Midfielder praised for showing ‘difference’ since Liverpool first-team boost

James McConnell was singled out for praise following Liverpool U21s’ draw with Benfica in the Premier League International Cup over the weekend.

The midfielder registered 168 minutes for the Reds during pre-season but is yet to make his senior debut for Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

He has five Premier League 2 appearances under his belt already this season and made the first-team matchday squad for the second time in Saturday’s Merseyside derby at Anfield.

Having watched on from the substitutes bench against Everton, the 19-year-old then went on to play and score for Barry Lewtas‘ U21 side the following day.

PRESTON, ENGLAND - Monday, August 7, 2023: Liverpool's James McConnell during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and SV Darmstadt 98 at Deepdale. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

McConnell equalised at the AXA Training Centre just five minutes after Filipe Cruz opened the scoring with a brilliant goal of his own to give Benfica U21s the lead.

Lewtas described it as an “unbelievable” weekend for the teenager and lauded the variety of attributes he has within his game.

“For James to be on the bench at Anfield in the Merseyside derby and then start for us, I thought he did ever so well and took his goal well,” the U21s boss told the club’s official website.

SINGAPORE - Sunday, July 30, 2023: Liverpool's James McConnell during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at the Singapore National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“He is showing us lots of different things to his game this year, playing as a No.6, scoring headers. It just goes to show what he can do.”

Jurgen Klopp described McConnell as a “joy to watch” following an impressive friendly display against Leicester during the summer.

The youngster joined the club from Sunderland in 2019 and caught the attention of Klopp and his backroom team by notching five goals and three assists from midfield in the U18 Premier League last season.

With Liverpool moving along nicely in the League Cup and Europa League with rotated sides, McConnell will likely have one eye on making his full debut for the club sooner rather than later.