The Liverpool prodigies mirroring their renowned predecessors.

Estimated read time 6 min read


Keep in mind the names Ayden Danns, Lewis Koumas, and Bobby Clark. Perhaps you already know them – not just because they all played for Liverpool on Wednesday evening – but also because Danns scored two goals and Koumas scored the first in a 3-0 victory over Southampton in the FA Cup fifth round.

All three young players have famous fathers who were professional footballers in the Premier League: Neil Danns, Jason Koumas, and Lee Clark. While this may seem noteworthy, this is not unique to Liverpool – Manchester City’s academy also includes the Heskey twins, Jaden and Reigan, and Manchester United’s academy has Darren Fletcher’s sons, Jack and Tyler. However, the Liverpool academy seems to have a group of talented players with fathers who were also professionals. In addition to these players, Keyrol Figueroa, the son of former Wigan defender Maynor, and Prince Kobe Cissé, the son of 2005 Champions League-winner Djibril, are also in the academy. Marcus Neill, the son of former Australia international Lucas, recently left to join Sunderland.

What is the reason for this recent pattern at Liverpool? Alex Inglethorpe, the highly praised director of their academy, explains to the Guardian that recruiting the offspring of ex-professionals is not a conscious plan, but rather the result of several factors intersecting.

According to Inglethorpe, if ex-players move to the local area, the club would most likely be a place of connection for them. It is common to assume that the children of former players would be raised in a football-oriented environment and develop an interest in the sport. This, combined with their inherited athletic abilities from their father who played professionally, leads to many of them excelling in the sport. However, with a total of 160-180 boys in the academy, this is actually a small portion of the overall group.

It is expected that Figueroa will be the next player to attempt to make his way into Jürgen Klopp’s strategy. Born in Honduras like his father, the 17-year-old forward is currently playing with the under-18 team and has represented USA at the youth level. Cissé, another young forward at 15 years old, is not likely to join the ranks of Danns, Koumas, and Clark in playing for the first team this season.

“I regularly communicate with those five, both on and off the field,” says Inglethorpe. “I avoid bringing up their fathers unless they initiate the conversation, as I believe it could be a weight on their shoulders. I don’t want to contribute to any pressure they may already be feeling to live up to or surpass their fathers’ accomplishments. They are individuals with their own identities.”

Inglethorpe explains that the junior academy caters to youth aged eight to 13 and is comparable to a high-quality Sunday League club. The facilities and coaches are excellent, and the team uniforms are of great quality. However, the senior academy operates differently. As boys reach 14 years old, their training and preparation change with the use of data and focus on nutrition. This also leads to a change in the messaging used to guide the players.

Could it be that having sons of well-known soccer players already have a natural understanding of what it takes to succeed at the highest level? Perhaps they have been taught from a young age the necessary sacrifices in terms of fitness, rest, social life, and nutrition. Inglethorpe expresses his content with them simply being young players and individuals. He mentions that Jayden has been with the academy since he was only six or seven, while Figgy joined at 11 or 12 from grassroots soccer. Bobby, on the other hand, came to us at 16 after being with Newcastle. Each of them has a unique tale to tell.

The Liverpool academy director, Alex Inglethorpe, during an U18 Premier League game.

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The transfer of Clark from Newcastle made news, as Liverpool supposedly paid £1.5m for the midfielder. His father, Lee, has shared how Liverpool finalized the agreement. According to Lee’s statement to the Echo in the previous year, “Once Bobby decided to leave Newcastle, he met with the four or five clubs that had reached an agreement with Newcastle. He was amazed by the in-depth understanding Liverpool had of him…and their belief that he could become a part of the first team. He has also known family friends like Terry McDermott since he was a child and understands the significance of Liverpool.”

Clark’s arrival at Liverpool appears to have a connection to his father, but Inglethorpe claims that Lee was not involved in the process of negotiating his contract. He was present as a supportive father, showing great respect. Just like how a father wouldn’t interfere when their child starts working at a bank, questioning their position at the teller or in the back. It’s important to let them make their own decisions at some point.

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I am unsure if these five children of past players are more prepared to meet the demands of present-day football. I have always believed that natural ability can carry you until age 16, but it is one’s character that can sustain them until age 35. To earn a spot on the Liverpool first team and contend for domestic and European titles, the competition is extremely tough. Keep putting in effort, focus on your own progress instead of comparing yourself to others, and be patient. These rules apply to any young player, regardless of their family background.

The role of parents is crucial for young players, regardless of their family background. Inglethorpe reports that most parents are respectful and trust the decisions of coaches, although there may be some who are not satisfied. The nature of football involves subjective opinions and predictions about a player’s potential, making it difficult to always make accurate decisions. Unlike in school where test scores are definitive, football relies on uncertainties and potential for growth. As a result, some decisions may be incorrect at times.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s parents were not soccer players by profession, but he received numerous messages about being resilient. I came across an interview with Robin van Persie where he talked about a conversation he had with his son, Shaqueel, who was at PSV’s academy. They discussed not falling into a victim mindset, not thinking like a failure, and not placing blame on others such as coaches or teammates. Instead, they focused on being proactive and taking control of their own success. This conversation was particularly intriguing.

Klopp is known for being consistently proactive. Developing a young professional footballer into an elite player often requires the help of a community effort. However, what makes Klopp stand out is his willingness to trust these young players, even in high-stakes matches throughout the season.

“Inglethorpe expresses his gratitude to be at Liverpool during a time when many of the first-team staff show a true interest and excitement for the young players. Jürgen is known for personally discussing and observing these players, and what sets him apart is that he is willing to give them opportunities on the field, even in important matches.”


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