The Liverpool F.C. Academy is the footballing 'school' of Liverpool Football Club, established to train young footballers- mostly aged 18 and under- with the aim of developing them into footballers with the quality to progress to the Liverpool first team. Examples of players who have progressed through the Academy include such stars as Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard.
There is an emphasis on developing local talent from the city of Liverpool and surrounding areas, however as time has progressed, more and more youngsters are being recruited to the Academy from across the country and abroad- some of whom even carrying seven-figure transfer fees.
There are Academy sides catering for all age groups up until Under 18 level. Very little is made public about the Academy ranks below Under 18 level, however some notable transfers of players drafted in for Under 16 level do occassionally feature in news outlets. The Under 18s consists of three 'levels'- there are the so-called 'First Year Scholars,' who are those aged under 17; 'Second Year Scholars' who are aged between 17 and 18, and 'Third Year Scholars,' who are aged between 18 and 19. Once a player is too old for the Under 18s, they are either released by the club or progress to the Reserves (now the Under 21s). Players also often progress to the Reserves before completing all Academy levels. Occasionally, a player will progress straight from the Academy to the first team if deemed ready for it, foregoing the Reserves and even some Academy levels.
Scouts attend many local youth matches looking for talented youngsters. When one has impressed a scout, he may be invited to attend training sessions at the Academy. At this age, the boys start by simply attending after-school training sessions, but as they reach their middle-teens, their academic needs will be taken over by the Academy if they are deemed athletically talented enough. The Academy can handle up to twenty boys in each year group, although the actual number in each year group is usually around eighteen. Between the ages of eight and twelve the boys play in eight-a-side games of three twenty-minute periods. It allows the boys to play as defenders or as attackers in small groups within a system and is not as physically demanding as playing eleven-a-side matches.
Up until 1998, the Liverpool Academy was a relatively informal system with a rather tenuous structure. As such, a proper history of the old Academy system is lacking. In 1998 however, a new state-of-the-art youth academy was opened in Kirkby in north Liverpool (right) with former player Steve Heighway acting as Director of Youth. The development of Kirkby enabled the club to provide a more focused youth development programme, and also enables Melwood to be kept solely for use by the first team squad.
Four full-size grass pitches were constructed, including one with a Polytan surface. There are also a further seven smaller pitches and an indoor arena. The Academy also houses a lecture theatre and a computer-equipped classroom in order to continue the academic teaching of young teenagers pulled from school. The grounds cover an area of 56 acres. On the walls of the indoor centre hang the words 'Technique', 'Attitude', 'Balance' and 'Speed'. 'TABS' is the key word preached at The Academy.
Despite these innovations, the Academy struggled to provide the first team with a notable senior player since Steven Gerrard, who made his first team debut in 1998. As a result, first team manager Rafael Benitez in the mid-late 2000s made it a priority of his to restructure the Academy personell. Notably, the Academy recruited two renowned Spanish youth coaches- Jose Segura and Rodolfo Borrell, who had both worked at Barcelona's famed La Masia youth academy. There has also since been a greater recruitment of youth players from other club Academies to help drive up the standard of quality. As a result, the Academy has recently signed young players for notable sums of money, including the £1,000,000 paid for the 16-year-old Jordon Ibe from Wycombe, the reported £2,000,000 paid for the 14-year-old Seyi Ojo of the MK Dons and the reported potential £5,000,000 deal for the-then 14-year-old Raheem Sterling from QPR.
The Under 18s currently compete in the Premier Academy League Group C and partake in the FA Youth Cup. Different Academy age groups have won various League titles, most recently the Premier Academy League Under 19 and Under 17 titles, both of which were claimed in the 2001-02 season. The Academy has also seen three Youth Cup successes. Prior to the establishment of these national youth competitions, Academy sides would compete in more regional tournaments- in Liverpool's case, these would be Lancashire-based.
Notable graduates include:
- Steven Gerrard
- Raheem Sterling
- Jon Flanagan
- Jamie Carragher
- Robbie Fowler
- Michael Owen
- Steve McManaman
- Stephen Warnock
- Danny Guthrie
- Mike Marsh
- Ronnie Whelan
- Gary Ablett
- Steve Staunton
- Sammy Lee
- Jimmy Case
- Phil Thompson
- Ian Callaghan
- Ronnie Moran
- Billy Liddell
- Tommy Smith
- David Fairclough
The Academy is currently training around 200 players, and as previously stated, much of the affairs of the Academy are not made public below Under 18 level. Current players who may appear for the Under 18s include:
Note: A number of players listed below play more frequently for the Under 23s. Youngsters with a shirt number for the first team are no longer listed as part of the Academy.
|Liverpool F.C. Academy and Reserves – current squad|
| GK Atherton • GK Firth • GK George • GK Jaros • GK Kelleher • GK Williams • DF Arroyo • DF Boyes • DF Clayton •|
DF Gallacher • DF Johnston • DF Juanma • DF Lewis • DF Raitanen • DF Whelan • DF Williams • DF Williams •
MF Adekanye • MF Coyle • MF Dixon-Bonner • MF Kane • MF Larouci • MF Longstaff • MF Sharif • MF Tagseth •
MF Virtue • FW Glatzel • FW McAuley • FW Millar
- Premier Academy League U19: 1
- Winners: 2001-02
- Premier Academy League U17: 1
- Winners: 2001-02
- Lancashire League Division One: 6
- Winners: 1965–66, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1971–72, 1977–78, 1982–83
- Lancashire League Division Two: 7
- Winners: 1961–62, 1965–66, 1967–68, 1972–73, 1975–76, 1976–77, 1992–93
- Lancashire League Division Three: 1
- Winners: 1960–61
- FA Youth Cup: 3
- Winners: 1996, 2006, 2007
- Runners-up: 1963, 1972
- Winners: 1996, 2006, 2007
- Liverpool Youth Cup: 3
- Winners: 1954, 1956, 1958
- Lancashire Division One League Cup: 3
- Winners: 1960, 1966, 1967
- Lancashire Division Two League Cup: 5
- Winners: 1962, 1966, 1967, 1973, 1980
- Lancashire Division Three League Cup: 1
- Winners: 1961