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The kids are alright for Klopp as he targets more Carabao Cup glory

“You cannot get to the final if you don’t use the boys,” Jurgen Klopp tells Sky Sports, ahead of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final Wembley showdown with Chelsea.

The success of Liverpool’s season so far has certainly been helped by the influence of the club’s young players and that has been plainly evident in this competition.

Four academy graduates featured in their opening tie against Leicester, as well as Ben Doak and Stefan Bajcetic, who were just 17 and 18 at the time. There were also four against Bournemouth and five in the win over West Ham. Jarell Quansah started all of those matches, while Conor Bradley became a fixture for the semi-finals against Fulham, playing in front of the ever-present goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.

With the second leg of the semis in the balance, Klopp turned to Bobby Clark – then 18 – to help Liverpool see it through.

Young players and academy graduates involved in Liverpool’s Carabao Cup run

  • Caoimhin Kelleher, age 25 – Academy
  • Jarell Quansah, 21 – Academy
  • Curtis Jones, 23 – Academy
  • Harvey Elliott, 20
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold, 25 – Academy
  • Ryan Gravenberch, 21
  • Ben Doak, 18
  • Luke Chambers, 19 – Academy
  • Conor Bradley, 20 – Academy
  • Bobby Clark, 19
  • Stefan Bajcetic, 19

It has been a hallmark of his time in charge of the club. Back in his first season, when Liverpool reached the 2016 Carabao Cup final, the homegrown Connor Randall, Brad Smith, Cameron Brannagan and Joao Teixeira, along with recruited youngster Jordon Ibe, all played a role on the road to Wembley.

There are many contributing factors to that policy of promoting the youth. One of them is harnessing the hunger of the kids.

“I almost want to have a team that’s really greedy on the competition,” says Klopp. “It makes sense you bring in fresh legs and fresh minds as well who really want to go for that and win this specific football game more than anything else in their life. That’s why it worked out now. Three years, two Carabao Cup finals, it’s not bad.”

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Speaking ahead of the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp spoke about the importance of the trophy and the winning feeling being as special as any other big final

There is also the necessity. With Liverpool competing on all fronts, there is a need to rotate – and opportunities occur.

“In the [first season] we had a lot of games with Europa League group stages and you have to rotate,” says Klopp. “Where can you? You want to win the game but you need to rest players and give opportunities to others.

“Two years ago when we won both [the FA Cup and Carabao Cup], it’s really special. You cannot go to the final if you don’t use the boys. Its not possible.

Jarell Quansah has started four or Liverpool's five Carabao Cup games this season
Image: Jarell Quansah has started four or Liverpool’s five Carabao Cup games this season

“We arrived here and played all competitions. The first season we had 63, 64 games. So all these young kids started immediately and we qualified for two finals.

“Brad Smith, Connor Randall… I’m still in contact with Pedro Chirivella playing in Nantes… and they helped us so much from the start.

“The outstanding ones, Trent [Alexander-Arnold] coming through, Curtis [Jones] coming through, Conor [Bradley], Jarell [Quansah], Caoimhin [Kelleher]… that’s wonderful now we can have a decent team with these kids and go – not for the world championship – but we can win football games with it. That’s really pleasing.”

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Klopp says this element – the opportunity given to the club’s young players and their ability to seize those chances – is part of what makes Liverpool special. He highlights academy boss Alex Inglethorpe for praise.

“Liverpool is a special club,” he says. “Not everyone on the outside has to see it like that. I’m inside, I can tell you. I come from outside so I can tell you: it’s a really special club, with a special history.

Conor Bradley delivered an all-action display against Fulham in the Carabao Cup
Image: Conor Bradley delivered an all-action display against Fulham in the Carabao Cup

“Even when our fans would like to spend more money and do this and that, I’m pretty sure deep down they are really happy we do it slightly different. A club of our size, we’re still so happy when a kid is coming through. That’s pretty special.

“In an ideal world they’re born in West Derby or have purple bins their whole childhood!

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp claims he has plenty of experience in dealing with disappointment after losing finals and suggests that in any other sport finishing with a silver medal is celebrated

“It’s not about me. I stood last week with Alex Inglethorpe, the head of the academy, and said I’m really pleased you still come here, the head of the best academy in the world! We were really laughing about it!

“It’s just so nice to have these kids around. This morning we had six kids in training and I thought ‘wow’ – and nobody on the outside knows their names yet. That’s really good.”

Klopp adds that “the future for this football club is bright” – but on Sunday the kids could help deliver silverware in the here and now.

Watch Chelsea vs Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday from 2pm; kick-off 3pm

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