Liverpool boast one of football’s most sophisticated analytics teams, led by Michael Edwards, with Tottenham‘s loss their gain when it came to a director of research.
The Reds have become renowned for their nuanced approach to recruitment, with this allowing them to get the best of a difficult market in recent years.
This has led to many those brought in exceeding expectations, with Firmino a prime example having been plucked from Hoffenheim, where he was operating as an attacking midfielder, to establish himself as one of the world’s best No. 9s.
Edwards, in his role as sporting director, gets much of the credit for the club’s excellent business in terms of incomings, outgoings and new contracts, but there is a team working under the 40-year-old who also deserve praise.
Ian Graham is one of those, with the University of Cambridge graduate fronting a six-strong team that focuses on data analysis, including recruitment.
Graham has been credited with identifying Salah and Naby Keita as primary targets for the club, while one of his first duties was studying Philippe Coutinho ahead of his £8.5 million move from Inter Milan in 2013.
He joined Liverpool in 2012, after four years of consultancy with Tottenham—where he first met Edwards—and speaking to the club’s official website, Graham explained how Edwards, John W. Henry and Damien Comolli all had a role to play in his switch.
“Part of Damien’s first attempt to build something at Liverpool was to get someone in who could do the football interpretation and video side, but also understand the data side and make a judgment on whether the quality of the analysis is any good or not,” he said.
“He asked us if we knew anyone who could do this sort of job and we mentioned Michael’s name as a possibility, given that we’d worked with him at Spurs, and he took Michael to Liverpool in late 2010 or early 2011 or something like that.
“It was only after Damien left that Michael and the owners decided that…they could ask me if I wanted to work directly for Liverpool, which happened in April 2012.”
This fulfilled a long-term ambition for Graham, who explained: “When I heard the news that John Henry had bought Liverpool back in 2010 I thought, ‘Liverpool is the place to be’.”
A series of changes behind the scenes, including the promotion of Edwards and the instalment of an analytics team with Graham at the forefront, have given the Reds an advantage over many of their rivals.
Comolli’s stint as director of football can be considered a dry run, as FSG got to grips with life as owners of a top-level football club, but now the setup has been refined and the club are reaping the benefits.
Effectively poaching both Edwards and Graham from Tottenham has proved a masterstroke, allowing them to steal a march on the north London side when it comes to recruitment.
Liverpool are now a well-oiled machine under FSG, Edwards and Jurgen Klopp, and the establishment of such a strong analytics staff—who also focus on tactical data as well as research—has been one of their biggest positives.
It is the product of a series of successes, from Moneyball to Edwards’ blossoming reputation as sporting director, that has made Anfield an elite destination.
So begins Jan Molby’s homage to the ninth selection in his Ultimate XI, the left-winger he has chosen to complete a midfield also comprising no lesser names than Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard and Michel Platini.
A man with whom Molby shared a dressing room at Anfield for almost nine years, one whose talents he describes with an unconcealed awe.
“I feel sorry for the people who didn’t quite see enough of this guy,” the Great Dane explains.
“When he arrived at Liverpool in 1987 and for the years until he unfortunately ruptured his Achilles tendon, he was as good as anything in the world. And I’m talking, at the time, with the likes of Platini and Maradona. John Barnes was right up there.
“When he arrived at Anfield you realised he plays the game in his head, with his brain. Tactically, very astute. He knew exactly what was needed at any given time.
“And, of course, he could play in a number of positions. He could play up front, he was a great front man. Eventually he became a central midfield player.
“John Barnes, I don’t know what else to say – go on YouTube and have a look, the man was absolutely sensational.”
Ultimate XI is a new LFCTV series in which we ask former Reds to put together a star cast of legends they encountered during their own career in the game.
The rules are simple: the team must include five players they played with, five they played against and a wildcard that does not fit into either category.
The decisions? Not quite so easy.
Find out the men Molby selected to fill his 4-4-2 formation in the full 20-minute episode via LFCTV GO below. App users should click here to access the video.
Not yet signed up to LFCTV GO? Begin a FREE one-month trial now and enjoy exclusive Reds content. You can also cancel at any time.
The LFC Lotto returns this week ahead of the Merseyside derby and fans can be in with the chance of winning some fantastic prizes while also supporting the club’s charity, LFC Foundation.
