Liverpool’s youngsters got the job done this week against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fourth-round replay.
With Jurgen Klopp and the senior players absent from the match as they were on their two-week winter break, it was left to Neil Critchley and the club’s younger players to try and progress. The team that ended up taking the field was the youngest in the club’s history, but it didn’t stop them from winning 1-0.
The likes of Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott are names not uncommon to the Liverpool supporters, but Leighton Clarkson is perhaps one who they have not heard so much about. However, the midfielder put in an extremely impressive display, managing two key passes, a 91% pass completion rate and three tackles.
His display will come as no surprise to those in the know at Melwood and Anfield, though. Even as a 17-year-old last year, he was invited to train with the senior side, and he drew great praise from Pep Lijnders, Jurgen Klopp’s assistant manager. He said: “Leighton Clarkson, who sees with his own eyes the constant runs of Sadio and Mo in behind. He has the capacity to play the passes these type of forwards like to receive, he is the type of No.6 we really like, the one who can dictate play, but dictate with direction, who can speed up the tempo of the positional play, the one who has always time on the ball.”
Matt Addison, of the Blood Red podcast, compared him to Jordan Henderson, but he appears to have a bit more of an attacking threat to his game than the Liverpool captain. Even in just eight games so far this term in the Premier League 2, he has four assists, whilst he managed four goals and six assists in 21 U18 Premier League matches last term as well. The most assists Henderson has managed in a season since 2014/15 is five.
He now has two appearances under his name this year for the senior side and, with Liverpool still in the FA Cup, Clarkson could feature once again in the near future. Beyond that, though, he will surely be targeting Henderson’s place in the starting line-up. At 29 years of age, the former Sunderland man does not have all of the time in the world left at the top. Aged 18, Clarkson has plenty of time to develop and eventually become the perfect successor to the England international. You already know Jones and Elliott – it is perhaps time to become more familiar with this youngster as well.