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05th Jan 2020

Jurgen Klopp’s contagious mentality is creating a generation of Liverpool winners

Wayne Farry

‘You can’t win anything with kids’

On Sunday evening, Liverpool hosted their rivals Everton at Anfield. Fielding a team well below strength and containing three teenagers, many saw this as Jurgen Klopp throwing in the FA Cup towel to strengthen the Reds’ league pursuit.

Instead, it was a declaration of the level of quality and strength in mentality that has now become the norm at all levels of the club, from the first team superstars all the way down to the young players desperate for a chance to succeed.

Looking at the team sheet, Everton would have been forgiven for feeling optimistic that they might finally win a game at Anfield – their first in more than two decades. They were facing a seemingly mashed together home team, but a win against Liverpool is a win against Liverpool, and would have been seen as the perfect result to help boost Carlo Ancelotti’s nascent Everton career.

But that never came close to happening, and come full-time, the result would end up being described by some Toffees supporters as the worst they’d witnessed in their time watching the club.

Everton will rue their many, many missed chances – indeed they could have scored three or four in the first half – but missed chances they were, and once they allowed Liverpool into the game there was only ever going to be one winner.

To add some perspective this was a Liverpool team that had never played together in its composition today. It was made up of debutantes, teenagers, reserves, recalled loan players and new signings, yet played with the confidence of a side that had taken to the field on countless occasions.

The young players in particular were magnificent. Curtis Jones will rightly take the plaudits thanks in no small part to his stunning winner, but each of them rose to the occasion, from right-back Neco Williams who handled everything that came his way, to the much-hyped Harvey Elliot, who ensured Lucas Digne had a shitty evening throughout.

It was the biggest match in some of these players’ careers, but they approached it like it was nothing more than another game. They did their jobs in style and without fuss. That’s no coincidence.

Since joining the club over four years ago Jurgen Klopp has transformed this side from a group of misfits dotted with talent into a relentless machine that vacuums up every team and completes every challenge on the horizon.

Their recently completed unbeaten domestic calendar year is proof of this, as is their start to the Premier League and victorious Champions League campaign last season.

We have seen this happen in front of our eyes, from seats in the stands or from the view on our couch, and we have grown accustomed to this dominance that it no longer surprises us.

This season especially, we expect the customary Liverpool win at a canter, just as we used to with Manchester United and Chelsea teams of past eras.

We expect it from their first team squad – their starters are now seasoned pros and winners – but it is the fact that this attitude has so clearly permeated the youth set up at Melwood that makes Klopp’s impact and influence on the club all the more impressive.

In his post match interview, match winner and man of the match Jones spoke of his frustration at his lack of opportunities and that he had even gone so far as to beg his manager to be included.

“I’ve had a bit of a tough time, well not tough, but frustrating at times. I’ve been on the bench, then you get a bit of a taste then on the bench again,” he told the BBC. “There’s been times where in my head I’m begging to come on and then I’ve tried to go out there today and showed what I’m capable of doing.”

This may seem like a throwaway comment but look at the context. He is an 18-year-old midfielder at the current league leaders, who are currently unbeaten in the Premier League. They are the reigning European and world champions and are widely considered the best club side in the world right now.

It is no surprise that Jones cannot break into the team, nor should he be able to considering their embarrassment of riches and current form. Nonetheless, he feels like he could and should break into the team.

That confidence speaks to the mentality that he and his young teammates possess and is a testament to the the fact that Jurgen Klopp has made winning, and feeling like a winner, a habit for those at Anfield.

It should also, quite frankly, terrify the rest of English football.