The game gives fans the chance to win some amazing signed Reds memorabilia and big cash prizes - with every draw this season featuring a shirt signed by a first-team player.
This week’s LFC Lotto has a signed Virgil van Dijk shirt up for grabs as well a big cash prize for one lucky Red.
Fifty per cent of net proceeds from the LFC Lotto will help fund LFC Foundation’s Military Veterans programme and Men’s Health projects, which support hundreds of local men every year.
To date this season, the LFC Lotto has raised over £62,000 for the LFC Foundation and other local community groups including most recently the North Liverpool Foodbank in support of the club’s COVID-19 ‘Unity is Strength’ community response work.
LFC Lotto tickets are available now ahead of Sunday's meeting with Everton, the Reds' first game following the restart of the Premier League season.
Online entries are open now here. Entries close on Saturday June 20 at 8pm BST. Please note that players must be aged 16+.
Be Gamble Aware - https://www.begambleaware.org
Mainz have provided a positive injury update on Taiwo Awoniyi following the Liverpool loanee’s clash of heads, on a weekend that brought heavy defeat for Marko Grujic.
Concerns were raised over Awoniyi after the Nigerian fell to the turf following a collision with Augsburg defender Felix Uduokhai early on in Mainz’s 1-0 home defeat on Sunday.
The 22-year-old was stretchered off in a neck brace and taken directly to the university hospital, but regained consciousness and was responsive while undergoing tests.
Mainz have now confirmed that Awoniyi suffered a concussion, spending the night in the hospital as a precautionary measure, and the striker issued a positive update on the club’s official website.
“The last thing I can remember from the incident is how I hit the ball with my head, then I passed out,” he explained.
“It was difficult for me to regain consciousness on the field and be really awake.
“And it also took a little while before I could remember everything. But I feel much better now.
“I would like to praise our medical department at Mainz 05 and the Mainz University Medical Center. They looked after me very well.
“And I thank our dear God who protected me in this situation and made everything possible for me anyway.
“Unfortunately I will not be able to help my team on the pitch at Dortmund, but I will support them as much as I can.
“Together we will give everything for the fans and avoid relegation, I’m sure of that!”
Awoniyi’s absence will be a big blow for Mainz as they take on Dortmund on Wednesday night, with just three games left to play as they aim to fight off relegation to 2.Bundesliga.
He had claimed a regular starting spot in recent weeks, but now will be forced to watch from the sidelines as Jurgen Klopp‘s old club look to finish above the likes of Fortuna Dusseldorf, Werder Bremen and Paderborn.
It is not the first time a Liverpool loanee has suffered a head injury this season, with Kamil Grabara ruled out for an extended period due to a bleed on the brain inflicted in Huddersfield’s 2-1 win over Hull back in January.
The Pole has since recovered but has lost his place in the side to Jonas Lossl, though it is likely he will remain at the John Smith’s Stadium for the remainder of the season.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, Saturday brought a big loss for Grujic and Hertha Berlin, who scored first but went down for a 4-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Dedryck Boyata’s sending-off at the end of the first half proved decisive, as Frankfurt netted four after the break to leapfrog Hertha into 10th.
Grujic played all 90 minutes in his 28th appearance of the season, but was left frustrated in one of his final outings before returning to Merseyside.
There was also defeat for Nat Phillips in the German second tier, as Stuttgart continue their disappointing attempt at promotion since the restart with a third loss in six games, this time away to Karlsruher SC.
Phillips has started just once in that six-game run, and been an unused substitute in four, but at least came off the bench for the final four minutes on Sunday.
The loss leaves Stuttgart a point behind second-placed Hamburg with three games left to play to secure their return to the top flight.
Dejan Lovren has reflected on the scale of Anfield ahead of the Liverpool’s return, and insisted they are focused on their “main target” despite the absence of fans.
The Reds are back in action on Sunday, with the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, before their first game back at Anfield next Wednesday night against Crystal Palace.
There is little pressure on Liverpool to get the job done early given their 25-point lead over City, but they will be eager to do so as soon as possible regardless.
