Liverpool Academy director Alex Inglethorpe backs Sheyi Ojo to compete for first league start

Sheyi Ojo should be aiming to make his first Premier League start for Liverpool in the coming weeks and months, according to Academy director Alex Inglethorpe, who also spoke glowingly about young defensive midfielder Kevin Stewart and his desire to improve.

Liverpool Academy director Alex Inglethorpe backs Sheyi Ojo to compete for first league start
(Picture: Getty Images)

Sheyi Ojo has been told to fight for a maiden Barclays Premier League start for Liverpool by the club's Academy director Alex Inglethorpe.

The 18-year-old forward made his first appearance in the league, coming off the bench in the late stages of last Sunday's 3-2 defeat at Southampton.

Since a bright performance in a 3-0 FA Cup third-round replay win over Exeter City at Anfield in January, in which he scored an excellent strike at the Kop end, Ojo has impressed enough to displace Jordon Ibe on the substitute's bench in recent weeks.

With Jürgen Klopp having shown a willingness to reward youngsters with first-team appearances, Inglethorpe has challenged the teenager to battle his way into the thinking for a starting spot in the near future.

Ojo celebrates his first ever goal for Liverpool's first-team against Exeter. (Picture: Getty Images)
Ojo celebrates his first ever goal for Liverpool's first-team against Exeter. (Picture: Getty Images)

"I really like working with Sheyi," said Inglethorpe, who explained that Ojo - who spent a spell on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the season - has shown "a huge improvement" over the "last two to three years."

The 44-year-old, who made the transition from Under-21s manager to Academy director in August 2014, said it was "fantastic" to see Ojo make his debut in the league and said that "the next challenge" for the winger is for him to "try now to make a Premier League start." 

Inglethorpe acknowledged that there is "a lot of wonderful competition" in the Reds' attacking ranks but said he has to "find a way of ticking the next box" of his natural progression, which he believes is to start in the league.

"Obsessive" Stewart is ideal model of the work ethic we want at this club, says Inglethorpe

Inglethorpe also had an abundance of praise for surprise success story Kevin Stewart, who made the most of his breakthrough in the FA Cup earlier this year, and insisted that his "obsessive" attitude about improving is the ideal example for his teammates and everyone around the Academy.

"Kevin is obsessive about improving and getting better," said Inglethorpe, who had previously coached the 22-year-old at Tottenham Hotspur, adding that he has "known him for a long time now."

Stewart, who has made five appearances this term having only made his debut in January - including a single Premier League appearance in a 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa, has "quietly gone about his work" according to Inglethorpe.

He added that having had "a couple of loan speels to get some game time" last season, he is now a player that "everyone in Kirkby would agree, staff and players" that he "sets the example in what an Academy day should look like."

A delighted Klopp greets Stewart after making his league debut at Villa. (Picture: Getty Images)
A delighted Klopp greets Stewart after making his league debut at Villa. (Picture: Getty Images)

He told Liverpoolfc.com that the defensive midfielder, currently out with an ankle ligament injury, is "first in and last out" of the doors at Melwood and is often asked "to slow down and rest up a little bit because he is so determined to succeed."

Inglethorpe also said that Stewart is "the example to the rest of the Academy of how you should try to live your life if you are desperate to get where you want to go." 

Stewart, who was recently rewarded for his rise with a new long-term contract on Merseyside, is expected to fight for a place in Klopp's first-team squad upon his return from injury - having penned his future to the club until 2020.