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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Keifer MacDonald

'He is that good' - Young Liverpool defender tipped to break into Jurgen Klopp's first team

Bolton Wanderers manager Ian Evatt has backed Conor Bradley to break into the Liverpool first team in the years ahead and also expressed his gratitude to Anfield officials for not recalling the young defender.

Conor Bradley has excelled in League One during his season-long loan away from Merseyside and, at the weekend, provided an assist during Bolton's over Portsmouth at the weekend.

It was the 19-year-old's sixth assist of what has been an eye-catching half-season at the University of Bolton Stadium. And it's that kind of skill that Evatt believes will see the defender one day become a permanent fixture in Jurgen Klopp's side.

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“I’d be optimistic but I genuinely believe he will play for Liverpool, and play regularly, he is that good," said Evatt, when asked how far Bradley's talents can take him. “He is developing and improving all the time. We’d be hopeful that we could get one more year of his education but I’d completely understand if Liverpool felt the need to keep him with them to play for them.”

Such impressive form had prompted speculation that the Reds could activate a recall clause in the right-back's loan agreement and instead send him to one of the many Championship outfits interested in his signature for the second half of the campaign. However, Liverpool have determined that aiding Evatt's side with their promotion push and a return to the second tier of English football is the most suitable environment for the Northern Ireland international to develop.

Evatt, who himself knows what it takes to play in the Premier League having achieved such a feat with Blackpool in 2011, praised Reds chiefs for not wavering in their agreement with Wanderers - like many clubs across the English football pyramid have done this month.

“Championship clubs have been interested but it is great testimony to Liverpool for keeping their word, because they could very easily have done what other clubs are doing, recalling their players and sending them higher,” added Evatt.

“This is a pretty good fit for Conor. The way we play gets the best out of him, we are treating and coaching him correctly and Liverpool trust us. Conor is loving it and didn’t feel the need to go anywhere else, he is a young man with plenty of time for that.

“For now it is about building a season into his body, understanding his body better, and how to manage it day-to-day to get through a 46-game season. He is being educated on that all the time but I think he has been doing brilliantly.”

The Reds have recalled just two academy players so far this month, with defender Billy Koumetio and forward Max Woltman having their stays at Austria Vienna and Doncaster Rovers respectively cut short.

But while Koumetio, who announced his return to Merseyside with an incredible goal against Paris Saint-Germain's U21s last week, is expected to remain at Kirkby with Barry Lewtas' squad for the rest of the season, there could be more departures in the weeks ahead.

Defender Jarrell Quansah has been linked with a move away to Football League clubs, with Preston North End's manager, Ryan Lowe, and Bristol Rovers' Joey Barton in attendance for the Premier League International Cup tie against the French champions last week.


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