In our latest Academy column, we speak to Neil Critchley as the U19 squad prepare to take part in a prestigious end-of-season tournament in Germany.
We end a very encouraging Academy season for 2016-17 with a trip to Germany for the U19 squad. We are taking the boys back to Stemwede, which hosts the oldest academy tournament in Europe. We went to this tournament two years ago and managed to win it so it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to come back and defend the trophy. Some of the players we had in that tournament have gone on to make some great progress, like Sheyi Ojo and Cameron Brannagan. We beat Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final on penalties and we also won the final on penalties after another dramatic shootout, 6-5 against FC Nurnberg. We had a successful time and some great memories from it. This is a great tournament against some really tough opposition and hopefully it will be a nice way to end the season for the boys.
We are in a group along with SV Hamburg, Stuttgart and Galatasary while in the other group there is Tottenham Hotspur, Red Bull Brazil and Werder Bremen. There are some top-class opposition and it’s a really tough tournament to win. We play over three days and the matches only last 40 minutes. We have to hit the ground straight away and we have to play tournament football, which is slightly different to playing our normal league programme over 90 minutes. It is a great test for the boys and gives them a different format and style of games, which we feel is so important for their development. That is our main reason for going.
To play against not only the best teams in your country but also in Europe is really important. If these boys are going to play for Liverpool’s first team then it’s a world league. We have to benchmark our players against the best around, not just in this country, because ultimately that is who they will be playing against in the future. We are looking forward to seeing how our boys get on and how they compare to some of the other teams in the competition. We are taking a relatively young squad with us plus one or two slightly older boys so we will be a mixed team. We have trained well together during the past few days and the boys are raring to go.
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