Without fans, it will certainly be a different experience at Anfield, and ahead of another training session at the stadium on Sunday, Lovren took in the sights of empty stands that will become familiar over the coming weeks:
Today before training session I thought myself how massive this stadium is, today peaceful and quiet, but on match days on fire. Hopefully in the near future will play again in front of our supporters. It will not be the same without you, but we know what is our main target! YNWA pic.twitter.com/QZrFHApWc2
— Dejan lovren (@Dejan06Lovren) June 14, 2020
The sentiment is clear: the impact of a sold-out Anfield on Liverpool’s game is significant, and now Liverpool will need to adapt to playing in front of only their team-mates, opponents, coaches and stadium staff.
That “fire” of a roaring Kop will be lacking, but Jordan Henderson has already insisted “if you have the right mindset the intensity can be as high as you want it to be,” and Lovren signed off with a similar message.
Liverpool know their “main target” in the next nine games.
Firstly, and most crucially, it is to clinch the title; and secondly, they will be looking to finish the campaign as strongly as possible, and possibly with an all-time record points tally.
City currently hold that distinction, with their 100 points from the 2017/18 season, with Liverpool needing 18 more from a possible 27 to match that, and 19 or more to beat it.
Though it is a lofty target, the Reds are also 24 points off the all-time record across the English football pyramid, with Reading totalling 106 points from 46 games in the Championship in 2005/06.
The Reds have dropped just four points all season, and if they pick up where they left off that is not out of the realms of possibility—but it should certainly not be the focus at this stage.
Watch each of the 52 goals Liverpool scored during the 2014-15 Premier League season in our YouTube compilation.
In Steven Gerrard’s final campaign with the Reds, Brendan Rodgers’ side took sixth place in the division, with the skipper their top scorer.
See every strike again below…
It has now been over three months since the Reds were last in action, and by Sunday’s Merseyside derby, it will have been 103 days since their last game.
After an unprecedented break, Jurgen Klopp‘s side looked to be eager to impress as they put Blackburn to the sword with a 6-0 friendly win last week, as they bid to restore momentum in the title charge.
Such a lengthy spell without football has led to concerns over how games will be played—particularly sides like Liverpool, who employ an intensive pressing game—but Henderson believes that will not be an issue, even behind closed doors.
“When you were little and you used to play for your school there was no crowd watching then really,” Henderson told Chris McLoughlin for the Liverpool FC Magazine.
“So you’ve just got to enjoy your football and appreciate that we are able to go back doing what we love doing
“We’ve got to embrace that and make the best out of the situation that we can. The intensity can still be at a high level.
“If you have the right mindset the intensity can be as high as you want it to be.
“In that sense, when we do return, I expect the intensity to be high and the football enjoyable to watch.”
One issue with maintaining the intensity, Henderson feels, will be curbing his bad language, with the captain wary that without the noise of the crowd, microphones will be able to pick up every word.
“For the players it will be different playing in a big game in a stadium where there’s no crowd because you can hear everybody talking,” he continued.
“Again, we’ve got to adapt to that situation and try to keep the swearing down to a minimum.
“I’m more worried about my language when I’m playing! I don’t want to be having to apologise to everybody after every single game so I need to be careful, especially in the heat of the game.
“I’m sure the manager will have to be careful with his language as well!
“But he’ll also know we can’t blame the crowd for not being able to hear what he’s saying at certain times of the game.”
It is a minor concern that few fans will be genuinely worried about, particularly if Liverpool are back in form and winning games on their way to a first Premier League title.
The Reds' official charity, LFC Foundation, will launch its new virtual schools transition programme 'Step-Up' today to help support pupils returning to school after such a long time away, and those moving from primary to secondary education.
The ‘Step-Up’ scheme will provide online presentations and five live sessions each week (1pm-2pm, Monday to Friday) covering six key themes, including motivation, confidence and self-esteem, coping strategies and resilience, communication, goal setting and aspiration, and the importance of routines.
The targeted programme, which has been developed by LFC Foundation’s mental health lead and school coordinators, allows pupils to participate online either as individuals or within a class session.
The five-week ‘Step-Up’ programme will be available to those in years 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 across the Liverpool City Region, providing more than 25 hours of support work to help local pupils prepare for returning to school.
