LEWIS STEELE: James McConnell enjoys a day to remember with 19-year-old Liverpool midfielder getting an assist and producing an encouraging display on his first start against Norwich
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LEWIS STEELE: James McConnell enjoys a day to remember with 19-year-old Liverpool midfielder getting an assist and producing an encouraging display on his first start against Norwich

Feb 6, 2024
  • James McConnell got an assist on his first start for Liverpool against Norwich 
  • 19-year-old produced an encouraging display and will hope for further chances 
  • Why Jurgen Klopp quit and who Liverpool should go for now – Listen to It’s All Kicking Off 

Alexis Mac Allister isn’t the only midfielder nicknamed ‘Macca’ to be moulded into a No 6 on Merseyside this season. With the World Cup winner missing with a minor injury, up stepped 19-year-old James McConnell to make his first Liverpool start.

The teenager was born in Newcastle and poached from the Sunderland academy as an Under-15 player and has been long touted as a potential first-teamer, but his developments this season have taken even those who have watched him regularly by surprise.

McConnell has captained age-group sides and spent most of his youth career in a more advanced role but this season he has matured into a deep-lying playmaker, akin to Mac Allister who was signed from Brighton, where he played predominantly as a No 8.

He earned rave reviews from Jurgen Klopp after being part of the travelling squad to Singapore in pre-season, where he looked awestruck to be playing among Liverpool’s heavyweight stars, and that saw him fight his way on to the substitutes’ bench for several first-team games.

The youngster has made three appearances as a substitute, two in the Europa League and a single minute off the bench against Brentford in the Premier League, but this match will be a day he remembers above all.

Liverpool youngster James McConnell gave a very good account of himself against Norwich

Liverpool youngster James McConnell gave a very good account of himself against Norwich

Jurgen Klopp congratulated McConnell for his encouraging performance in the FA Cup tie

Jurgen Klopp congratulated McConnell for his encouraging performance in the FA Cup tie

After catching the eye in pre-season, McConnell is now getting a chance in the first-team

After catching the eye in pre-season, McConnell is now getting a chance in the first-team

After leaving the pitch to a standing ovation after going down, presumably with cramp, deep into the second half, McConnell was greeted by a bear hug from his grateful manager, Klopp. The German looked genuinely delighted at the midfielder’s display.

His standout moment was the cushioned, chipped pass to Curtis Jones to set up Liverpool’s opener in the first half. But there were plenty of good touches from McConnell, who completed 72 passes and was always open for passes.

McConnell’s successes are part of a wider theme at Liverpool so far in 2024 especially, with Conor Bradley and Jarell Quansah now evolving into fully-fledged members of the first-team and the likes of Bobby Clark and Ben Doak, when fit, not far behind.

‘There is a lot to come still, Bobby Clark didn’t come on,’ said Klopp on the academy prodigies. ‘(Lewis) Koumas, (Jayden) Danns, a lot of really good players coming up, academy is in a good moment, producing wise.

‘James could consider himself a No 8 but he is a smart footballer and when it is necessary can play in that position, did really well today. We also saw the cross for Curtis and a lot of other moments.

Liverpool boss Klopp stated that there is a lot more to come from the club's academy

Liverpool boss Klopp stated that there is a lot more to come from the club’s academy

McConnell provided an assist for Curtis Jones as Liverpool prevailed against Norwich

McConnell provided an assist for Curtis Jones as Liverpool prevailed against Norwich

Jarell Quansah is heavily involved with the first-team and McConnell will look to emulate him

Jarell Quansah is heavily involved with the first-team and McConnell will look to emulate him

‘Conor the same – really good, Quansah not sure how long we talk about him as an academy. 

‘He is an important part of the squad and we wouldn’t be where we are without the boys. It is not about me giving them opportunities, it is them knocking on the door.’

For most Liverpool fans, this run-of-the-mill clash with Norwich in the FA Cup fourth round will be remembered only for it being the first game after Klopp announced his departure. 

For McConnell, it will be remembered for a wholly different reason – the proudest day of his career.

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