While Liverpool's youth system has had a good history of producing top talent, Brendan Rodgers hopes to take it to another level with a new approach in nurturing future club icons.
Tuesday afternoon saw Liverpool's senior team head out to the club's academy in Kirkby to spend some time with its entire youth system. While the visit could easily be written off as a fluffy photo op – and, to be fair, the pictures produced from the afternoon are fairly adorable – Brendan Rodgers was clear that there was more to the visit than just giving the kids an afternoon to remember for the rest of their lives.
"We were meant to be in Dubai having a break this week," said Rodgers. "I cancelled it after we lost to Oldham and told the players we were coming here instead. I couldn't get it out of my mind the idea of players walking around Dubai after we had gone out of the Cup. I said 'no'. You have to earn those rewards. This is more important."
It's not simply a case of punishing cocky players who got their comeuppance from a lower league side, as if Rodgers was a sitcom father taking his ungrateful children to a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day to teach them a lesson. Teachable though a moment like the Oldham game might be, Rodgers' intent was to bring every level of the club together as part of his hope to refashion a single club philosophy and identity at every level of the organization, from the first team all the way down to the youngest youth members, some of whom may not yet have been born the last time the club won a Champions League title.
"When I came in I sold the owners that idea so that if it doesn't work out for me, at least you bring in a different manager who wants to play the same style and then it evolves," Rodgers explained. "I want to create a shortcut so that everyone who comes in immediately understands what is expected in terms of style of play. It saves time, money and effort. This is the first year of that and, naturally, there are growing pains."
The Telegraph article detailing Liverpool's historical success in developing local talent and how academy staff have seen changes with each of the last five gaffers is worth a read in and of itself, but it's Rodgers' attempts to forge a deeper connection between the first team and future first teamers that stand out. More than being about kids getting face time with their heroes, Rodgers seems to be in the beginning stages of establishing a mentorship framework that makes the young players feel more like an intrinsic part of the club and the club's identity.
Rodgers was on the receiving end of some good natured ribbing at the start of the season for occasionally eulogizing the club as if he were the reincarnation of Bill Shankly himself, but it's clear that beneath his reverence for the club's history and traditions, Rodgers understands the power of a unified approach to both tactics and philosophy. What remains left to do is to begin harnessing that power in the next few seasons.