It has been made possible by funding secured from the Steve Morgan Foundation’s Emergency Fund, which was set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help support north west charities and not-for-profit companies.
Matt Parish, director at LFC Foundation, said: “Returning to school after a long period of absence, or changing from primary school to secondary school, can be a very stressful and anxious time for pupils, especially those from vulnerable or disadvantaged backgrounds. When you then add the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to this it becomes very clear that our children and young people need the right support more than ever.
“This new programme provides remote targeted mental health support alongside advice and guidance on important key skills, which will aim to help pupils going through this transition back to school or to a new secondary school.
“The team and I are really excited to launch ‘Step-Up’ next week within schools across Merseyside that we currently work with across the Liverpool City Region, and we hope to provide essential support to local pupils.”
The list of players to score over 100 goals for Liverpool is below 20, and as Jeff Goulding continues his Men Who Made Liverpool series he profiles the very first, Sam Raybould.
It’s 1900, and the Second Boer War has helped secure the Conservative party a victory in what was dubbed the ‘khaki election’. Winston Churchill is elected to represent the Oldham constituency, and the newly formed Labour party sees two of its candidates elected to parliament: Keir Hardie in Merthyr Tydfil and Richard Bell in Derby. The government had only just got round to deciding that children shouldn’t work in mines and arsenic poisoning in beer kills 70 people in the north-west of England.
Meanwhile, in the Second Division of English football, outside-right Sam Raybould, playing for New Brighton Tower, is attracting the attention of Liverpool scouts.
Born in 1875 in Chesterfield, Raybould is already something of a veteran at the age of 24. He had by now played for six different clubs, including Derby County, before arriving on Merseyside. And he was something of a goal machine. In just 13 games for New Brighton he scored 10 goals. Tom Watson, the Liverpool manager and a man with an eye for talent, had seen enough. Liverpool would pay the Second Division outfit £250 for his services.
Watson’s Reds had been on an upward trajectory since he took over in 1896. They had narrowly missed out on the championship of the First Division to Aston Villa at the end of the 1898/99 season. Perhaps the Reds’ manager felt he needed a goalscorer. His men had managed an impressive goal average of 1.48 per game but Villa’s average of 1.9 took the spoils. Watching Raybould score for fun in the second tier of English football, ‘Owd Tom’ immediately saw a new Liverpool centre-forward in the making. The switch in position would eventually prove a masterstroke.
Sam made 11 appearances for Liverpool during his first season at the club, scoring seven times. His first game came in a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at Anfield, on January 13, 1900. Hugh Morgan would get both goals for the Reds that day, and Raybould had been noticed for all the wrong reasons. In a report featured in the Lancashire Evening Post, the gentlemen of the press detected a hint of nerves may explain his profligacy in front of goal:
“Raybould did not make an altogether successful first appearance for Liverpool against West Bromwich Albion.
“He missed two glorious open goals – worked for them hard, worked his way right up to Reader, and then failed to score in the simplest fashion.
“It is that final touch, though, that shows the true artist.”
The last sentence suggests they had spotted real potential and the rest of the match report is somewhat sympathetic, with favourable comparisons to the great George Allen who had scored 56 goals in 96 appearances for the Reds. The match report noted:
“He is the most likely successor to George Allan that Liverpool have yet had.
“He will not make the local public forget Allan – they cherish his memory too much for that. But I rather think the recollection of the Kyles and Hunters has been blotted out, and that Raybould will prove to be that centre-forward for whom Liverpool have been searching high and low.”
The Liverpool Mercury overlooked Raybould’s wastefulness and preferred to focus on his contribution to the team overall, and felt that he had helped the team completely “overrun” the visitors. Liverpool had scoured the country for a new forward, and yet he had been lurking across the water, on the Wirral, the whole time. Journalists noted the irony with some humour.
This was clearly a player of some ability and his capture was something of a coup. The following week he would line up against Everton at Goodison Park in front of 30,000 people. Unfortunately, Liverpool would succumb to a 3-1 defeat, but Raybould would bag his first goal in the first minute of the game.
The goal came after a shot from Alex Raisbeck was parried and Raybould profited from the resulting goalmouth struggle. Liverpool held on to their lead for 68 minutes, but three goals in six minutes saw Everton take both points. Sam would bide his time during the remainder of the season, and his breakthrough would come in the championship-winning season of 1900/01.
