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"He gives them opportunity" - Liverpool U23 boss defends Klopp's Cup kids call

Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

15:54 3 Feb 2020

Neil Critchley says Jurgen Klopp's decision to leave their FA Cup 4th round replay with Shrewsbury to the Liverpool U23s affords them a valuable opportunity to prove themselves as players. 

Klopp drew criticism and some praise for his decision to honour their Premier League 'winter break' by keeping the club's senior players away from Tuesday night's game at Anfield.

Critchley oversaw a youthful Liverpool side's Carabao Cup quarter-final exit with a 5-0 defeat away to Aston Villa in December.

Speaking ahead of Shrewsbury's visit to the home of the Premier League champions-elect, Critchley revealed that Klopp sent a note of encouragement to the side while 4-0 down at half-time at Villa Park, "I have to say it was brilliant at that moment.

"Even though you're going off the pitch at half-time thinking 'I think we've alright there, but we're getting beat (sic) 4-0', it creates that element of doubt in your mind... 'are we doing the right thing, do we need to do something different?'

Critchley says the message was relayed to the dressing room by a member of the club's staff, "When you get a message from the management 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.

While Klopp said after the 2-2 draw that the replay would be left to the U23s, Critchley clarified that Tuesday night's side will have an even younger hue, "People say an under-23 team - we're not. We're going to be under-19, under-20 at best.

"There's always a lot of people speaking about young players not getting an opportunity in this country, well they're going to get an opportunity tomorrow night and they've already had an opportunity this season, because it's what the manager does."

Despite the words of encouragement stemming from that Villa loss, Critchley feels the young side will need to up their performance levels for the visit of the League One side, "You can’t buy experiences like that.

"It’s probably worth a million of my coaching sessions. Taking the boys outside their comfort zone and putting them into a game like that, you learn so much about them but more importantly, they’ll learn more about themselves.

"We got some plaudits for the way we played but we didn’t do well enough in both penalty boxes.

"If you’re going to go into a results-driven business you’ve got to win games of football.

"We didn’t keep the ball out at one end and we didn’t score at the other end. That’s not a recipe for getting success. Our aim is try to do a lot better than that tomorrow night."

The likes of Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott have been able to find game time with the runaway Premier League leaders this season, and Critchley's hailed the importance of those kinds of cameos, "The past two seasons have been quite remarkable really, in terms of what they're achieving, but young players have still had opportunity.

"Is it yet in the games that we want them to be involved in? No, not quite yet, so the young players still have something to prove and that's why they're here every day."

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Read more about

Curtis Jones Fa Cup Harvey Elliott Jurgen Klopp Liverpool Neil Critchley Shrewsbury Town

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