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Kieran Morrison: How Man United’s loss was Liverpool’s gain with Curtis Jones doppelganger

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With there always an eye on the next one to break through at Liverpool, the development of Kieran Morrison within the academy should be closely followed.

Liverpool are building themselves quite the Northern Irish contingent at the moment.

The rise of Conor Bradley continues, with the 20-year-old adding a first international goal to his already-significant list of accomplishments this season.

At U21 level, Trent Kone-Doherty is making steady progress. The Derry-born teenager has impressed with Barry Lewtas‘ side this season, and has regularly been spotted training with Jurgen Klopp‘s senior squad too.

Off the field, the Ulster connection remains strong too. Barry Hunter, Coleraine born and bred, is the Reds’ chief scout, while Matt Newberry is one of the club’s unsung heroes, helping bring both Bradley and Kone-Doherty, as well as the likes of Stefan Bajcetic, Bobby Clark, Ben Doak, Calum Scanlon, James McConnell and Kaide Gordon, to Merseyside.

Throw in Andy Kelly, the popular and long-serving head of academy and women’s press, and you have a healthy group emerging down at Kirkby.

The latest addition to it is an exciting one, too.

 

How Liverpool signed Kieran Morrison from Man United

IPSWICH, ENGLAND - Friday, February 3, 2023: Liverpool's Kieran Morrison on the pitch before the FA Youth Cup 5th Round match between Ipswich Town FC Under-18's and Liverpool FC Under-18's at Portman Road. (Pic by Stephen Pond/Propaganda)

In a season in which Liverpool’s academy has thrived, made headlines and produced countless magic moments, the development of Kieran Morrison has been there for all to see.

The 17-year-old, who has already represented Northern Ireland at U19 level, has been one of the standout performers for Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s U18 side, and will now step up permanently to Lewtas’ U21s.

He trained with the senior squad at the AXA during this most recent international break, and will hope to get the chance to do so again before the end of the campaign, or at least in pre-season.

A versatile, left-footed attacking midfielder, Morrison joined Liverpool as an U14 player, having originally been spotted by Bolton Wanderers as a six-year-old and then subsequently spending eight years at Manchester United.

Despite being a Manchester lad – he grew up in Cheetham Hill and resides now in Salford – the decision to leave Old Trafford was a family one, with Liverpool viewed as the best place to develop.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Thursday, February 29, 2024: Liverpool's Kieran Morrison during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Youth Cup 5th Round match between Leeds United FC Under-18's and Liverpool FC Under-18's at Elland Road. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Reds have good contacts in the Greater Manchester area – the likes of Ryan Kent and James Balagizi, among others, were recruited that way – and their senior academy recruitment staff, chiefly Wayne Woods, had regularly delivered glowing reports on Morrison, who is one of five brothers and who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his grandmother.

He has certainly made an impact since arriving on Merseyside, with coaches remarking upon not only his talent, but his personality. ‘He has an edge to him’, seems to be a common consensus, but that is certainly not viewed as a negative.

Indeed, he has been compared to Curtis Jones because of the way he backs and believes in himself – not to mention the dark curly hair! – but his style of play, often starting on the right wing but cutting infield to score and create with his left foot, is reminiscent of another Reds academy product, the Fulham and Wales star Harry Wilson.

Like Wilson, or indeed Jones, Morrison is quick but not super-quick, relying more on his technique, vision and speed of thought.

 

What can we expect?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 20, 2024: Liverpool's Trent Kone-Doherty (L) celebrates with team-mate Kieran Morrison after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Youth Cup 4th Round match between Liverpool FC Under-18's and Arsenal FC Under-18's at the Liverpool Academy. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Academy sources believe he will move infield as he gets older, developing into more of a creative No. 8 than a wide-man, although his form off the right flank this season has been impressive enough.

In 27 games for the U18s and U21s, he has scored 11 goals and provided seven assists.

A standout performance came in November when he netted a fine hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Middlesbrough in dreadful conditions on the back pitch at Kirkby, while his goal in the 3-0 win over Fulham in the FA Youth Cup fifth round – a 25-yard screamer into the top corner – has become something of a Morrison trademark.

He doesn’t score many tap-ins, as they say.

Speak to staff at the academy and they have been delighted with his development. He was handed the captain’s armband for the U18s recently and responded well, showing maturity and a willingness to embrace responsibility. He has previously skippered the U16s under Jonathan Robinson, who now works with Steven Gerrard at Al Ettifaq and was a big fan of Morrison’s.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 2, 2023: Liverpool's Kieran Morrison during the Under-18 Premier League match between Liverpool FC Under-18's and Manchester City FC Under-18's at the Etihad Campus. Man City won 3-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Having seen the likes of Jayden Danns, Lewis Koumas and Trey Nyoni all make positive steps with the first team in recent weeks, it would be understandable if there was a degree of envy or impatience on Morrison’s part.

But coaches have been keen to stress the need for him to continue his development and there have been no signs of frustration or distraction. If anything, his levels have increased.

Where he could end up, time will tell, but most at Kirkby believe that with a bit of luck and the right mindset, he has the potential and the personality to make a good career in the game.

Manchester United’s loss, it seems, is Liverpool’s gain.