first game of the NextGen series, losing 0-3 to Sporting Lisbon, then drawing the first U18 League game 0-0 against Cardiff. With many of last years U16 side making the move up, the current U18 side is a good mix of youth and "experience." When they can find their top form again, they'll surely start to dominate opposing youth teams once again.