Liverpool U21s manager Michael Beale admits he would rather see another one of his players make a first-team debut this season than his side win the league.
The Reds have had an excellent campaign in the U21 Premier League and trail league-leaders Manchester United by just two points in second place.
The youth side seen their title challenge continue with a 2-1 victory over Leicester City at Chester City's Swansway Chester Stadium on Monday night to keep tracks on the Red Devils.
Throughout the past few years, Beale has seen the likes of Jordan Ibe and most recently Jordan Rossiter all make their first performance for Brendan Rodgers' side.
U21 football is all about developing players' skills to contest in first-team football and although league triumph would be an excellent achievement, Beale feels one more of his men competing alongside Steven Gerrard and co. would make the season a greater success.
“It’s more important that we managed to solve a problem at half-time where they were bigger and stronger and their style of play was really affecting us," the U21s boss told the Liverpool Echo.
“We’ve got to not get carried away with the league here, these are development games and I’d be underselling the players if I just focused so much on the results because I haven’t been all season.
“That was the chat at half-time really: ‘You seem too focused on the result and tense and I just want you to play the way we work every day’ and that’s a big lesson for them today.
“For us it is about development. If you could give me one more debut between now and the end of the season or winning this league, I’d take the debut every time because that’s what this team’s about.
“Every game we play, yes we’ve got a game plan to win and do well but that cannot override us getting a player in the first team. That’s ultimately what this team’s about.”
Amongst the Liverpool U21 squad there is plenty of talent and many could become an integral part of Rodgers' side in season's to come.
Samed Yesil was purchased for £1 million from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2012 and was one of Rodgers' first signings. His record at youth level for Germany is exceptional and was touted to be fast-tracked in the Liverpool first-team when he signed aged 18.
Yesil's Anfield career has unfortunately been riddled with two serious injuries but he has recently made his return from the side-lines and netted twice during his side's 3-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur U21s.
Jerome Sinclair is also a player that has attracted plenty of attention. He signed for Liverpool at just 14 and has always been highly regarded. Under the mentor-ship of Robbie Fowler, Sinclair has transformed himself into a prolific goalscorer and netted a terrific solo strike against Chelsea U21s.
The Birmingham native made his debut for the club aged just 16 and six days back in 2012 and, although he hasn't made another appearance since, he's impressed at youth level and on loan at Wigan Athletic this term.
Liverpool have just three games left in the Premier League and despite trailing Manchester United by just four points, their Champions League aspirations look over.
Fifth place is the position the Reds are likely to finish and there is no longer not much to play for. Therefore, it could be time for Rodgers to hand some of his younger players a chance in the first-team.
Ibe has excelled this term since returning from his loan spell at Derby County and another youngster could emerge through the ranks. Sinclair and Yesil will be in the running, likewise Sheyi Ojo, who also spent time on loan at Wigan this term.
Chances Next Season
Last summer, Rodgers was handed a monumental amount of money by owners, Fenway Sports Group, to bring new recruits to the Merseyside club.
Many of those signings have failed to make an impact at Anfield and it's likely that FSG will not hand the Northern Irishman more cash this transfer window.
Rodgers will have to 'buy to sell' to increase his budget which could be difficult. Mario Balotelli is an unwanted ornament at Liverpool and the former Swansea City boss will be keen to offload the Italian. However, considering Balotelli's reputation and failure at the Reds, it's likely that nobody will take the striker on board.
If Rodgers cannot gain the funds to buy new players, he may be forced to use his younger, more hungry prospects more regularly.
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