Liverpool midfielder set for more Thiago Alcantara chances after Jurgen Klopp ‘reward’

Tyler Morton began the year by admitting he was mesmerised in his adoration of Thiago Alcantara.

He now ends it having played alongside the Liverpool midfielder.

Such has been the rapid rate of progress from the Reds youngster, who back in January was catching the eye when netting a sublime equaliser in the 1-1 mini-derby draw against Everton at Southport.

Certainly, Jurgen Klopp has been taking notice.

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Morton was still awaiting a chance to train with the first team as he juggled his breakthrough with the under-23s along with helping the U18s reach the FA Youth Cup final, where they were beaten by Aston Villa.

But having impressed during pre-season with the senior squad, Morton was afforded three friendly run-outs before the nod came for his first-team bow as a second-half substitute for the stricken Naby Keita in the Carabao Cup tie at Norwich City in September.

Until then, the teenager had been forging a reputation as a progressive midfielder.

At Carrow Road, though, it was in the number six role that he gave a taste of his potential.

“I feel like that Norwich game changed the whole dynamic of where I was playing,” he says.

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“I was playing for the U23s regularly and training with the first team every now and then, but the boss was kind enough to give me a chance and I’ve impressed.

“I was confident on the ball at Norwich and I’ve always played like that. I’ve never changed, no matter where I’ve been, and I feel like I was just waiting for that chance to show off what I can do and burst on to the scene out of nowhere.”

Morton had his foot in the door, and a first start came in the Carabao Cup fourth round win at Preston North End in October.

“That was a very, very good night for myself,” he says. “I’d thought to myself at the start of the season that if I was going to get my chance it would be in a Carabao Cup game.

“So I realised I needed to focus, to be 100% on it, because if I was selected at Preston it would be my first start in front of the fans and in front of the gaffer, so I really needed to impress and show my abilities.

“I thought it took me a while to get into the game, to be honest, I played quite safe – get the ball, give it on – but when I got into the game I was able to showcase my long-range passing.”

A Premier League debut as a late substitute in the romp over Arsenal in November followed.

Four days later, though, came Morton’s true big break, starring in midfield alongside his hero Thiago for the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 Champions League win over Porto at Anfield, notching another start in the 2-1 triumph at AC Milan in the final group match in December.

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Nevertheless, there was a certain sense of the 19-year-old being thrown in at the deep end when answering a last-minute availability crisis when making his full league bow in the 2-2 draw at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

The rawness of Morton’s game was evident with a yellow card during a difficult 60-minute outing, while he was replaced at half-time of last week’s dramatic Carabao Cup win over Leicester City having been fortunate to only be booked after a wild challenge on Ricardo Pereira during the opening moments.

Not that there should have been any surprise at the combative zeal of the youngster.

“I’m more of a box-to-box midfielder,” said Morton back in January. “I love a tackle – you don’t get many tackles in a game, so when people see it, it’s a shock! – but me personally I’ve seen loads of them!

“I’m not just a playmaker. I like to think I can do a bit of everything.”

Morton is likely to be given further opportunities throughout January, with Liverpool losing Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita to the Africa Cup of Nations.

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Klopp is likely to turn to his youngsters and fringe players once more with the Reds having a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal along with an FA Cup third round tie at home to Shrewsbury Town.

And Morton, speaking to the official Liverpool matchday programme, says: “I feel like the manager rewarded me for good performances in the Carabao Cup by giving me my Premier League and Champions League debuts.

“I couldn’t be more thankful to him for it.

“The Carabao Cup is massive for us young players. It’s not that the gaffer doesn’t care about it, he really does – he cares about every game as much as the next one.

“But it also gives him a chance to showcase the depth of the squad. It shows that if injuries do happen there’s no fear that Liverpool don’t have enough players or good lads to come in.

“Playing in these games is a big step for me in my career, in my life, because Liverpool is the club I love and the club I want to play for for the rest of my life.

“Norwich, Preston, Arsenal, Porto… they were just massive moments in my career and now I’m striving for more.”

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