Following his departure from the Liverpool U23’s and a new venture in Brazil as assistant manager of Sao Paulo, we had a quick chat with Michael Beale to ask a few questions about the Academy.
In the recent past, players elevated from the youth setup haven’t been making it to the first team as regulars – Talent breaking through such Rossiter, Flanagan, Suso, Robinson and many more have fallen away, failing miserably for our required standards. What do you think was the reason for this?
The team has constantly been in transition of building and trying to achieve. If you look at the current main starters of the first team. Sturridge, Firmino, Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum, Clyne, Mane, Coutinho, Henderson – they have all been brought in to provide champions league football on a regular basis. They have also been brought in for considerable amounts of money. In this moment it has been very difficult for the emerging talents in the squad to become regular players as the club has tried to compete quickly with the top four teams. Now we have a settled manager on a long contract we have a better chance for this development to happen and Jurgen has both spoken about this and shown he is willing to give these chances.
My big disappointment was Rossiter who deserved and should still be in the squad. Outside influences caused him to leave and I think there is a disappointment on both sides. He is a great kid and top player.
Before you left, who would you say was the 2nd most promising youngster in the youth setup after Connor Randall?
…That is difficult as one or two are yet to be revealed!! And are in that lovely place of being underneath the radar of the media and therefore developing everyday. But Trent Alexander has started to really push Clyne for a starting place and his performances have been very encouraging.
What are the top challenges that the LFC Academy faces ahead?
In regards to developing players as a first team regular then you have to look directly at the clubs you are competing against in England. For Liverpool, this is Man United, Chelsea, City, Spurs and Arsenal. Inside these big clubs it is very difficult to create a player from the Academy to becoming a first team regular before they are 22 or 23 years old. Why? – Because these clubs buy the best established players for the starting roles in the team. So a young Academy player doesn’t have to be the best English player, he has to compete with the best overseas players such as Coutinho, Mane or Firmino for a regular place. Also these players are much older and experienced in all areas of their game (technically, tactically, physically, mentally etc). So the challenges are huge. But there are some solutions to these challenges and I believe that Liverpool are making big steps and progress to realise these. For example, if you ever have the pleasure to speak or listen to Alex Inglethorpe or Pepijn Lijnders they explain the processes.
1) To create a one club playing style so that the young players can develop inside a structure they understand.
2) To develop individual player identity and self belief
3) To give trust and opportunities for the best young players at Melwood
4) To be patient and understand how elite players develop.
5) To manage the media expectation
Would you say it’s a good idea or not to merge the training of the Academy players and the first team squad as proposed recently?
A fantastic thing that will happen in the future for sure. I cannot wait to revisit the club one day and see this facility when built.
Can you describe Jurgen Klopp to me? What was your relationship like with him and how influential is he to the Academy?
My relationship with Jurgen was a very simple one. It was the exact relationship I had previously with Brendan Rodgers too, I would go over to Melwood once every week or two as our training was always at the same time as the first team to enable player movement between the two squads. Whenever I met him, he was fantastic with me and more importantly was excellent with the u23 players. He is a very positive person and you feel this in his presence. Most of my time at Liverpool I liaised with the assistant coaches of Marsh and then Lijnders. My relationship with both was excellent and this was something I was proud of and allowed the young boys to really gain opportunities. Both Marsh and Lijnders deserve huge credit for their role in this with respective managers. Under Jurgen – Me and Pep were in daily contact and are very close friends outside of the club also. We both had a huge passion for youth development and therefore our days were obsessed with promoting the young players forward. Alex Inglethorpe was the glue that brought everything together. An “older brother” to both of us who understands completely the process and development a young player must go through.
And lastly, do you miss England, and more particularly Liverpool? (Probably not given our current form)
I miss the city and club a lot and will return in December at the end of our season to see everyone. One day my dream is to return to the club in some capacity!
At this rate, by the time Michael returns to Liverpool all that will be left is a pile of ashes, a pair of glasses on the burnt turf and Buvac holding James Milner’s severed head on a stick after yet another cross hits the first man. Cheers for the interview good sir but please for your own sanity don’t return to this mess anytime soon. Thanks for reading guys.