Liverpool’s greatest academy graduate XI: Gerrard, Fowler, TAA…
Liverpool have produced some absolutely incredible footballers over the years, and some of the club’s greatest-ever sides were full of homegrown talent.
From the glory years of the 1970s and 1980s to the Champions League winners of 2005 or Jurgen Klopp’s all-conquering side of recent years, you’ll find local talent from Merseyside somewhere in the team. But which have been the very best players to have come through the club’s academy?
Here’s our all-time Liverpool academy graduate XI, arranged in a 4-3-1-2 formation.
GK: Tommy Lawrence
Caoimhin Kelleher deserves a shout given his cup heroics, but the Republic of Ireland will need to usurp Alisson and have a brilliant career if he’s to make it into this team.
Lawrence made over 300 appearances for the Reds between 1957 and 1971 and won two league titles and one FA Cup.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold
The 2022-23 campaign might not have been his best, but it shouldn’t be forgotten quite how good Alexander-Arnold has been.
He’s still just 24 and has won everything there is to win already.
CB: Tommy Smith
A local boy born in Crosby, Smith went on to make over 500 appearances for the Reds and captained the club during their first great era.
He won four league titles, two FA Cups, two UEFA Cups and two European Cups.
“I loved him from the Kop because of his passion, commitment and never-say-die attitude,” former team-mate Phil Thompson told Sky Sports following Smith’s death in 2019.
“And then to go play alongside him, rub shoulders with him, go into battles with him, he was iconic. He wanted and desired the points every week.
“He was an incredible figure who helped me out enormously. To go from being a fan to play with him… he never gave up. Liverpool Football Club owe this guy a debt of gratitude.
“Tommy was the epitome of what Bill Shankly demanded. He drove the team, he was incredible. Who will forget his headed goal that won the 1977 European Cup final? The fella drove us on.”
#YNWA Great header by Virgil van Dijk today, but not a patch on Tommy Smith's ROME 77 goal, an absolute Liverpool Legend. Bill Shankly said "Tommy Smith wasn't born, he was quarried". pic.twitter.com/ByKu10qeAV
— THECASHMAN (@THECASHMAN8) January 19, 2020
CB: Phil Thompson
Thompson was born and raised in Kirkby and supported Liverpool from the Kop growing up.
He played alongside Smith and succeeded him into the late 70s and early 80s, playing in his place in the 1978 European Cup final victory over Club Brugge after a freak pick axe accident kept Smith out.
One of the most decorated players in Liverpool history, Thompson won no fewer than seven(!) league titles, six European honours and a further 10 domestic honours.
We can’t quite believe that we’re leaving out Jamie Carragher, one of the heroes of Istanbul and one of Liverpool’s best centre-backs of the Premier League era, but Thompson & Smith just achieved too much to leave either out.
Sorry Carra. You’d be the first name on our bench.
LB: Ronnie Moran
Sir Kenny Dalglish put this better than we ever could.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the most successful spell in the club’s history, Ronnie Moran was of great importance to it,” Dalglish said following Moran’s death in 2017.
“He was there at the outset with Bill Shankly, and the football club as it stands today is because of what Bill Shankly set in place and Ronnie was a big part of that.
“His contribution to the football club should never, ever be underestimated. Although it might be understated, and he might be understated, he made a massive contribution.”
CM: Steven Gerrard
Probably the captain of this side.
READ: 23 of the best quotes on Steven Gerrard: ‘One of those fairytales’
CM: Ronnie Whelan
Having joined Liverpool from Dublin’s famous Home Farm a few days before his 18th birthday, Whelan spent 18 months progressing in the youth ranks at Melwood before eventually breaking through under the legendary Bob Paisley.
“Someone from the office had called: I had to report for training the next morning and I had to bring my suit because I’d be going to the team hotel. I was in the first team squad,” Whelan later recalled of his iconic debut goal against Stoke.
“An hour before kick off Bob told me I was playing. I was scared to death, in and out of the toilet several times, surrounded by household names who didn’t really know me at all.
“Then on 27 minutes I was one on one with the Stoke keeper Peter Fox. I’d broken the offside trap and was running for 20 yards with the ball at my feet.
“‘Jesus, don’t bottle it now. Just concentrate on your touch, not too far ahead of you, don’t get it caught under your feet either. Another touch, now a quick look up, the keeper is coming out, just roll it past him’.
“The keeper dived but the ball was on its way. I watched it cross the line and then wheeled away.
“There was a crescendo of noise and I was surrounded by famous players happy to hug me though they hardly knew my name.”
They would soon enough. Whelan was a mainstay of Liverpool’s triumphant 1980s. He won six league titles, three FA Cups, three League Cups and started in the 1984 European Cup victory over Real Madrid.
CM: Ian Callaghan
Callaghan’s remarkable longevity makes him a Liverpool legend. He made his debut for the Reds in 1960 in the second division and was part of the side that won promotion back to the top flight in 1962. From there he kept his place and eventually departed in 1978, having made 857 appearances.
No player has played more matches for Liverpool and it’s a record that will surely never be broken. The Toxteth-born midfielder was also a part of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad.
AMC: Steve McManaman
One of the most successful footballers to ever hail from Merseyside, the wonderfully gifted McManaman had to depart a flawed Liverpool to achieve his full potential.
And boy did he at Real Madrid, winning two La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues, scoring a goal in the 2000 final win over Valencia.
READ: Liverpool’s bittersweet thrill of Steve McManaman thriving at Real Madrid
ST: Robbie Fowler
One hundred and eighty-three goals for Liverpool.
God, wasn’t he?
Robbie Fowler superb free kick vs the mancs leaves Schmeichel dumbfounded again!😅 pic.twitter.com/iJST7JmgVV
— Davolaa (@Davolaar) March 24, 2023
ST: Michael Owen
Owen might not have enjoyed the best career of those in this XI, nor is he the most fondly remembered at Liverpool, but he’s the only Liverpool player to’ve won the Ballon d’Or.
The striker was absolutely electric when he first broke through, genuinely looking capable of becoming the greatest player Liverpool ever produced.
Injuries and some poor decisions might have stopped him from reaching his full potential, but he still had a more than decent career and was instrumental in the five-trophy haul Liverpool boasted in 2001.
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TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Liverpool’s XI from the 1981 European Cup final vs Madrid?