Andy Robertson not concerned with Liverpool using youngsters on ‘biggest stage’

By Sports Desk February 26, 2024

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson rejected suggestions that throwing youngsters into the heat of a Carabao Cup final against a billion-pound Chelsea squad was a risk.

In truth manager Jurgen Klopp had little option after his list of injured players grew to 12 when Ryan Gravenberch was carried off on a stretcher after 30 minutes of the 1-0 extra-time win at Wembley.

He had been forced to select six youngsters on the bench – one of them, Trey Nyoni, is only 16 – with no sign of any of his absent senior stars being ready to return.

The 19-year-old Bobby Clark was the most experienced of them, making his ninth substitute appearance, James McConnell, also 19, came on for his seventh game while 18-year-old Jayden Danns, who only made his debut as an 89th-minute substitute against Luton on Wednesday, was centre-forward for the final 33 minutes.

When another academy graduate Jarell Quansah, who has been third-choice centre-back this season, came on in extra time Liverpool had five players – Harvey Elliott the other – aged 21 or under on the pitch.

But their youthful exuberance injected new life into a team which, after a draining fixture in midweek, looked out for the count and that allowed them to stay in the game until the 118th minute when Virgil van Dijk headed home the only goal.

“The academy has been put to use over the last two games, that’s for sure, but they did a tremendous job,” said Robertson after Liverpool extended their own record to 10 League Cup wins.

“We didn’t believe it was a risk. What else are we meant to do? That was our bench and the quality they have we can see at the training ground every day. We just wanted them to express themselves and that is what we tried to help them with.

“Credit to the academy coaches, how much hard work they have put in to produce these players, but also the experienced players and manager and coaches who have said ‘Go out and play with freedom on the biggest stage. Go and enjoy it and don’t come off with any regrets’ and I think they all did that.

“Bobby Clark, James, they were all different class but Bobby really took the game by the scruff of the neck. He showed composure as well. It’s incredible.

“It is about showing up on the biggest stage and they don’t get much bigger than that. Some of the lads have not even played a full game for the first team but they go on and play so well.”

Klopp has a good record of giving youth a chance but what is equally important as opportunity is attitude and Robertson believes the club have created the perfect environment for them to flourish.

“That comes from the coaches driving that into them and then when they come into the first team it is not allowing them to get too far ahead of themselves,” added the Scotland captain.

“I think the squad is really good at that but also the coaches, they don’t give them too much, too soon and I think that’s key to it.

“It also comes from their own mentality. They are all good kids who want to do well and when they have been given the opportunity you could see the excitement in them when they woke up they knew they were going to get a chance.

“That is all you can ask from young lads; they are going to make mistakes but it is up to us to help them and they were spot on.”

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