Liverpool Under-23s coach Neil Critchley believes Harvey Elliott is “not too far” away from making his mark on the first team.
Elliott showed why Liverpool signed him from Fulham in the summer, despite being on the receiving end of a 5-0 Carabao Cup quarter-final hiding from Aston Villa on Tuesday night as the Reds fielded the youngest team in their history.
The youngest player on the Villa Park pitch at 16, the England youth international produced a captivating, energetic performance and only a brilliant save from Orjan Nyland denied him a goal.
Asked as to how close Elliott was to regular senior football, Critchley said: “He is not too far because he trains with the first team on a regular basis, so he has had first-team exposure already. The manager and the staff think a lot of him.
“I thought he was a constant threat, a really good outlet for us. He was reliant on others getting the ball to him, and I thought the service to him was top class as well.
“I wouldn’t want to single anyone out because I thought the whole group of players, the subs included, we couldn’t have done any more.”
Elliott already holds two records as the youngest to play in the League Cup, at 15 years and 174 days, and the youngest to play in the Premier League, at 16 years and 30 days, both while with Fulham last season before joining the Reds.
However, Elliott will not be making the trip to the Middle East, instead defenders Ki-Jana Hoever and Sepp Van Den Berg and goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher are all flying out to join Liverpool’s senior squad.
Critchley, meanwhile, defended the club’s stance in fielding a line-up comprising all academy players, with the entire first-team squad on duty in Qatar for the Club World Cup.
“It’s what was decided by the club, that this was the best solution,” said Critchley.
“And try telling them players it was a bad thing for them. If you’d have come into our dressing room at the end, you would know the feeling those players have had.
“You can’t swap that experience for anything. It was a special evening for them.
“We’re the beneficiaries of the success of the first team, we’re jumping on the back of a roller coaster a little bit, so it was what was decided.”
The PA news agency understands Liverpool’s team selection at Villa Park “came as no surprise” to the EFL as it had fully prepared for such an outcome having gone along with the club’s wishes to play the tie on its original designated date.
As a result there will be no action in relation to fielding a weakened team in contravention of competition regulations.