Conor Bradley has risen through the youth ranks at Liverpool to make a hell of a splash in Jurgen Klopp’s first team, having joined the club on a scholarship from Dungannon Swifts back in 2019.
The Northern Ireland international made his first appearance for Liverpool’s Under-21s in December 2019, a 1-1 Premier League 2 draw with Chelsea whose team included the likes of Tariq Lamptey, Marc Guehi, Ian Maatsen and Armando Broja.
We’ve revisited Liverpool’s XI from that occasion to see how Bradley’s team-mates have progressed.
GK: Ben Winterbottom
Winterbottom joined Liverpool’s youth set-up from Blackburn in 2019 and spent two years on Merseyside before moving on to Brentford – where he’s turned out for their B Team, featuring alongside Romeo Beckham.
The 22-year-old spent the first half of the 2023-24 campaign out on loan at non-league Welling United and recently signed a contract extension to 2025, but he continues to await his first-team debut for the Bees.
RB: Conor Bradley
CB: Remi Savage
Born and raised in Liverpool, Savage rose through the ranks to represent his hometown club at Under-18 and Under-23 level. In 2021 he turned down a new deal at Liverpool at joined Newcastle, but he only represented the Magpies at Under-21 level.
In January Savage left Newcastle and joined Scottish second tier outfit Inverness Caledonian Thistle, for whom he’s finally getting his first taste of senior men’s football.
CB: Tom Clayton
The defender joined Liverpool when he was nine years old and stayed until he was 21, when he was sold to Swindon Town for an undisclosed fee.
Clayton was a regular for the Robins in League Two last term, but he’s fallen out of favour and made just one league start so far this season.
LB: James Norris
“Training with Jurgen is a great experience. If there is information you need to be told he’s not scared to tell you and he’ll let you know,” Norris told Liverpool’s official matchday programme last year.
“I remember the first time I went up there I was a bit slow getting out to my man in the drills, and he just put an arm around me and went ‘you need to be quicker, you need to be sharper’.
“It’s like the blueprint of Andy Robertson; aggression, attacking and getting forward. He’s finding the perfect blueprint to follow.”
The left-back has made a couple of first-team cameo appearances in the cup competitions, and remains on the club’s books, but it doesn’t appear all that likely he’ll be gunning for Robertson’s spot any time soon. Norris is spending the 2023-24 campaign out on loan at Tranmere Rovers.
DM: Jake Cain
Cain made his Liverpool debut as the club’s youngest-ever starting XI beat Shrewsbury Town 1-0 in an FA Cup replay in February 2020.
A second appearance for the senior team and was not forthcoming and in January 2023 he was sold to Swindon for an undisclosed fee. He’s featured a little more regularly for the club than Clayton, having notched two goals and an assist in 13 League Two appearances this season.
On this day in 2020, a VERY young Liverpool side beat Shrewsbury Town 1-0 at Anfield 🔴
A few familiar baby faces 👶 pic.twitter.com/nSM555Yimp
— The Redmen TV (@TheRedmenTV) February 4, 2024
DM: Leighton Clarkson
The England Under-20s midfielder made a couple of first-team appearances in low stakes cup games and had as many loans away, first at hometown club Blackburn Rovers and then to Aberdeen – for whom he evidently showed enough to sign for the club permanently last summer.
Clarkson has been a regular for the Dandies, and was recently named in the starting line-up in Neil Warnock’s first game at the helm – a narrow 2-1 defeat away to Rangers.
FWR: Jack Bearne
Like Clarkson and Savage, Bearne has moved north of the border. The winger was released by Liverpool last summer and has since signed for Scottish Championship side Greenock Morton.
He made his one and only appearance for the Reds in the 5-0 League Cup quarter-final defeat to Aston Villa in December 2019, in which Neil Critchley took charge while Klopp’s first team were away at the Club World Cup.
CAM: Elijah Dixon-Bonner
The Harlow-born midfielder made the switch from Arsenal’s youth set-up to Liverpool’s as a 14-year-old back in 2015.
Dixon-Bonner was part of Liverpool’s 2018-19 FA Youth Cup-winning squad and went on to make three cup appearances for the club, but he never made it beyond the fringes of Klopp’s squad.
He was released in the summer of 2022 and joined QPR a few months later, having impressed on trial. He’s made 22 appearances for the Championship relegation-battlers this season.
FWL: Curtis Jones (Dal Varesanovic, ’45)
Liverpool’s goalscorer on the day, Jones has gone on to make over a hundred appearances for his boyhood club.
The 23-year-old is featuring more regularly than ever and is now arguably a part of Klopp’s best XI. A frequent fixture of England youth squads over recent years, you imagine it’s surely a matter of time before he makes his senior bow – and he’s increasingly making a strong case to be part of Gareth Southgate’s squad for the Euros this summer.
Varesanovic joined Sarajevo in 2020. He’s since joined Turkish Super Lig club Caykur Rizespor and become a full international with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"He means 𝐄𝐕𝐄𝐑𝐘𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐍𝐆!"
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) January 31, 2024
ST: Layton Stewart (Fidel O’Rourke, ’45)
“I speak to Bobby [Firmino] a lot, actually,” Stewart said.
“I absolutely love him. He messages me on Instagram after a game saying ‘well done’ and things like that, which means a lot to a young player. I had a photo shoot recently and he was messaging after it.
“We got on well over in Dubai. We were doing a lot of pressing drills, and he’s the king of it really, isn’t he, so I was always asking him for little tips and watching how he did it.”
The 21-year-old striker was inspired by Firmino and talked up as the next Fernando Torres or Michael Owen, having caught the eye in the youth set-up. But he’s forging his path away from Liverpool, having left for Preston last summer.
Stewart has made five substitute appearances for the Lilywhites this season and is still awaiting his first goal.
O’Rourke was loaned out to Caenarfon and Halifax Town before being released last summer. He remains unattached.