We talked to Academy Director Alex Inglethorpe on his decision behind the recent treble Cheltenham Town loan and what sparks the decisions in the backroom when a loan is touted.
We also discussed the likelihood of other players leaving the Academy this month in search for more first team experience.
A lot has been made of the loan system that’s employed by Liverpool Football Club, both when it comes to letting players go and when recruiting, so we decided to talk to the people that know to find out a bit more about the thinking behind each decision.
Academy trio Lloyd Jones (centre back), Kevin Stewart (midfielder) and Jack Dunn (striker) all made their debuts for Cheltenham Town last week after only signing on loan at the club just 48 hours before kick-off, with both Stewart and Dunn scoring a goal apiece.
When questioned by The Bib Theorists on why Cheltenham Town was the chosen destination for the loan of the three talented youth players, Liverpool Academy Director Alex Inglethorpe insisted it was just a case of timing.
“I’ll be honest and say for a player’s first loan, when the phone rings, you take what you’re offered! It’s as simple as that really – within reason. I can completely understand that there is a reticence amongst first team managers in the Football League to take a young player on loan if it’s his first experience of being on loan at senior level. Often there’s a hesitancy there, so it’s very simple: go with the first option of where someone wants you, and to be fair to Paul Buckle [Cheltenham manager] he came and watched the players before he got the Cheltenham job and then was brave enough to not only loan but play all three when he did. You can’t ask for much more than that as a development coach but now the boys have to do what they’ve got to do and earn the right to get picked every week, perform and then earn interest elsewhere. Young players have got to amass appearances until somewhere down the line they get to where they want to be. There’s no formal link with Cheltenham even though it is a bit unusual to send three players to the same club at the same time; to me it just made sense to give Lloyd, Kevin and Jack their first taste of league football together. It seemed to work well on their debuts…
Inglethorpe continued to talk about the importance of picking the right loan and how they go about doing it at The Academy.
“The secret with any loan is knowing when they’re ready for the next challenge. Academy football is great and the top talents will get exposure to it from a young age; sometimes very young in cases like Jordan Rossiter. The trick is knowing when that system has then served its purpose; and, like anyone in life if you’re ambitious, you want the next step. We could keep the players back to try and win the U21s league and arguably we’d be as good as anyone in the country at that level if we did decide to do that, but our job here isn’t necessarily to win matches but instead develop players for our first team and Brendan. We have to accept that in 2015, as it is now, the challenges of getting a player into the first team are a a lot different to those ten or fifteen years ago, so it’s great when a Raheem Sterling is able to get his break though, but the Premier League would suggest that’s a rarity now.”
The newly-appointed Academy Director was keen to point out that loans can be considered a ‘leg-up’ towards where a player wants to be at the club.
“I’m convinced, and I know I’ve said it before, but these players have got to have a career before their Liverpool career. Now, that’s not the same for every single player but for some it is the truth. With players that I’ve worked with at Tottenham, who are just making their first steps into the Premier League now, some of them have followed that route, some of them haven’t – I’m talking about players like Kane, Bentaleb, Andros Townsend, Ryan Mason. Again it’s about finding the right opportunity at the right time.”
With that in mind, Alex then talked to The Bib Theorists about the likelihood of other players going out this January window and how he sees his plan unfolding in his new position.
“I’ve mapped out who I’d like to go out and get experience over the course of the next 24 months and when I think the opportunity will be right for the player. I don’t know [if that’s a standard amount of time to plan for]. That’s what I’d like to work with and identify when certain individuals need to further themselves – be it to look at how the first team are doing and fit in with them, or find something externally that fits in – I’d like to have a plan in my own mind when I think these guys need a new challenge. Like I said, I’m sure some of these guys will hugely benefit from being in a senior environment. Look at Jordon Ibe who is doing so well at Derby County: playing in front of big crowds, under a good manager, with a good team – I have a feeling that he’ll look a bit more attractive to our first team off the back of forty-fifty appearances that’ll come by the end of the season (if you add his Birmingham games too). Like most, he’ll be more attractive with that experience than without. If you look at Luis Suarez, he came to Liverpool off the back of, I think, 120 senior games; some of those in the Eredivisie, some at Nacional – he had to learn somewhere!”
Obviously the academy power now lies with Inglethorpe in his new role, but that hasn’t gone to his head and made it very clear that each decision is carefully thought through by a number of key members of staff, including the first team manager. It shows just how much a unit Liverpool has become in the backroom and how much they value each young player’s prospering career between them.
“Brendan gets involved, of course. He gets involved in everything; I wouldn’t want to make a decision without passing it through him. Then there’s our recruitment staff, our senior coaches – run it past as many people as you can to get a consensus; make sure we all agree that these guys are ready to play in a senior environment. We work as a team to make sure all these decisions are as spot on as we can get them, limiting failure is everything at this level.”
What do you think of Liverpool’s academy loan policy? Do you think Inglethorpe’s plans are the right ones? Comment below.