Tuesday 12 June 2012
Liverpool's young Academy players enjoyed their first taste of the big time as they claimed victory at the Premier League U11 Festival.
The competition at the University of Warwick in Coventry featured under-11 sides from 18 of the top English clubs, as well as Barcelona, Ajax and Sporting Lisbon.
The two-day event gave most players their first experience of tournament football, and Liverpool Academy Manager Steve Cooper said it had been a fantastic all-round occasion.
"At this level and age group they just tend to play regional teams," said Cooper.
"The Premier League clubs more than held their own"
- Liverpool Academy Manager Steve Cooper
"So it was a chance to play against other teams we don't normally play against, and to socialize with them as well, to hear some different accents and see some different styles.
"The beauty of 10 and 11-year-olds is that they will speak to anybody and to see the kids interacting as they did between games was really refreshing.
"It's obviously great to win and we’re really proud of the boys, but wherever we had finished up it would still have been a fantastic experience."
After finishing top of their group, Liverpool beat Barcelona on penalties in the semi-final after drawing 1-1 in normal time.
Fulham also reached the final on penalties after drawing 0-0 with Arsenal in their semi-final, and the final went to another shoot-out after finishing goalless.
Manchester United claimed victory in the Plate competition with victory over Newcastle United in the final.
"Playing Barcelona is exciting enough as it is. I know our kids were made up just to be playing them," said Cooper.
"And for them to play against Liverpool, who are known around the world, it was nice for the kids to be part of something like that.
"The way that both teams went about the game, trying to play the right way and with a carefree attitude, was brilliant."
The tournament was played in the nine-a-side format that will soon become mandatory for under-11s and under-12s as part of reforms introduced by the Football Association.
The games were played on 80x50 yard pitches, with two halves of 12 minutes each.
"I think nine v nine at under-11 is very appropriate and the weekend in general proved that it is a good step," said Cooper.
"The Premier League clubs more than held their own. I took note of the European teams and the level of their players and there was no difference really between our boys and their boys, and by that I mean the country in general.
"I think that's a good sign of the work that's being done in the foundation phase and bodes well for the future."