Liverpool: Five academy stars about to take off

Liverpool academy
(Image credit: Getty)

Throughout Liverpool’s hit-and-miss start to the campaign at first-team level, their academy pursuits have been enthralling and, by and large, successful. Led by Barry Lewtas and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson respectively, the under-21s and under-18s have shown strong signs of the progress desired.

The under-19s’ run in the UEFA Youth League - running parallel to the first team’s Champions League fixtures - has been particularly captivating, as the next generation breaks through and offers glimpses of a bright future on Merseyside.

Even in the Papa John’s Trophy, a competition which pits academy sides from elite clubs against senior opposition from the Football League, has been a valuable proving ground despite three consecutive defeats.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be watching on, informed by his support staff of Pepijn Lijnders, Vitor Matos and John Achterberg, who track the progress of the club’s best young talents as the pathway between the academy and senior setups.

So who has caught the eye so far this season? Here are five, including two famous sons.

Bobby Clark (17) – attacking midfielder

Son of former Newcastle midfielder Lee Clark, Bobby made a bold decision when he left the north-east for Merseyside in 2021, turning down a scholarship deal with the Magpies in order to join Liverpool.

The transfer was worth an initial £750,000, potentially rising to £1.5 million, which showed the Anfield club’s belief in the attacking midfielder, while then-Newcastle manager Steve Bruce admitted he was “disappointed,” going so far as to claim the system in place was “flawed.”

Clark has vindicated Liverpool’s faith so far, making an immediate impact with the U18s in his first season before stepping up to the U21s this time out.

Not only that, but the multi-talented teenager has gone on to make his first-team debut, following a promising pre-season, with those within Klopp’s staff holding high hopes for a player who can score and create in a variety of roles including in midfield and out wide.

Ben Doak (16) – winger

By far the standout performer in the Liverpool academy this season, Doak has hit the ground running following a £600,000 move from Celtic in the summer.

It should perhaps come as no surprise, given those at the Glasgow club saw fit to hand him his senior debut only two-and-a-half months after his 16th birthday, before an outing in the Old Firm days later.

But the manner in which Doak has taken to his new club - from U18s to U19s to U21s - has been remarkable, capped so far by a double-nutmeg, back-heeled goal against League One side Accrington Stanley in the Papa John’s Trophy.

A direct, skilful right winger who thrives when taking defenders on and driving to the byline, the teenager could be in line for a swift promotion through the ranks should he maintain his blistering form.

Lewis Koumas (17) – striker

Another familiar name within the academy, Lewis Koumas comes from strong stock as the teenage son of Tranmere, West Brom and Wigan midfielder Jason Koumas.

Like his father, Koumas was known as a dynamic attacking midfielder as he moved through the age groups, but his first full season with the U18s has seen him adapt his duties as a central striker.

The 17-year-old has belied his inexperience as a No. 9, showing the intelligent movement and finishing ability of a seasoned centre-forward, with nine goals and three assists in his first 12 games.

Koumas is a popular figure at the AXA Training Centre and has made himself almost undroppable, already making headway with the U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy.

Luke Chambers (18) – left-back

Part of the young cohort called into the first team’s pre-season squad along with Clark, Stefan Bajcetic and Isaac Mabaya, left-back Chambers made a positive start before a harsh reminder in a 3-0 loss to Strasbourg in the final friendly of the summer.

The 18-year-old put his mistakes at Anfield behind him, though, and has produced an emphatic run of form with the U21s, as a regular source of goals and assists, and a dependable stand-in at centre-back.

Unlike Bajcetic, who finds himself in limbo as a regular in the first-team squad but lacking in game time at any level, Chambers has benefited from starting games week in, week out and has given himself a platform to build on.

The England under-19s international has fierce competition ahead of him in Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas, but he has taken the challenge head on so far.

Oakley Cannonier (18) – striker

Liverpool have never been short of prolific strikers in their academy, with a rich heritage from the days of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, while in recent years, Paul Glatzel, Bobby Duncan and Layton Stewart have all hit fearsome form at youth levels.

The latest to fill the breach, with hopes of an eventual first-team opportunity, is a teenager who once was more recognisable as the ball boy who played a small role in Divock Origi’s winner against Barcelona in 2019.

Currently straddling the age groups, Cannonier has made the UEFA Youth League his playground, with seven goals in four outings in Europe to bring his tally for the season so far to nine in 11.

A high-pressing, never-say-die forward, the 18-year-old would still benefit from bulking up - as is natural for a player his age - but Cannonier is doing everything possible to catch the eye of Klopp and his staff.

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Jack Lusby writes for This Is Anfield, the independent Liverpool website, and has been a regular FourFourTwo contributor since 2018. He is an expert on Liverpool's youth academy players and has a keen eye on ensuring transfer stories are sourced correctly, which means he is a proficient user of Google Translate.