The youngest starting XI in Liverpool’s long and illustrious history made headlines this week after securing the club’s passage to the fifth round of the FA Cup, the youthful Reds beating Shrewsbury 1-0 in a fourth-round replay at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s decision to abide by the Premier League‘s winter break saw a team made up entirely of development squad players take the field against the League One side, a team with an average age of just 19 years and 102 days earning a hard fought 1-0 victory under the guidance of U23 manager Neil Critchley.
Following the win, we’ve decided to profile some of the inexperienced players who impressed during a memorable night for the Merseyside club, here are five of Liverpool‘s young FA Cup heroes with big futures ahead of them…
The youngest captain in Liverpool’s history, midfielder Jones would be handed the armband against Shrewsbury just five days after his 19th birthday.
The Toxteth-born talent had already made headlines earlier in the competition, scoring a stunning Merseyside derby winner in the third round against Everton before again finding himself on the scoresheet in the first drawn clash with Shrewsbury.
Trusted as the youthful leader of this side Jones was a stand-out player at Anfield, possessing the charisma and character to match his evidently precious talents.
I knew Curtis Jones was decent, but I think I’ve underestimated just how talented a player he is. Brilliant again tonight.
— Ben Webb (@BenWebbLFC) February 4, 2020
Confidence personified, Jones treated the home crowd to a range of tricks and skills, including one rabona cross in a performance that is unlikely to be his last in the senior set-up.
Amongst the top goalscorers in the UEFA Youth League this season, the creative midfielder has been likened to Adam Lallana and could be the man to replace the 31-year-old in Klopp’s plans if – as expected – he departs in search of regular minutes this summer.
One of the collection of youth team stars included in the first-team set up this season, Williams would make his senior debut in the thrilling 5-5 draw with Arsenal in the Carabao Cup in October, providing a last-minute assist for Divock Origi’s equaliser, before playing in each of the club’s three FA Cup fixtures thus far.
The Welsh youth international has showed a maturity beyond his years in his first appearances in Liverpool colours, and would be the club’s biggest goal threat in the win over Shrewsbury from right-back, marauding forward and firing several efforts on goal.
Neco Williams man of the match for me. Impresses me every time he plays. An incredible talent.
— Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) February 4, 2020
Previously a winger before being converted into a full-back, Williams retains those attacking instincts and has enjoyed a meteoric rise of late, with Wales fans even clamouring for his early inclusion in the senior side for Euro 2020 following his breakthrough at club level.
Jurgen Klopp prefers to use young players as back-up options rather than largely dormant senior replacements for his first XI, and Williams has stated his case to be the club’s deputy to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The youngest player afield at just 16-years-old, Elliott would become the youngest player in Premier League history at Fulham last season prior to his summer switch to Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s side would beat off competition from several of Europe’s leading clubs to sign the talented teenager, and look to have secured a real coup following his early performances in a red shirt.
Elliott struggled to get into the game during the first fixture against Shrewsbury but provided a reminder of his qualities in the replayed fixture, driving down the right-hand side and linking with Liverpool’s other attacking stars.
Left-footed but playing predominantly from the right-hand side, Elliott cuts inside at will and brings an x-factor to the attack, committing defenders with surging runs and mazy dribbles.
He would make headlines in recent weeks with an audacious goal for the club’s U23 side, whilst the technically gifted youngster already looks comfortable at senior level, Elliott undoubtedly possessing the potential to be a superstar in the making.
— David Lynch (@dmlynch) January 30, 2020
Quietly being tipped as a player with a huge future amongst the academy ranks at Anfield, Liverpool would secure the signing of the Netherlands youth international for a minimal compensation fee, beating off competition from several Premier League rivals to sign the defender from Ajax.
Having quickly risen through the youth levels on Merseyside, he would be handed his first-team against Wolves in last season’s FA Cup, becoming the third youngest player in the club’s history.
This season has seen the 18-year-old make three further senior appearances, including helping the side to a clean sheet at centre-back against Shrewsbury and scoring his first goal for the club in the 2-0 Carabao Cup victory at MK Dons in September.
Capable of playing centrally or right-back, Hoever is a versatile defender who has also played further forward as he continues his development, and has shown an assuredness and composure during his first senior outings.
His physical development will perhaps determine his position long term, however, his pace, passing ability and aerial prowess mark him out as one for the future.
Excellent performance. Loved the aggression he and Van den Berg showed, attacking the ball, doing the basics but always making sure they tried to find play out too. https://t.co/nTESZ75uSo
— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) February 5, 2020
Sepp van den Berg
Is this the night Van den Berg arrived as a Liverpool player?
The centre-back had hardly covered himself in glory in his fleeting appearances since arriving at Anfield last summer, in truth, it had been somewhat of a sh*tshow.
Many had been quick to write off the teenage defender following his shaky start, but against Shrewsbury he delivered comfortably his best performance yet, demonstrating a composure on the ball and proving a threat in either box.
Having only turned 18 in December of last year, Van den Berg has a long way to go to become a regular first-team player, but is in the right place to learn with compatriot and Ballon d’Or runner-up Virgil van Dijk in the club’s ranks.
Already a towering presence who is likely to still be growing, Van den Berg would show maturity as Liverpool closed out the victory against Shrewsbury, winning each of his headers and showing maturity in organising his teammates around him.
Bayern Munich had made a late bid to persuade him to move to Germany as he completed his medical on Merseyside last summer, and this is the kind of showing which will have attracted Europe’s elite to his talents.