Liverpool under-23 coach Neil Critchley admits manager Jurgen Klopp has the option to dial into the dressing room if he has a message for the young team which will face Shrewsbury in their FA Cup fourth-round replay on Tuesday night.
With the first team away and Klopp absent as part of the club’s scheduled mid-season break, Critchley finds himself in a similar situation to December’s Carabao Cup quarter-final.
Then he led his youngsters while the seniors were at the Club World Cup in Qatar – although that did not prevent Klopp watching from afar and phoning in his encouragement at half-time.
“It was a message that came through, which I have to say was brilliant at that moment,” Critchley said.
“Even though we were going off the pitch thinking ‘We’ve played alright there but we’re getting beat 4-0’, it creates that element of doubt in your mind about whether you are doing the right thing and if you need to do something different.
“So when you get a message from the manager saying ‘Don’t change anything, carry on doing what you’re doing, you’ve been brilliant’, it just clears all that doubt in your mind and you can give that message to the players.
“The message killed every doubt, it settled them right down. It helped everyone at that moment.
“That option is available (on Tuesday), yes. But that’s up to the manager. Another great quality of the manager is he trusts people to do their job.
“The best support he gives the players is he gives them a chance and an opportunity.
“I don’t know what more support you could wish for as a young player.
“I know there has been a lot spoken going into the game, but there has been total clarity around the decision and we all support the decision. We all follow him because he has earned that.”
Curtis Jones, who celebrated his 19th birthday last week, could become the club’s youngest captain if he is picked to continue the job he has for the under-23s.
Pedro Chirivella, a comparative veteran at 22, wore the armband at Villa Park as Jones was in Qatar and Critchley suggested he had not made up his mind who to choose yet.
“I shall toss the coin and see which one it lands on,” he added.
When it was pointed out the Toxteth-born Jones would become the club’s youngest captain he joked: “Would he? He might give me a double-headed coin to flick then.”
Jones has seven first-team appearances, scored in both FA Cup ties so far and is not short of self-confidence, but Critchley said that has to be encouraged within a structure.
“He is a young player who wants to prove himself. I don’t see a problem with that,” he said.
“He has belief in himself and he’ll learn through experience of when to show that on the pitch and when not to show it.
“He is who he is. We are here to support him and guide him. You have to let Curtis have a certain amount of freedom in the way he plays because that’s when he’s at his best.
“But he has to do some of the other things in his game otherwise he won’t be part of the team.”
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