He would make 31 appearances as the Reds raced to their first-ever league title, scoring 17 goals. He was now a league champion and a firm favourite with Liverpool supporters, but there would be more to come in a career that would yo-yo between the First and Second Divisions.
Raybould would bag 31 league goals in the 1902/03 season—his best for the Reds. However, his career would then be mired in controversy when he became embroiled in scandal. Effectively, he would be accused of accepting a ‘bung’ to sign for Portsmouth along with fellow Reds, John Glover and William Goldie. After a lengthy argument, it was decided that the move was illegal and Raybould received a seven-month ban and was prohibited from ever signing for Pompey.
Liverpool missed him and by the time his ban was over on New Year’s Eve, 1903, they were locked in a fight for survival. The club, though, seemed to have forgiven his apparent disloyalty. An extract from an article in the Illustrated Police News from December 12, 1903, and published on playupliverpool.com, suggests Tom Watson had ensured nobody else could get his player by securing his return before any other club could swoop:
“There has been some secret rejoicing in Liverpool over the recapture of Samuel Raybould, who signed on again for Mr T. Watson last Tuesday, so that any other club would have to be very early astir to have ‘captured’ him again. Parkinson is admittedly a promising substitute but he is no Raybould.”
Though the club had clearly not crowed about the recapture of their star striker, perhaps conscious that his reputation had been tarnished, it’s easy to understand why Liverpool were so willing to forgive and forget. He had been an integral part of their success to date and Watson would have seen that he had no ready-made replacement in the wings. The reference to Jack Parkinson being “no Raybould” in the snippet above is clear evidence of that.
In truth, with football in its infancy, rules on transfers appearing to be vague, and wages precarious and relatively low, attitudes to players jumping ship may have been different then, at least when it came to their managers and fellow team-mates. Watson himself had indulged in poaching players from other clubs, most notably north of the border in Scotland—an activity he referred to as “hunting for men.” He may well have seen this sort of thing as all just part of the game.
It appears that supporters and others in the game of football saw things differently though. This is evidenced by a biography of Raybould published in a Liverpool match programme on December 17, 1904. The opening paragraph talks of Raybould receiving a huge amount of criticism:
“We know of no other player who has been so adversely criticised, and in our opinion so unnecessarily so, than Sam Raybould.”
It must have taken very broad shoulders for Sam to have returned to a club he had sought to leave, and to weather the barrage of criticism that came his way. Surely, the support of his manager and team-mates would have been critical. And, as we can see from the above quote, the club threw its full weight behind him too.
Raybould managed four goals in 15 games after his return. However, by now the team were in free fall and suffered relegation in 1904. It seemed life was crashing down all around him. At home, his marriage to wife Selina was in trouble. The pair had three children, and she was said to have been an alcoholic. Perhaps this played a part in him accepting an inducement to move to the south coast.
He would eventually successfully sue for separation in 1910, on the grounds that his wife was a “habitual drunkard.” Sam won custody of the children and agreed to pay Selina 15 shillings a week. These would have been incredibly difficult times for the family.
Nevertheless, with the help of Raybould’s exploits up front, Liverpool bounced back from the pain of the previous season by winning the Second Division title in 1905. And Sam’s appearances and goals had made a significant contribution. In all, he featured 32 times and scored 19 times. The club’s promotion set the scene for their second First Division championship in 1906.
Sam would feature 25 times for Liverpool in that title-winning team and still weighed in with a very creditable 11 goals. The Reds had been worthy winners, having been crowned champions some four points clear of Preston North End. However, by now Raybould was almost 31 years of age. The following season would be his last at Anfield, before Watson transferred him to his old club, Sunderland.
Sam featured 35 times in the 1906/07 season and scored 15 league goals. He would continue his exploits in the north-east and undoubtedly Liverpool missed him. According to LFChistory.net:
“Raybould was a strong and powerful striker with a wonderful turn of speed, good ball control and was praised for his daring rushes up-field and judicious distribution of play to the wingers, but first and foremost, his deadly scoring capacity.”
