Liverpool

Leighton Clarkson: Things to know about young Liverpool midfielder

Tom Gott
Leighton Clarkson made his European debut against Midtjylland
Leighton Clarkson made his European debut against Midtjylland / Gareth Copley/Getty Images
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Liverpool's injury crisis has obviously been a real issue, but the number of young players who have benefitted from newfound minutes in the first team has been an overwhelming positive.

Curtis Jones is the young midfielder who has captured Liverpool hearts over the last few months, but next to make his breakthrough could be 19-year-old Leighton Clarkson, who started for the Reds in their 1-1 draw with Midtjylland in the Champions League, and has been a feature in Premier League matchday squads.

Here's what you need to know about the young midfielder who could have eyes on being Gini Wijnaldum's long-term successor...


1. Steven Gerrard has given him 1-on-1 coaching

Gerrard used to coach Clarkson
Gerrard used to coach Clarkson / Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

For a Liverpool youngster, there's nothing better than the chance to work with the legendary Steven Gerrard, and Clarkson was given the opportunity to do just that.

"I was 16 and he was the Under-18s coach," he told the club's official website. "I remember Gerrard was doing almost like a one-to-one session after the training session with Adam Lewis. So when I did go up, I was doing the same thing as Adam.

"It was me, Adam and Gerrard. We were just hitting free kicks after sessions and stuff. Ever since that moment, I've always thought in my head after my sessions, 'Try to get 10, 20 minutes just hitting free kicks'."

2. He's a bit of a set-piece specialist

All that work with Gerrard clearly paid off as Clarkson has earned a reputation as something of a dead-ball specialist.

The finest example of his skill came back in late 2018 during a 4-3 win over Everton's Under-18s, in which Clarkson fired home a wicked free kick for Liverpool's third before setting up the fourth from another free kick late in the game.

The midfielder admits it's his favourite goal of his career so far, and it's not hard to see why, not to mention the opposition.

3. He names Gerrard as his idol (obviously)

Clarkson names Gerrard as his idol
Clarkson names Gerrard as his idol / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Working with Gerrard will have been that little bit more special for Clarkson, who is happy to admit that the former midfielder is the player he idolised growing up.

He told his boyhood side, Clitheroe Wolves: "Definitely Steven Gerrard. He has been my idol growing up. He is is a Liverpool legend with the amount of goals he scored from midfield and the amount of assists he made. So yeah, Steven for me."

Clarkson added that Gerrard would be one of this three dream dinner party guests, alongside boxer Tyson Fury and 'best player ever' Lionel Messi.

4. He hasn't always been a midfielder

Clarkson was a midfielder up until he joined Liverpool's academy aged seven, but as he grew older, he actually spent more time in an attacking role, where his eye for a goal stood out more than most.

The youngster earned some questionable comparisons to Robbie Fowler for his goalscoring prowess at youth level, but it soon became clear that his passing ability was wasted in such an advanced role.

Because of his top-tier vision, Clarkson returned to the base of his team's midfield, and it's where most agree that his future lies.

5. Jurgen Klopp has compared him to Philipp Lahm

Klopp sees Lahm as a similar style of player
Klopp sees Lahm as a similar style of player / TF-Images/Getty Images

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp had fans scratching their heads in the build-up to Clarkson's Champions League debut when he suggested that the youngster reminded him of a German player who he refused to name.

Popular suggestions were Mario Gotze and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but The Athletic's Caoimhe O'Neill revealed that it's actually Philipp Lahm to whom Klopp has compared Clarkson.

Klopp has been impressed with his versatility and passing range - two things which ensured Lahm went down in history as one of the best to ever do it.

6. He's not afraid to get a little feisty

Clarkson does not shirk a tackle
Clarkson does not shirk a tackle / Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Clarkson has an impressive highlights reel at youth level, but one incident which mars it all was a particularly tough challenge he made in a 5-3 victory over Manchester United in September 2020.

With his side already four goals clear, Clarkson lunged in to a dangerously high tackle on Di'Shon Bernard which saw him shown the clearest red card of all time.

It sparked a mini scuffle on the pitch which also saw United's Shola Shoretire dismissed for his reaction towards Clarkson.

7. He's not the son of Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson now presents, erm, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Jeremy Clarkson now presents, erm, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? / David M. Benett/Getty Images

Speaking of feisty, that brings us nicely onto outspoken television presenter Jeremy Clarkson - once of Top Gear fame, but now far more likely to flash a cheque of £16,000 under your nose on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Just to clarify, Jezza and Leighton may be similar in the spice department, but sadly they are not related in any capacity. Moving on...

8. His size has been suggested as an issue

In Liverpool's first team, midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho are both seen as players capable of holding their own physically, but the same can't be said for Clarkson.

Standing at closer to 5'9, Clarkson looks noticeably smaller than a lot of his midfield opponents and has done for a few years now, and it has been suggested that his physical development could make or break him.

While that's a little drastic - some of the world's best midfielders are undersized - there's no denying that Clarkson has got work to do to prove he can hang physically.

9. He turned down Manchester United

Before he moved to Liverpool, Clarkson attracted plenty of interest from a number of top sides, with Manchester United also battling hard to secure his signature.

Clarkson didn't actually need much time to make his decision, knowing full-well that his future was at Liverpool.

“I had the choice of clubs, but I knew it was only going to be Liverpool,” Clarkson told LFCTV.


For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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