Football Manager sims how Liverpool’s FA Cup kids’ careers will turn out

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Liverpool have never been in a healthier position, and that’s not just because of their extraordinary results in the Premier League.

A 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury in the FA Cup fourth round replay last week highlighted – not for the first time – that the Liverpool academy is arguably the most exciting in the country right now. Several of the players who performed in that match are expected to join the senior squad in the next couple of years, but we couldn’t wait that long to find out which of the teenagers at Melwood will enjoy successful careers at the top of the game.

We’ve taken to Football Manager 2020 and simulated 17 years to reveal the careers paths of all 11 of the starters from the Shrewsbury victory.

Caoimhin Kelleher

Liverpool’s young goalkeeper doesn’t manage to hold down a Premier League career once he graduates into the senior setup in 2022, instead moving for a nominal fee to Dundalk in Ireland, where he stays as a backup goalie for some nine years.

Towards the end of his career Kelleher gets regular first-team football at Cobh Ramblers and then Galway United, both of which are in Ireland’s second tier.

Adam Lewis

It’s a respectable Football League career for the left-back, who, like Kelleher, leaves Liverpool without a senior appearance to his name (both have already bettered their virtual record in real life, then) and joins League Two Salford.

He spends eight years at the club, regularly completing 46-game seasons, but is sold after a debut campaign in League One (Salford are promoted in 2031) that suggests his level is the division below.

Ki-Jana Hoever

The first success story on this list is utility man Hoever, although Liverpool fans won’t be happy about this one. Hoever’s career at Liverpool never really gets going and after a handful of appearances Arsenal snap him up at 23, where he goes on to have four good years.

Bournemouth then pay £21million to make him a leading figure in a mid-table side… before Everton buy the now 33-year-old for £14million. Hoever’s career draws to a close with over 250 Premier League appearances, two Europa League wins (at Arsenal) and a Nations League winners’ medal with the Netherlands.

Neco Williams

Williams enjoys a solid career as a Championship player, making almost 400 appearances in the Football League with the likes of Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest.

There are no trophies for Williams, no promotions and no senior appearances for Liverpool, but for a player whose attributes in FM20 are pretty low it is a very respectable career.

Sepp van den Berg

The big centre-back never really got going in England, leaving Liverpool in 2022 to spend the next four years yo-yoing with Reading, playing most of their Championship games in two promotion years but then benched in the Premier League.

Following a brief stint at Watford he spent several years at CSKA Moscow, although his career peaked right at the end. He won fans’ player of the year in both years at Eredivisie side Groningen as they battled against the drop.

Jake Cain

Perhaps the most unlikely story we got was English midfielder Jake Cain becoming a cult figure at Feyenoord. Like most of the academy products, he bounced around in England for a while, at Aston Villa, before a low-key £2.9million move that would prove to be significant.

Cain made over 350 appearances for Feyenoord across 10 years, helping them grow substantially, as is reflected in the fact he made zero European appearances in his first four years and 60 across his final six.

The crowning glory came in 2031-32 when Feyenoord lifted the Eredivisie title and the Dutch Cup.

Leighton Clarkson

Clarkson turned out to be a League One level player with a decent but fairly ordinary career in the game, at least compared to what Cain discovered abroad. Most of his career was spent battling relegation to the Championship or mid-table in the division below.

At Oxford United, Barnsley and Luton he made nearly 400 appearances, but only at Oxford towards the end of his career did he truly find his level. Clarkson hit 14, 12, 15 and 16 assists in four League One seasons at the club.

Pedro Chirivella

We had pretty high hopes for this one, yet Chirivella’s career was stalled by the unusual decision to pack it all in for life in the UAE in 2024, just two years after joining Premier League Southampton for £6million at the age of 25.

Given that Chirivella had to make it the hard way, first excelling after a free transfer to Championship Barnsley, it was surprising he went on to play for Al-Jazira.

Curtis Jones

Things started so well for Jones, who got a move to Newcastle earlier than most of his peers and went on to win promotion with them back to the Premier League. Oddly, he fell out of favour there and floated around in loan spells for a couple of years before landing at Fulham.

By 2030 Jones was an experienced Championship player and earned a £7million move to Huddersfield, but sadly he could not help them to promotion in four seasons.

Harvey Elliot

Here’s the one you’ve all been waiting for… and it’s a bit of a disappointment. FM seems to think Elliot is a jobbing Premier League winger at best; he spends his career split between Liverpool, Reading and Newcastle, the latter two each spending £22million for his services.

Aside from a Europa League win in 2027, it is a dull career really, full of games at the highest level but without a single standout season.

Liam Millar

We end with another Championship player, who after a year on loan in Scotland spends a remarkable 13 consecutive seasons playing in England’s second tier.

Millar’s career is long and ultimately unsatisfying from an optimistic Liverpool fan perspective, like a lot of the youngsters on this list. Only Hoever and Cain had decorated careers.

By Alex Keble 


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