Neil Critchley has described Liam Coyle as the sort of player every manager wants in their team.

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After an injury-hit 2017-18, Coyle scored his maiden goal at U23 level with a memorable strike in last week’s 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.

Read on for U23s’ boss Crtichley’s thoughts on the 19-year-old midfielder, the meeting with Brighton, the latest on the fitness of Matty Virtue and Bobby Adekanye and more…

On Coyle’s progress…

Coyley is the type of boy and type of character you always want to have in your team. You want to pick him, he’s an infectious boy in terms of what he gives you every single day on the training pitch and that rubs off on the other players. He has had his ups and downs with injury but he has hit a run of form now and consistency in terms of playing which has really benefitted him, and hopefully we can see the best of him in the second half of the season.

On the Scouser’s goal versus Spurs…

It was some strike and it’s not something he is renowned for. Actually during the warm-up he was doing some finishing and was striking the ball really well. As soon as the ball left his foot you thought it was in. It was a great strike and a great moment for him. You could see the way the boys reacted they were made up for Liam and I was glad it proved a decisive start for us.

Tottenham 1-1 LFC U23s in 90 seconds

On the 1-1 draw with Tottenham…

I was very pleased with the performance on the evening. There were a few different personnel involved in the game and considering the changes and the way the game went I thought everyone to man gave everything they have got and left nothing in the tank. On the balance of chances Tottenham will probably feel they deserved to win but for our endeavour, honesty, our organisation and togetherness I thought we deserved a point.

On the brilliant display of goalkeeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle…

He made some good saves and I was delighted for him because I think he typified the performance on the night. He hasn’t played a lot of games this season and it’s not easy for a goalkeeper to be thrown in like that with very little game time and preparation. Kai and Dan Atherton have both been training magnificently well which is great credit to Mozzer [goalkeeper coach Mark Morris] for the work he does with them. It was a really difficult decision who to pick on the night and it was one we didn’t make until the very last minute really. Kai performed brilliantly well and Dan, his contribution to the squad and the team shouldn’t be underestimated. He has been unbelievable this season and his level of performance in training has been outstanding. With Kamil Grabara going out on loan they might get more opportunities. They have to be ready in case that opportunity arises. I would not hesitate in playing either Kai or Dan.

On the meeting with Brighton…

We always like playing at home and on our front pitch. Brighton will certainly provide us with a real tough test. They got promoted last season and they have got belief, confidence and a way of playing which they stick to. It will be an extremely tough game for us. We played them in the first game of the season, which seems like it was ages ago now, and it ended in a goalless draw. I remember the game was in doubt and could have been called off because of the rain, but we got the game on and it was an entertaining one for a goalless draw I thought.

On the performances of his side in the first half of 2018-19…

I think there has been one or two performances when you could point the finger and say we weren’t at our best but generally you know what you are going to get from our boys and it’s a great credit to the type of character we have got inside the Academy. It’s a great feeling as a coach to know when you put your players out onto the pitch you can trust them and they will give you everything they have got. I’m probably slightly biased but I don’t think our results have been warranted from the performances. We have slightly underachieved in terms of results, but I’ve been delighted with the performances. We always have to be belief in the process we follow at the Academy regardless of the results. Our U23 team doesn’t have a career in football, it will be the individuals who end up having a career. We just have to concentrate on the players all of the time.

On the fitness of Virtue and Adekanye…

Bobby is back training with us now. He has taken a bit longer than we had hoped recovering from his ankle injury but we wanted to get that right for him. It will be good for him to get a consistent run of training sessions in the next few weeks. Matty had a little setback with an illness he picked up just before Christmas but he has been out and doing a lot of conditioning work and will be phased back into training during the next week to 10 days. They are two players we have missed as well as Tony Gallacher. Tony is a little bit further behind Matty and Bobby with his ankle injury but hopefully he can get back soon.

On the return to action of Connor Randall after being out since September…

It has been a frustrating first part of the season for Connor after spending pre-season with us and then going out on loan to Rochdale. I was actually at the game when he fractured his cheekbone and it was only after about 10 minutes. That game against Tottenham was his first 90 minutes since pre-season and considering that I thought… he gave everything. At one end of the pitch he was trying to score and then the next minute he was back defending in his own penalty box at the other end trying to keep the ball out. I thought his fitness levels and his general performance was incredible. He needs a run of games now and we’ll see where he goes in the next half of the season.

On the return of Corey Whelan after his loan spell at Crewe Alexandra…

Corey had his experience at Yeovil last season in League Two and did well at Crewe. He has played a lot of games now in that division and has shown he is capable of playing in men’s football, which you are never sure of until they got out. He has ticked that box and has come back to us. It’s nice to have Corey back with us as he’s such a great man to have around. He is a good influence on our younger players but he’s also got his career to think about as well and we’ll try and help him with that because he deserves that.

On Isaac Christie-Davies being in the senior squad for the FA Cup tie with Wolves and Adam Lewis training at Melwood…

It was a really great moment for Isaac and we were really pleased for him because he is a lovely boy who is great to work with. He has been training at Melwood on and off for a few months and the first-team management and coaching staff have liked what they have seen. He had the chance to be on the bench last Monday which will give him a lift and it was nice for him to have that moment and fingers crossed he can have some more in the future. Adam has been similar to Isaac in training with the first team and the manager has had a chance to have a look at him. That’s our job to prepare them for those moments. We don’t want players just to go there and make the numbers up and be a tourist – they are there to show what they are about and grasp those opportunities. Adam has gone up there and done well so far. It’s only his first step and there’s many more steps for him to come.

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