Jurgen Klopp delighted the Liverpool fan base last month when the news broke that the German had signed a new contract to keep him tied to the club until 2024.
After delivering a sixth Champions League success, a 97 point Premier League campaign and, as it stands, on course to guide the Reds to a record breaking domestic campaign, the former Borussia Dortmund coach renewing his deal at Anfield is brilliant news for the present day.
There will be a broader impact, too, of Klopp nailing his colours once again to the Liverpool mast; the assurance and environment it will create for young players to thrive and break into the first team.
When you think of coaches in English football famed for nurturing young footballing talent, two names quickly spring to mind; Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson, who spent 26 years in the Old Trafford hot seat, brought through the famed “class of 92” raft of young players. The likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs all made indelible marks as the club — powered by their academy graduates as well as successful big money signings — dominated the 1990’s and early to mid 2000’s. Under his tutelage, Cristiano Ronaldo, signed relatively inexpensively from Portugal, grew from an erratic winger to a goal scoring machine.
Likewise, Wenger polished raw gems signed from abroad — the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Cesc Fabergas — into world class talents, while also giving academy graduates such as Ashley Cole the opportunity to cut their teeth. Like his Scottish counterpart at United, Wenger — who had previously managed in France and Japan — spent 20+ years(22) at the helm of the Gunners, an era which included umpteen FA Cup successes and an unbeaten Premier League campaign and title in the 2003/2004 season.
The common thread between Wenger and Ferguson, often painted as enemies, was the time they spent in their respective jobs, and the success they earned, had bought them the necessary security to blood young players from the powers that be at their clubs and from the fans.
The modern footballing world is extremely cut throat, with managerial shelf life short lived and the spectre of the sack only a few poor results away. Therefore, with their jobs possibly under threat, managers will understandably stick to the tried and tested experienced players in the pursuit of results.
But with Klopp — who has never broken a contract in his previous jobs, with Mainz and Dortmund — in situ for what could be described in modern football as the long term, he will have the scope and the boardroom trust and patience to give young players, either from the academy or signed from elsewhere, their opportunity in the first team.
Trent Alexander Arnold, arguably the best right back in the world, was given his debut by the Black Forest native and his development has been meteoric, from a centre midfielder to a key cog in a machine that looks set to be all conquering.
Similarly, Joe Gomez, who had played left back in the first team prior to Klopp’s arrival, has been polished into a centre half of the highest quality.
Andy Robertson, who was relegated at Hull and effectively swapped for Kevin Stewart, has been developed into a steady Premier League left back into one of the best full backs in the world.
Klopp’s ability to spot, nurture and improve young players is one of his greatest strengths as a manager, and it was an attribute that was shown in all it’s glory at Dortmund, too. Mario Gotze, Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski were all young academy graduates or shrewd signings that were coached into world class or borderline world class players by the 52 year old.
Already this season, despite the pressures of winning the Premier League and retaining their Champions League crown, the German has handed out debuts in the Premier League to Harvey Elliott, a prospect signed for a nominal fee from Fulham, and Curtis Jones, the local born midfielder who wrote himself into the club’s history with an amazing goal in the FA Cup Merseyside derby.
Others, like Neco Williams and Yasser Larouci, were given chances in the League and FA Cups respectively and the Reds progressing in the FA Cup, where they will play either Shrewsbury or Bristol City in the next round, will see even more first team chances arise.
With the table toppers looking on course for a brilliant season, it is an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan. But with a collection of extremely talented young players at the club, and a manager with the faith in the academy — and past track record of developing players, at Dortmund and Liverpool — and the backing of the clubs owners and board, the future looks bright for the club and it’s young prospects.