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PERFECT CLINCH; Klopp embraces the positive with stars.

Byline: Simon Mullock

KOP kid Sepp van den Berg reckons Liverpool's tyros get all the love they need from Jurgen Klopp - thanks to his habit of giving them all a cuddle.

The Liverpool boss has been hammered for turning his back on the FA Cup after sending a team of teenagers out to face Shrewsbury in a fourth-round replay on Wednesday night.

Warmth Under-23s coach Neil Critchley took the reigns - while Klopp and the rest of his title-chasing squad enjoyed a winter break.

But Van den Berg reckons Klopp makes the youngsters coming through the ranks at Anfield feel just as important as Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Co.

Van den Berg (right), the 18-year-old Dutch centre-back who made only his fourth senior appearance in the 1-0 victory which sent Liverpool through to face Chelsea, said: "The warmth you feel as a young player at Liverpool is so special.

"At other clubs you arrive and people will say 'good morning' or shake hands.

"But here at Liverpool, you get a hug from the manager! Jurgen Klopp gives you a hug - and it's those special little things that made all the young players feel appreciated and valued.

"That kind of warmth from the manager gives us the hope that we are all on the path to the Liverpool first team."

Van den Berg faced criticism for moving away from Holland at such a young age after his switch to Merseyside from PEC Zwolle for PS1.3million in January 2018.

But his mind was made up once he met Klopp for the first time. He said: "I had the chance to go to Bayern Munich, PSV Eindhoven or Liverpool.

"I was amazed that such big clubs wanted to sign me and I thought PSV Eindhoven was a brilliant option for me because I have been a fan from a young age.

"But once Liverpool came for me, I knew where I would go because I can only describe my feelings for the club as mega.

"It is such a big club - but at the same time it feels like a family club.

"Thanks to Klopp's approach and vision I am up against the best attackers in the world several times a week. He lets me train and play against Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.That is something I could only have dreamt of in the past.

"These guys really belong to the very best attackers on this globe.

"Of course it is hard. But when you are up against them every week and you learn some valuable lessons then you only get better and stronger."

The young Dutchman believes his Anfield peer group have proved by beating Everton and Shrewsbury in the Cup that the future is as promising as the present for Liverpool.

Proud He added: "There is a massive amount of talent in this age group.

"I don't want to say we have now arrived on the big scene because every one of us knows that we still have a mountain to climb.

"But the average age of the team against Shrewsbury was 19.

"We are massively proud of what we achieved on the night and we all talked about it afterwards.

"The topic of our conversations was that we all want to get into the first team together one day."


HOLD ON Jurgen Klopp gives club captain Jordan Henderson a trademark hug

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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Simon Mullock
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2020
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