Meet the six kids who won Liverpool the Carabao Cup

FOOTBALL Meet the six kids who won Liverpool the Carabao Cup

Mark Kinyanjui 15:17 - 26.02.2024

Liverpool beat a Chelsea side worth over a billion pounds of transfer kitty investment with kids on Sunday night, but who exactly are they?

Under extraordinary circumstances, Liverpool secured their latest Carabao Cup trophy in the Jurgen Klopp era on Sunday evening. 

The match took an unexpected turn when Ryan Gravenberch had to be carried off on a stretcher during the first half following a challenge from Moises Caicedo. This left Klopp grappling with the absence of a dozen senior squad members due to injuries.

As the physically demanding contest wore on, Klopp turned to the young talents waiting on the bench.

 Teenagers Bobby Clark, James McConnell, and Jayden Danns, with a combined total of just 15 first-team appearances, were called upon. The 21-year-old Jarell Quansah also entered the fray during extra time, and earlier, Conor Bradley had put in a tireless effort before being substituted.

Facing Chelsea's well-assembled lineup, logic suggested that Liverpool's young talents might struggle. 

However, they not only held their ground but displayed courage, composure, and resilience. Klopp's trust in the young players was rewarded with a 1-0 victory, secured by a last-minute goal from captain Virgil Van Dijk.

As they ascended the Wembley steps to receive their winners' medals and lift the trophy, the young players wore wide-eyed expressions. 

The jubilant moment was accentuated by a spirited rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone," with players and staff linking arms in front of the ecstatic Liverpool supporters.

These are the tsix young academy products who etched their names in history:

1. Jayden Danns

Liverpool-born Jayden Danns, 18, found himself leading the line at Wembley having only made a brief senior debut off the bench against Luton Town four days earlier.

The son of former Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers midfielder Neil Danns, he is the academy’s leading scorer with 21 goals so far this season and has been on the books at Kirkby since the age of eight after being spotted playing futsal locally. Danns was sidelined for nearly a year due to knee pain caused by Osgood-Schlatter’s disease after rapidly growing from 5ft 2ins (157cm) to 6ft, but he has developed impressively over the course of this season and has filled out physically.

2. James McConnel

James McConnell, 19, arrived from Sunderland at the age of 15 initially as an attacking midfielder, but Klopp and Pep Lijnders taught him the holding role last pre-season after Fabinho and Henderson left for Saudi Arabia.

He proved to be a fast learner and his leadership qualities were recognised when he was given the under-21s’ captaincy by coach Barry Lewtas.

3. Bobby Clark

Bobby Clark, who was signed from Newcastle United in 2021, was the subject of plenty of loan interest from Football League clubs in January but those approaches were rebuffed as Liverpool felt they needed to keep him on board as cover. Given the injuries that followed, it was a smart move for all parties.

The son of former Newcastle United midfielder Lee Clark has made seven of his nine senior appearances for Liverpool since the turn of the year and, on each occasion, he has stood out with his work both on and off the ball.

“The development of Bobby Clark is really crazy, I have to say,” added Klopp. “The development of James McConnell is absolutely insane, and Jayden Danns has only recently joined us in first-team training. I loved him from the first second.

“Can you create football stories which definitely nobody will ever forget? If you find the same story with academy players coming on against a top side and still winning it, I never heard it.”

4 and 5 : Conor Bradley and Jarel Quansah

Conor Bradley and Jarel Quansah are higher profile than the other three given their greater first-team exposure, but it is worth remembering just how far they have come in such a short space of time. A year ago they were on loan in the third tier at Bristol Rovers and Bolton respectively.

Injuries to Joel Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold opened the door for them at Liverpool this season and they have run right through it. Quansah has been at Liverpool since the age of five, while Bradley was nine when he joined Liverpool’s Northern Ireland development centre. These have been long-term projects for academy director Alex Inglethorpe and his staff.

“I don’t think I can actually put this into words,” said Bradley, beaming. “I’ve supported this club since I was about five years old, so to win a trophy with them at Wembley… I’m just buzzing.

“I think it all comes from the gaffer: the confidence that he puts in us youngsters. It makes it much easier coming into the first team when the under-21s and under-18s all play the same way.

"He’s such a special manager to work under. I just need to cherish every moment I have left with him because obviously he is going in the summer.”

The production line of talent Klopp will be leaving behind certainly bodes well for the future. The challenge is to ensure that structure and culture remain intact.