Give Smith, Joao and Ojo a run, Gary Lim tells Juergen Klopp
Klopp is better off playing Smith, Joao and Ojo than first-team flops
(Joe Allen 10, Sheyi Ojo 74, Joao Carlos Teixeira 82)
With a starting line-up averaging 23 years, Liverpool delivered a composed performance to defeat Exeter 3-0 in the FA Cup third-round replay at Anfield yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The young guns are in good hands.
Juergen Klopp has a reputation for polishing raw gems into finished articles.
The likes of Mario Goetze, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski, just to name a few, come to mind.
With some of the established Liverpool stars under-performing, it's time for Klopp to give this three Liverpool youngsters a run in the first team.
- Position: Left back/left winger
- Age: 21
- Nationality: Australian
- Height: 1.78m
- Jersey number: 44
It was Smith's equaliser in the 2-2 draw at St James Park a fortnight ago that earned Liverpool a third-round replay against Exeter.
The left back put in another impressive performance yesterday morning, his biggest contribution being the cut-back which set Joe Allen up for the opening goal in the 10th minute.
An energetic player who marries technique with heart, Smith, who can also operate as a left winger, loves bursting forward on the overlap.
With every performance, his reputation grows.
He also played in the 6-1 win over Southampton in a League Cup match last month.
He almost parted ways with the club last November, when he found himself out of contract but still registered with the Reds, a result of Liverpool wanting to receive a tribunal fee if he chose to leave.
He eventually penned a new long-term deal in mid-November, almost six months after his contract expired.
The fact that Liverpool stood firm in the stand-off showed how much they value the player, who has been on their books since he was 14.
JOAO CARLOS TEIXEIRA
- Position: Playmaker
- Age: 23
- Nationality: Portuguese
- Height: 1.77m
- Jersey number: 53
Deployed in the left-midfield role in the first game against Exeter, Teixeira (left) was given a more advanced role yesterday morning, as part of an attacking front three.
A technical player with excellent touches, he showed his finishing skills with an excellent shot to complete his team's 3-0 win.
Competent with either foot, the attack-minded player, who can also play through the middle, has a gift for threading through-balls.
There is no doubt Liverpool have a real talent on their hands, but keeping him at the club will be their next challenge.
Since moving from Sporting Lisbon to Liverpool four years ago, he has struggled to break into the first team, making just a handful of appearances.
His contract expires in the summer and he is said to be concerned by a lack of opportunities at the club.
Klopp, however, recently hinted that the player has a future with him.
He said: "I would like to work longer with Teixeira.
"We are always in talks, we'll have to see. Sometimes, you have to leave but maybe not Joao."
- Position: Winger
- Age: 18
- Nationality: English
- Height: 1.78m
- Jersey number: 54
Less than 10 minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute, Ojo (left) produced the sort of magic which Liverpool have been lacking this entire campaign.
As his marker desperately tried to guess which way he was going, the 18-year-old pulled the trigger instead, and the result was a brilliant curler into the top corner.
Quick, inventive and fast, he showed just why Liverpool splashed out a reported £2 million ($4.1m) to prise him away from MK Dons in 2011, when he was just 14.
Even when he was on loan at Wolves, Klopp went to watch him on several occasions.
He was recalled this month amid an injury crisis at Anfield, leaving Ojo hopeful of emulating Jordon Ibe.
Like Ojo, Ibe was on loan at Derby County last season before being called back during mid-term to Merseyside where he eventually established himself in the first team.
Ojo's performance certainly caught Klopp's eye.
He said: "Everybody who has seen him playing has seen what big skills he has, but there are a lot of things he has to work on.
"I am happy to have him here. He made a goal - it wasn't too bad!"
KLOPP PROTECTIVE OF YOUNGSTERS
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp is keen for his young talent to develop under him, but he will not be fast-tracking them into the first team.
Klopp (below) recalled 18-year-old Sheyi Ojo from a loan spell at Wolves earlier this month and, after impressing in the original FA Cup tie at Exeter, he scored a brilliant maiden goal on his Anfield debut in the replay yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Joao Carlos Teixeira, at 23 hardly the baby of the bunch, had loan experience at Brighton last season and he finished off the 3-0 victory with a late goal after midfielder Joe Allen, one of three senior players in the side, opened the scoring after 10 minutes.
With a number of other players also out on loan, Klopp is likely to reset the whole youth programme when he gets time in the summer, but he is not yet tempted to thrust some of his potential stars into the Premier League limelight just yet.
"We need to keep them here and work with them because football is not individual - you have to develop individually, but also as a team and it is not always important to impress in a one-on-one," he said.
"It is not the right moment to talk about this but, in football, if you are good enough, you need to take the next step.
"Keep them here, work together and then I am sure the way is shorter for them, but that is for the future."
On his two young scorers, Klopp added: "I like Joao, he is a good footballer but, of course, players like him need matches.
"It is not allowed to be three or four years as a substitute at this age, you have to play, and I would like to work longer with him.
"It is only four months and I've seen big jumps in his development and he deserved his goal.
"He did really well in the Championship and, since he came back, he has not done bad.
"Ojo is very young so not 20 interviews next week or Man-of-the-Match awards. Leave the guys where they are.
"Everyone who sees him play sees what big skills he has, but he has a lot to work on.
"He made a goal, not too bad, and in the last game he came in and it was important for the draw."
There was more positive news with the return of Scouser Jon Flanagan 619 days after his last appearance, having finally recovered from two knee operations.
He was given a warm welcome by Anfield and that pleased Klopp.
"When he came on, it was a great moment after this long time," he said.
"It was a real emotional moment when everyone stood up and clapped. I don't think anyone deserved it more than him.
"It is such an unbelievably long time he was injured. It was one of the best pieces of news we could get." - PA Sport.