He appears to have been an extraordinary player. So good, Tom Watson signed him twice, and forgave him for leaving the club for greener pastures. He became the first Liverpool player to score 100 goals and he managed that feat in 162 games. In all, Raybould scored 130 times for Liverpool, and he did that in a career that spanned 226 games.
Sam may have looked to leave Liverpool for financial reasons, but surely his goals-to-games ratio means we should let that go. At Anfield, he won two First Division titles and the Second Division once. I would argue that makes him one of the men who made Liverpool.
Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi was stretchered off in Mainz’s Bundesliga loss to Augsburg, having suffered a head injury following a collision in the box.
The 22-year-old was making his fourth consecutive start for Jurgen Klopp‘s former side, who went behind in the first minute to Florian Niederlechner’s improvised finish.
With Mainz chasing an equaliser, Awoniyi leapt to challenge for a cross into the penalty area, clashing heads with the onrushing Felix Uduokhai.
Awoniyi appeared to be knocked out as he fell to the turf and landed on his neck, unable to break his own fall, and was then stretchered off after a neck brace was applied.
The Nigerian was responsive as he left the pitch, however, and was taken directly to the university hospital three miles away, where will undergo further testing to assess his injury.
45' Taiwo #Awoniyi ist ansprechbar und auf dem Weg ins Krankenhaus. Wir drücken die Daumen, dass es nicht so schlimm ist und dass es ihm schnell wieder besser geht. ? @1FSVMainz05 #M05FCA pic.twitter.com/5dvInhKWpy
— FC Augsburg (@FCAugsburg) June 14, 2020
Head injuries should always be taken seriously, but the hope is that Awoniyi’s issue is not too severe as he had just come into form as part of Mainz’s forward line.
Coming off the bench to score in a 2-2 comeback against Koln in the first game back in the Bundesliga, Awoniyi was again a substitute in the 5-0 loss to RB Leipzig but then started against each of Union Berlin, Hoffenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg.
This came after a frustrating campaign prior to the restart that saw him play just 147 minutes in six outings across seven-and-a-half months, and his attitude has been praised by sporting director Rouven Schroder.
“He could actually say: ‘I’ll be gone in the summer anyway’. But instead, he says: ‘Guys, what can we do?’,” Schroder said of Mainz’s relegation battle.
Schroder described him as “a boy who speaks for the team,” with Mainz already hoping to extend his stay at the Opel Arena—though whether that is on a permanent basis or another loan remains to be seen.
It certainly comes a bit late for Liverpool, who were hoping Awoniyi would be given enough game time to aid his bid to qualify for a UK work permit.
He is unlikely to have a long-term future at Anfield, but this injury presents another setback as he attempts to find his home at senior level.
Mainz should provide another update on Awoniyi’s condition in the near future.
The Premier League are considering the use of ‘COVID-19 passport’ technology that could speed up the process of allowing supporters back into stadiums in the future.
It has already been revealed that the top flight are in talks with the government and medical experts over the safe return of fans to stadiums.
There is even hope that there could be crowds for the FA Cup final on August 1—albeit minimal—which would boost the chances of attendances beyond the currently established 300 for the likes of players, staff and media.
To do so, clubs and supporters themselves would need to be assured of their safety, with mass gatherings still prohibited in the UK due to the risk of infection.
According to the Times, one possibility is the employment of ‘COVID-19 passports’, with fans taking a short test for coronavirus in the buildup to games and being given a laminate to allow entry if they are proven negative.
Two clubs are said to have held meetings with Hong Kong company PTG Pharmaceuticals, who claim to be able to provide 1.8 million tests per day, using a pinprick of blood to identify antigens.
Known as Quantum Dot, this test takes 20 minutes to produce results, and the plan would be for testing stations to be open at stadiums 72 hours before a game.
This would provide those involved with as close to a guarantee as possible that those attending would not be infected, with temperature checks also required before entry on matchday.
However, while this sounds like an ideal scenario, and could accelerate the return of fans to Premier League games, the cost and time required to conduct tests are held up as issues.
“Implementation would cost about £30 per supporter per game. The bill would be footed by clubs, fans or sponsors—or a combination of the three,” Jonathan Northcroft writes.
“It is also estimated that getting every fan through the match-day tests and disinfectant turnstiles would take two hours, based on a 50,000-capacity stadium with multiple entry points and a modern layout.”
