Neil Critchley spoke to reporters at Melwood ahead of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup quarter-final clash against Aston Villa on Tuesday.
With Jurgen Klopp and the first-team squad in Qatar for the Club World Cup, the Liverpool U23s boss is set to take charge of a young Reds team for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa.
Taking over Klopp’s usual pre-match duties, Critchley says he is excitedly anticipating the occasion and will be “very proud” to lead the Reds out as first-team manager.
“The decision [for two different sides in 24 hours] was taken above me, that was for the club to decide. It’s a unique set of circumstances. We tried to find the best solution,” he said.
“I and the players will benefit from that. We can’t wait. We will give everything we have. I’m excited, really looking forward to it. We can’t lose really. Give it all we’ve got be there for each other.
“These players want a tough challenge and the next step is the toughest. I hope they go and prove to everyone what they’re capable of.
“Any experience like this will help. That Arsenal game was an unbelievable evening. Part of my job is to put the players in situations where they learn and are outside their comfort zone. This will be that. I think the team tomorrow will take so much from the experience.
“You never quite know until the players are put in that situation. Our manager believes in young players. Look at Arsenal, he was very brave in selecting those players. The mentality [Klopp] breeds here seeps into the Academy as well. You can’t help but get influenced by it.
“The players know what is acceptable and not. We’re here to engage with them, challenge and support them. We never stop pushing them and we never settle for mediocrity. If that’s OK, we don’t settle for just OK.
“It is not like we’re throwing a team together. The pressure from us as a staff is that we play as a Liverpool team and that will be important for us. Can the boys handle it? We will find out.
“In the long term, as long as we learn, it can only help us. People watching will look at Liverpool’s young players and think they could be players of the future. It’s a difficult test but what an occasion for them to thrive.
“I am sure Jurgen and the staff will be watching. He will be in touch, he takes great interest in our young players. He is fully aware of all our young players. He will have a great interest in this one.
“It’s a great opportunity for all of us. I’ll be very proud. The pride I have will come from the players I work with. I will be immensely proud of the players who take to the pitch. No better feeling for a coach when the players who represent you going and play.”
Critchley also added that ‘one or two’ youngsters may head straight for Qatar to join up with Jurgen Klopp and the rest of the first team.
“I believe there might be a plane waiting for one or two,” he added.
“It might depend on how they play tomorrow. I’m hoping to sneak on myself.”
Rhian Brewster could miss out, however, with Critchley revealing the striker is a doubt for the clash in Birmingham and will need to be assessed closer to kick-off.