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Virgil van Dijk’s advice to young Reds – and why he took League Cup trophy home!

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Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk had advised the club’s emerging young stars to keep their feet on the ground – as he will be keeping an eye on them.

Eighteen-year-olds Jayden Danns and Lewis Koumas, sons of former Premier League professionals Neil and Jason, scored the goals which beat Southampton 3-0 to set up an FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United.

The last week has seen academy players thrust into the spotlight with an injury crisis denying Jurgen Klopp the services of 13 first-team players – with Andy Robertson’s illness briefly adding to the issues – and after impressing in the Carabao Cup final win over Chelsea they were central figures against Saints.

Danns came off the bench to score twice in only his third appearance, all coming in the space of eight days, while Koumas was making his debut when he scored the opener.

Klopp cautioned about putting too much expectation on the teenagers and Van Dijk said the next step in their development was to build on their early breakthroughs.

“It was a big night for all of them and they should really take it in and enjoy it and see it as a start and really use it in every way,” said the 32-year-old defender, who admitted he felt old when “half my age” Trey Nyoni came off the bench.

“They all have quality and all can play good football but it is about showing your quality and it’s a start.

“For example, Trey at 16 years old, it is incredible. There will be so many ups and downs coming for him but he has to take it in as players (are) maybe coming back in the next weeks and months and it could be difficult for him (to get in the squad).

“He has to keep pushing and the same for the rest of the young boys. That should be the mentality and I am sure they will do that.

“In my career I’ve seen players who make their debuts after coming through the ranks and then disappear.

“Even learning from being around the first team is massive and you should soak it all in and don’t get carried away.

“They have to keep improving, keep working; staying humble is a very important thing but we have a great culture and I’m definitely one of the guys to make sure they keep doing that.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 28, 2024: Liverpool's Jayden Danns celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Cup 5th Round match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

To produce such a result with injuries biting hard, just three days after a gruelling 120 minutes at Wembley, was testament to the determination of the youngsters and the endurance of the senior players still able to turn out.

Van Dijk played only the first half as Klopp agreed a pre-match plan for him to be replaced by Ibrahima Konate after his influential performance against Chelsea.

And the Dutchman revealed one of the perks of being captain was that he got to take the trophy home on their arrival back on Merseyside.

“I wanted to show my kids in person, close up,” he said.

“I put it on the kitchen counter when I came home and left it there. I’ve got four kids and they were so happy to see it and then I took it back to training the next day so everyone could take a picture with it at the AXA (training centre) as they have all played their part in the success we have had and they deserve to be holding the trophy.”