Liverpool Under-23s boss Neil Critchley paid tribute to James Milner for helping to inspire the young guns to victory as they edged past Shrewsbury in their FA Cup fourth-round replay at Anfield.
Liverpool’s team stood at an average of 19 years and 102 days at Anfield on Tuesday night as they overcame their League One opponents courtesy of a second-half own goal from Ro-Shaun Williams.
The Reds were on top for most of the game but Shrewsbury’s best moment came when what appeared the opening goal of the night was ruled out for offside by VAR, as Liverpool eventually advanced to face Chelsea in the fifth round next month.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference after the game, Critchley revealed his delight at the players’ performance and revealed a message from head coach Jurgen Klopp, who – along with his senior players – were absent and honouring the Premier League winter break.
Critchley said: “From the first whistle, the maturity the boys showed to play that game was remarkable. They calmed me on the sidelines. We’re the deserved winners on the night.
“The boss was in touch this afternoon with words of encouragement and he sent a message after to say that he’s buzzing.
“Jurgen is the manager of the team, of this football club. The boss is the boss. The players have done the club proud tonight. The support we had was incredible. A full house, it’s ridiculous and they stayed until the very end.”
But Critchley was also full of praise for veteran midfielder Milner, who delayed a family holiday to help with the preparation for the game, as well as offering the youngsters some sound advice.
“He trained with us yesterday and he asked whether he could come along,” said Critchley.
“I think the answer is ‘Yes, of course you can.’ It was very respectful to ask.”
“He then said ‘Can I come in the dressing room?’. What do you think? ‘Of course’.
“He was giving words of advice, he was getting right behind the players. He was vocal in the dressing room. He was animated. He was vocal behind me, I could hear him.
“He was genuinely delighted at how the boys performed and I can’t thank him enough.”
Shrewsbury manager reacts to Liverpool defeat
Shrewsbury manager Sam Ricketts admitted his side never got out of the blocks against Liverpool.
“I cannot fault the players, they worked so hard to get here but that is game 39 for us and I think it just caught up with us,” he said.
“We just couldn’t get up to the physicality levels to play a game of football.
“The players are down at the minute because we knew if we got anywhere near our levels we could impose ourselves. But we were far too passive in the game generally.”