Klopp backs teenage trio to play key roles in Liverpool title defence
It may have been an adage made famous by Matt Busby, an icon of their bitter rivals, but as Jurgen Klopp plans for Liverpool’s title defence next season, it is as appropriate today as it was when the late Manchester United manager said it all those years ago.
“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough” could be hung on the Anfield dressing room wall, at least as far as the development of precocious trio Neco Williams, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott is concerned.
And if, as is possible, the uncertainty of a summer transfer window badly affected by coronavirus limits Klopp’s ability to strengthen his title-winning squad, those youngsters could have key roles to play in his first-team squad next term.
“I’m not sure it’s about how high the stakes are, it’s about how ready are the boys?” Klopp said. “I never made the comparison of age. The age is one piece of information from 500 other pieces.”
In an entertaining draw with Burnley, two of the trio, full-back Williams and midfielder Jones, slotted seamlessly into a strong line-up and, more importantly for them personally, edged towards the five-appearance mark required to qualify for a league winner’s medal.
Williams (19), a north Wales-born product of the club’s academy, now has his five, while Liverpudlian native Jones (19) requires just one substitute appearance over his team’s last three games to join him.
Winger Elliott, arguably the most promising of the trio at 17, was signed from Fulham last summer. But, with just two substitute appearances to his name, he looks likely to miss out on a medal.
“Nothing,” said Klopp, when asked what areas the three needed to improve. “Just train with us and get used to different situations.”
Williams might have ended his second league start, and Jones his full debut, with victory had it not been for an outstanding display from the Burnley keeper Nick Pope.
Pope came to Anfield one clean sheet ahead of opposite number Alisson in the quest for the Golden Glove award and, after conceding an Andy Robertson header, could thank Jay Rodriguez’s equaliser for maintaining that lead.
“I gave Jay a hug,” said Pope, who is level with Manchester City’s Ederson with 14. “The Golden Glove would be something I would tell everyone about. But it really is a team effort.”