Lewis Koumas and Liverpool’s kids are living the dream – and it’s not over yet

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There was a high five from World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister and a bear hug from Jurgen Klopp.

As a wide-eyed Lewis Koumas walked to the touchline shortly after the hour mark he had the applause of an appreciative Anfield crowd ringing in his ears. His father Jason, the former Wales international, was sat among them in the Main Stand bursting with pride.

The Liverpool teenager had become the fourth youngest player in the club’s 132-year history to score on his debut. As he put it on his X account later, it was “a dream come true” and “a night I’ll never forget”.

Having watched his academy mates sparkle in the Carabao Cup triumph at Wembley when he was an unused substitute, Koumas grasped his own opportunity to shine as Southampton were swept aside to set up a mouthwatering FA Cup quarter-final clash away to Manchester United.


Jurgen Klopp congratulates Lewis Koumas (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Latching on to Bobby Clark’s pass, he darted inside before unleashing a right-footer which found the bottom corner via a slight deflection. It was Liverpool’s first shot on target after an opening 45 minutes in which they had been second best.

“A wonderful goal,” raved Klopp. “A boy playing on the left wing against a senior player in a team with not a lot of patterns, let me say it like that, is tricky.

“Staying in the game for these moments just shows he is a real striker because the goal is exceptional, the step in and then he shoots before the goalie can really settle. A really good finish.”

No sooner had Koumas taken a seat behind Klopp, his replacement and close friend Jayden Danns set about finishing the tie off. The dinked finish from Harvey Elliott’s pass was exquisite and his second was emphatic after Conor Bradley’s shot had been parried.

“I’ve come up through the whole academy with Lewis so I was so buzzing for him to score,” Danns said. “When I scored as well the headlines were always going to be about two youngsters. We grew up together, it’s unbelievable to see him score and an even better feeling to score myself. My head is in the clouds. I couldn’t be happier.”

Remarkably, it’s the first time in Liverpool’s history that two players aged 18 or under have scored in the same senior game.

The only player younger than either Koumas or Danns to have netted for the club in the FA Cup is Kaide Gordon, who was 17 when he struck against Shrewsbury Town two years ago.

Gordon’s journey since provides a cautionary tale about how injuries can derail development and there was the welcome sight of the gifted winger coming off the bench late on as he strives to get back to where he was.

There was also a debut for midfielder Trey Nyoni, becoming Liverpool’s youngest ever player in the FA Cup at 16 years and 243 days in the process. Nyoni has delighted academy staff with his progress since arriving from Leicester City last summer.

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Trey Nyoni became Liverpool’s youngest FA Cup player (Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

With Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo sidelined by ankle issues, and Andy Robertson ill, Liverpool were without 14 members of their first-team squad. However, somehow this injury crisis hasn’t dented momentum with quadruple talk still alive. It was a night when teenagers Clark and James McConnell, making just their second competitive starts for Liverpool, also enhanced their growing reputations.

“I cannot imagine how this week must feel for the boys. It feels pretty good for me but I know about all the problems we have as well,” Klopp added.

“They don’t have to care about that so they can just fly and they deserve that. It’s the week of the academy and it’s exceptional. I never had that before – that you play with that many kids and still can win football games.”

Liverpool beat off competition from Manchester United and Everton when they signed Chester-born Koumas from Tranmere Rovers at under-11s level. He was viewed as a midfielder but coaching staff decided to push him further forward two years ago and he responded by scoring four in an under-18s victory over Middlesbrough.

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This season Koumas has gone to the next level with 15 goals at academy level. His standout performance was in the 7-1 rout of Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup last month when he bagged a classy hat-trick.

Danny Hart, who coached Koumas during his two years playing at Wirral Schoolboys in 2016 and 2017, was among those watching events at Anfield in delight against Southampton.

“I just feel proud to see the potential that was in him (being fulfilled) as some kids at that age have the potential when they are 10 or 11 but drop off,” he said.

“You could tell with his character when he was 10 and 11 that he had that resilience and that drive to stick at it. He always wanted to improve. He was never messing around at training, he always wanted to listen and learn.

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Lewis Koumas (bottom row, fourth from left) with Wirral School Boys (Courtesy of Wirral School Boys)

“He just looked like a young pro the way he carried himself. He was confident in his own ability but at the same time he was quite shy and reserved. You just knew as soon as he turned up at trials he was not only going to be a decent player but that he would make it.

“He was always critiquing himself. He was always disappointed in his performances and always wanted to be better. Sometimes he would walk off the pitch with his head down and I’d have to say ‘Come on Lew, you scored a couple of goals and set a couple up!’

“But he always wanted to be better and it was quite rare to see that in a kid that age. He has that pedigree and I’m sure his dad’s coached him a lot mentally about always wanting to be better and your best never being good enough.”

Koumas was in the same Wirral team as Robbie Fowler’s son Jacob. They were also in the same age group at Liverpool’s academy together but Jacob has since moved on to Oxford United.

Hart added: “No matter who we played, Lew was always the standout player. His sharpness and technique just stood out from anybody else. It was the way he used the ball and the way he read the game.

“He got himself out of so many situations because he was so quick off the mark, his acceleration and drive with the ball. We would always have opposition coaches and managers commenting on his ability.

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Lewis Koumas celebrates his goal (John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

“We’ve been messaging recently and you can tell how happy he is and how much he’s enjoying his footy. You could see in his celebration it meant the world to him. It’s nice that he’s kept in touch as well. It just shows he has not forgotten where he’s come from. I’m just dead proud of him.”

What a night for Koumas and what a week for Danns, who made his Premier League debut against Luton, helped Liverpool win the Carabao Cup at Wembley and then scored the first goals of his senior career.

“Not so long ago we were in the under-18s changies (dressing room) together and having the tunes on so to go out there and play on the main stage is a great feeling,” Danns added. “Last week was the best day of my life, the final was the best day of my life and now tonight is the best day of my life. Whatever happens now, I can live happy.”

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Bobby Clark, Jayden Danns and two very proud footballing fathers

Academy director Alex Inglethorpe flew in from a youth tournament in Morocco to attend the Carabao Cup final with the club’s under-18s squad. He couldn’t have written a more inspirational script for them.

Two wins packed full of teenage heroes repaying the manager’s faith – talk about fuelling the feelgood factor.

(Top photos: Lewis Koumas collects a trophy for Wirral School Boys and Getty Images)





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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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