Steve Cooper is a guest at Ajax this week. The Liverpool FC youth academy manager is in Amsterdam to learn from Ajax’s youth academy. During his visit to de Toekomst, he plans to meet with staff and observe trainings, among other things.
Luis Suarez didn’t even need to do anything to bring the Ajax and Liverpool youth academies together. The star player of the Premier League’s current number six team could have facilitated the contact, given his Ajax history. But it turned out that the Uruguayan’s help wasn’t needed, as technical director Damian Camolli had already arranged a four day visit for Liverpool’s youth academy manager.
Cooper illustrates the current situation with Liverpool’s youth academy with an eye-opening example. Several players who participated in the AEGON Future Cup in the spring of 2010 with the U-17 team are now part of Liverpool’s A-selection. Thus Jack Robinson and Jon Flanagan have since made their debut for The Reds. They tread in the footsteps of such greats as Steve Gerrard, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler, who all came up through the ranks of the 18 time national champion club. “Liverpool fans love to see that. We’re a club of tradition, where home grown players have a special place. That’s why it’s so important for us to keep developing our youth academy”, says Cooper.
During his visit to Amsterdam, Cooper hopes to learn mainly about the program’s structure. Because of this, he spoke extensively with Ger Boer, the academic coordinator, about the curriculum at de Toekomst. Moreover, the Toekomst training staff has been something of a walking encyclopaedia for the head of Liverpool’s youth academy. Heini Otto has shown the Welshman around extensively at Ajax’s sports complex in the past few days.
“I’m impressed with the facility and the organization”, says the former Wrexham player, who used to have Liverpool’s U-12 to U-16 teams under his charge. In that role, he had visited de Toekomst before, during the AEGON Future Cup. “But now that I’m here alone, I really have the chance to take it all-in and learn a lot. I hope Ajax can learn from Liverpool, too. That would make this information exchange useful for both parties. It’s always good to see how youth academies in other countries are organized. Especially a world famous one like Ajax’s.”
Cooper returns to Liverpool on Thursday with a wealth of acquired information. “Thanks to my ‘all area pass’ from de Toekomst, I’ve have every chance to learn about Ajax’s youth academy. I hope I’ll get to speak to Frank de Boer at some point. And of course, Dennis Bergkamp. He’s a legend in England. I’d love to pick his brain, too.”