Liverpool vice-captain James Milner has been impressed with the young players who represented the club so well in the FA Cup but has warned they will get a “kick up the rear” if they let their new-found fame go to their heads.
The likes of Cameron Brannagan, Kevin Stewart, Joao Carlos Teixeira, Pedro Chirivella, Connor Randall, Sheyi Ojo and Jerome Sinclair, all under 23, were used by Jurgen Klopp as he tried to manage a crippling injury crisis in January.
Many kept their places for all the FA Cup matches, a run which ended in an extra-time fourth-round replay defeat at West Ham on Tuesday, and earned plaudits for their performances.
Milner does not expect any of the academy graduates to get too big for their boots following their unexpected first-team exposure but has stressed the senior players will keep a watchful eye on them.
“They’ve got their heads on their shoulders, their feet on the ground, and they know what they want to achieve,” he told the club’s official website.
“If they don’t, that’s where we step in and give them a kick up the rear but I don’t see that being too much of a problem.”
Milner hopes some will manage to provide viable competition for the established players in Klopp’s squad.
“To perform how they did over those two games and when they’ve been called on this year is great,” he added.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries this year and you want those boys to come in and not just fill that spot for the time being but to push whoever’s holding that shirt and be part of the squad, improve and become better players as well.
“Ultimately they’re the future of this club so the more games they get, the more experience and the more they can learn, it’s obviously better for everyone.”
While Milner and his team-mates keep an eye on the future of the club on the pitch, the future off it took another step forward with a topping-out ceremony – done when a structure reaches its maximum height – for the Main Stand as it undergoes its £120million redevelopment.
Klopp, chief executive Ian Ayre, former player and manager Kenny Dalglish and a host of other ex-players marked the occasion alongside construction workers on site.
Ten former players – Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler, Gary McAllister, Jamie Carragher, John Barnes, Ian Saint John, Phil Neal, Alan Kennedy, Ian Callaghan and Roger Hunt – all signed a piece of structural steel which will be lifted and secured into the roof of the stand, which is now more than double the height of the existing structure.
“We have today reached another important milestone in this fantastic project,” said Ayre.
“We are absolutely delighted with the progress and are looking forward to having even more fans (redevelopment will add an extra 8,500 seats) supporting the team at Anfield when the Main Stand opens next season.”