In the absence of the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Bradley's recent contributions to the Liverpool first team have been an unexpected bonus just at the right time. For assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders, however, they come as no surprise.
Speaking ahead of the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Fulham, Lijnders shed light on the club's philosophy regarding loan spells and the impact they can have on young talents, using Bradley as a prime example.
"The right moments and the right loan make a big difference," he remarked, praising England's knack for strategic player development. "It's what England is famous for, finding the right timings to play in the lower league."
However, the Dutchman also underscored the importance of choosing the right footballing environment for a player's growth: "It's really important that he goes to the right manager who does an unbelievable job [and] the right style of play."
The right loan
The emergence of the 20-year-old this season comes on the back of "the right loan" - in his case at Bolton Wanderers, where he got seven goals and six assists across 53 appearances in 2022/23.
Discussing the right-back's time there, Lijnders stressed that the loan move wasn't about creating a market for the player but rather providing him with valuable playing time in senior football in preparation for a promotion to the Reds' first team.
Upon Bradley's return, he took part in pre-season under coach Jurgen Klopp and impressed. However, his momentum was cut short by an unfortunate injury.
That said, the emergence of Bradley has not taken the coaching staff by surprise. "We always believed it. It's part of our project to bring these young players from already a long time," Lijnders said.
He went on to recall how, with the Northern Irishman on the right and the recently recalled Owen Beck on the left, Liverpool's reserve team "dominated the complete channel offensively and defensively" two years ago, during the duo's time together.
Lijnders went on to highlight Bradley's on-field intelligence, particularly his ability to press and seamlessly transition into the half-space. "Conor leaves his position to press, so he's already five metres in front of two players who stay up and go because he knows," he explained, lauding Bradley's tactical acumen.
"I'm really happy everybody in the outside world [sees it], but we see it already for six or seven years that all these young players make such an impact. That's a sign for a healthy club."