PTG Pharmaceuticals are hoping for government approval of Quantum Dot next week, as the UK moves forward with plans to relax lockdown measures.
Northcroft relays word from one Premier League chairman describing the proposal as “ambitious,” with the belief that there could be “cheaper and easier ways to get fans into games.”
But at this stage, all parties remain “open-minded,” with the desire across the board for fans to be able to attend games as soon as is safely possible.
The 19-year-old is now settled as backup to the Reds’ first-choice right-back, which puts the club in a very strong position when it comes to a role that only five years ago was considered a problem position.
Having two youngsters vying for a shirt, with one already established among the world’s best and the other showing potential to compete, is a hugely profitable position for Liverpool.
And Inglethorpe expects Williams to “put pressure” on Alexander-Arnold following his rise through the ranks, crediting the Wrexham native’s mentality.
“In Neco’s mind, he won’t see himself as just there to make up the numbers,” he told The Athletic‘s James Pearce.
“He’s quiet and unassuming but he’s also a very determined young man. He will put pressure on Trent, I’ve got no doubt about that.
“I’d be very disappointed in Neco if he didn’t do that and I’d be disappointed in Trent if he didn’t recognise that.”
Inglethorpe described Williams as a “slow burner,” which is fair to say given there was little indication he would break through prior to this season.
The Wales youth international, who is already being considered by Ryan Giggs for a senior call-up, is “someone you want to be successful,” with his application endearing him to Klopp.
“Being a right-back is still a relatively new experience for him, as up until the under-16s he played as a winger,” Inglethorpe continued.
“He’s a quick learner and such a great lad. He takes everything in his stride.
“He’s a good boy. He’s never caused anyone at the academy a moment’s bother. He’s someone you want to be successful.”
It is heartening to hear such praise for Williams, who has clearly impressed with his attitude since making the step up to Melwood, along with his ability on the pitch in his five outings so far.
His performance on his debut in the League Cup win over Arsenal in October showed that he is capable of playing a similar role to Alexander-Arnold; he was more involved than any other player, both defensively and offensively.
Though right-back is a demanding duty at Liverpool, it seems there is every faith Williams can fulfil it and push the No. 66 for a starting spot.
Nathaniel Clyne will leave Liverpool on the expiry of his contract this summer, and the current circumstances have ensured it will be a lonely exit for the right-back.
Clyne is nearing the five-year anniversary of his £12.5 million from Southampton to Merseyside, but for only two of those years has he been a first-choice starter.
After a half-season loan with Bournemouth last term, Clyne was expected to seal a permanent exit, only to suffer an ACL injury on the Reds’ pre-season tour which has left him sidelined for the entire campaign.
He is now back in training but is doing so on his own, with the 29-year-old working on his fitness at an empty Kirkby facility, five miles away from the first team.
According to The Athletic‘s James Pearce, Clyne will leave the club on July 1, with there being no offer of a short-term extension following the delayed end to 2019/20.
Becoming a free agent, it will be a disappointing end to what was initially a strong run at Anfield, with 93 of his 103 appearances for the club coming in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
He had appeared to have finally solved the Reds’ long-term problem at right-back, and Klopp seemed to be a keen admirer of the No. 2.
But the reality of the current situation, and the competition for places at Liverpool, has left no room for sentiment, and recent reports have suggested West Ham will be Clyne’s next destination.
Any claim that this is a harsh decision by the powers that be would ignore the unique circumstances amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Not only have Liverpool been impacted financially, but the risk of infection has left Klopp to effectively pick a squad and stick with it for the remainder of the campaign, supplementing his senior group with young prospects.
To involve Clyne, having not played a minute’s football since the 3-2 loss to Dortmund in Notre Dame, back in July, would arguably be negligent.
It may seem unfair to exile the right-back from the senior squad, but this allows him to work on his fitness ahead of what could be his last big move.
With many clubs short of funds in the wake of the pandemic, free transfers will be increasingly valuable, and it is likely a host of sides have identified Clyne as a proven, readymade solution that would fit their budget.
Lonely it may be, but this seems the most sensible situation for Clyne as he enters his final weeks at Liverpool.