Saturday 18 November 2017

Segura sets first-team target

Liverpool's academy technical manager Josep Segura is determined to find more young talent for the first team having seen an improvement in the quality of players in his charge.

Promotion through the ranks has become increasingly difficult at most Barclays Premier League clubs because of the need for instant results.

At Anfield former reserve team defender Martin Kelly has established himself in Roy Hodgson's senior squad this season, starting five Europa League matches and making three Premier League appearances.

But the path from the club's academy in Kirkby to the first team is not a well-trodden one, although former reserves captain Jay Spearing - currently recovering from an ankle injury - Dani Pacheco and Nathan Eccleston have made infrequent appearances in the current campaign.

Segura knows their main task at the academy is to provide better quality players who can cut it at the highest level.

"The most important thing for Liverpool is that these players aged 16, 17 and 18 years old go on to become professionals with this club," said the Spaniard, formerly an academy and B team coach at Barcelona.

"This is our target. It is clear that we must strive to produce great players to play for Liverpool for years to come and hopefully they can help us to win many trophies at first-team level.

"It is not an easy challenge for us but it is one that we must work hard to make a reality with every passing day."

Segura added on "When I was at Barcelona we won the equivalent of the youth cup at under-18 level.

"Everyone was delighted and it is a great memory, but only five players went on to become professionals with the first team.

"I feel we have made good progress since I arrived here in the summer of 2009, the academy is growing and the level of our players is growing too.

"I said when I made the move here that the opportunity to work for such a great club was one I could not turn down.

"The aim is now to ensure that this great club is blessed with some of the best homegrown players of the future."

Hodgson has benefited from the progress some of the younger players have made, utilising them extensively as the club reached the last 32 of the Europa League.

He too knows there is a vast difference from making it into the first team squad and developing into an established member.

But their presence this season has allowed him to rest the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres for almost every Europa League match so far.

"It is a different kettle of fish having the courage and ability to go out and play at Anfield in front of 40,000 very expectant and optimistic fans," the Reds boss said.

"The happiest thing for me is we have done it (qualify for the knockout stage) and achieved results without bashing our more recognised players.

"Torres played in Utrecht - the only game he has played - and Gerrard played against Rabotnicki and a half against Napoli, but Raul Meireles, Maxi Rodriguez, Paul Konchesky and Glen Johnson have hardly played."

Press Association

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