Home News 18-year-old makes his international debut BEFORE playing for Liverpool

18-year-old makes his international debut BEFORE playing for Liverpool

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It is not often a player will get his first senior international cap before debuting for his club, but that has happened to one Liverpool youngster this week.

Usually, national team managers prefer to wait for a player to establish himself at club level before considering a call-up.

Gareth Southgate was reluctant to include Kobbie Mainoo in his squad for England’s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium this month, for example, drafting the 18-year-old in after he initially joined the U21s.

But Liverpool midfielder Kyle Kelly was handed a rare opportunity when he received the call to join up with St Kitts and Nevis.

Kelly, 18, only made his first league outing for Liverpool U21s earlier in March, but was drafted into Austin Huggins’ group to play San Marino in back-to-back friendlies.

Wednesday brought the first meeting and Kelly’s debut, coming off the bench late on in a 3-1 victory for the two-island nation.

It was a game slated as San Marino’s best opportunity yet to gain a first win in 20 years, with FIFA’s lowest-ranked team were considered the bookmakers’ favourite.

After Filippo Berardi’s penalty opened the scoring for the hosts, Tyquan Terrell, Andre Burley and Harry Panayiotou struck without reply to earn victory for St Kitts and Nevis.

Kelly replaced Terrell with nine minutes left to play, as one of seven English-based players to feature and the only one currently at a Premier League club.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 23, 2023: Liverpool's Kyle Kelly during the Under-18 Premier League North match between Liverpool FC Under-18's and Everton FC Under-18's, the Mini-Mini-Merseyside Derby, at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He is eligible for both England and St Kitts and Nevis, and his involvement in these friendlies does not rule him out of switching allegiances later in his career.

There are high hopes for the versatile teenager among academy staff at Liverpool, with Kelly now being integrated into Barry Lewtas‘ U21s squad having only turned 18 in October.

He has been a regular for the U18s throughout the campaign, starting 13 of his 15 appearances along with two substitute outings for the U21s.

The last Liverpool player to debut for country before club was Conor Bradley – and no doubt Kelly will be hoping to follow his pathway now.