Neil Critchley is convinced Tuesday's FA Cup triumph over Shrewsbury Town will not prove to be the defining moment of several Liverpool youngsters' Anfield careers.
Ro-Shaun Williams' calamitous own goal 15 minutes from time sealed Liverpool's progression to the fifth round of the FA Cup , despite manager Jurgen Klopp — who handed the reins to academy coach Critchley — having refused to field any first-team regulars. However, Liverpool's youngsters were well worthy of their victory, which sets up a fifth-round clash with Chelsea in early March — a tie Klopp is sure to take charge of.
But Critchley, who also led a 5-0 EFL Cup defeat to Aston Villa while Liverpool's first team was in Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup in December, insists the victory will not be what defines this batch of prospects.
"From the first whistle, the maturity the boys showed to play that game was remarkable. They calmed me on the sidelines. We're the deserved winners on the night," Critchley told a news conference.
"We don't want this to be a defining moment of their careers. We want this to be a taste to whet their appetites. They want more of it. It gives them the belief and confidence in the work they do on a daily basis that people don't see until a night like this.
"The boss was in touch this afternoon with some words of wisdom. I've not checked my phone yet but he's buzzing and we've given him a game against Chelsea. That was the message we gave the boys, play well tonight and they could get that chance and Chelsea away is a great game.
"We played like a Liverpool team and I am so proud of them. They've made a step forward. I was really pleased with how we stood up to the physicality of the game. We did things outstandingly well. It was much better than the Aston Villa game.
"Jurgen gives you clarity and belief. Play the Liverpool way! This is us, this is what we do, what we stand for, what we believe in and you better be ready for it. From the first minute, I think we did that."
While Liverpool's squad has been given time off over the Premier League's winter break, one senior figure who has remained at Melwood is James Milner, who was watching from the stands on Tuesday. "James Milner trained with us yesterday and asked if he could come along," Critchley revealed. "He was very respectful to ask, he asked if he could come in the dressing room. Of course! He's achieved so much in the game.
"He was giving words of advice to the players, he was vocal in the dressing room. I can't thank him enough. He's not available yet but he was certainly jumping up and down behind me, itching to get back."
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