There are many phrases to describe Ben Doak, Liverpool’s 17-year-old Scottish prodigy tipped for a huge future, but let’s give the floor to the manager and captain. ‘Ben’s a special boy,’ said Jurgen Klopp this summer. ‘He’s like a Tasmanian Devil,’ added Virgil Van Dijk.
As Liverpool embark on an unwanted Europa League campaign, Doak is one of several blessings in disguise to come from Thursday jaunts to rogue destinations, starting on Thursday with a trip to Linz, a city which straddles the Danube River midway between Vienna and Salzburg.
Those outside the Merseyside bubble might not know much about Doak, other than perhaps remembering he was the young lad going in the opposite direction as Mo Salah threw a temper tantrum when substituted on the Premier League opening weekend at Stamford Bridge.
With the game at 1-1 against Chelsea, Klopp ditched his star man and threw on the new ace in his pack, Doak. He joins just Michael Owen as players to feature for Liverpool in the first week of a Premier League season before turning 18. Many fans have used the Owen comparison.
Prodigy Ben Doak, who plays as a winger, has been tipped for a big future by senior figures
Jurgen Klopp has called Doak a ‘special boy’ who ‘has something nobody else delivers’ and the 17-year-old signed a new deal at Anfield this week
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The direct and pacey right winger made his debut on Boxing Day last year against Aston Villa. ‘I remember when he came on against Villa away last year, and he did that stepover and went past the full back,’ said captain Van Dijk after a pre-season friendly in Preston last month.
‘He’s very exciting, very direct, one-on-one. I call him a Tasmanian Devil with the way he is buzzing around, he’s just so quick. If his decision making gets better – and he has all the time in the world for that – then he could definitely be one for the future.’
Doak, whose agent is former Celtic star Jackie McNamara, dazzled in the humidity of Singapore during a pre-season tour and it was interesting when patrolling the plush Ritz Carlton Hotel base to hear a thick Scottish brogue that wasn’t from Andy Robertson.
When Ibrahima Konate asked each player to name their favourite song, Doak broke from the theme of hip-hop beats and Latin American tunes, instead choosing Glaswegian Gerry Cinnamon’s Belter. Similar to how that anthem goes, Doak is a belter, different from the rest.
‘Ben is a special boy,’ said Klopp. ‘He is really confident and has something nobody else delivers… this kind of dribbling, this kind of straight-forward bravery, all these kinds of things.’ And the manager is right, Doak has an electrifying pace and is very direct.
Those close to 17-year-old Doak say Robertson and Liverpool’s liaison team have played a big role in helping him settle after initial homesickness following his £600,000 switch from Celtic in 2022.
Speaking to former coaches and team-mates from Ayr United and Dalry Rovers, few are surprised at his rise. But many have been taken aback by the sheer speed in which he has ascended to be on the periphery of the starting XI.
Jarell Quansah has made strides in the Liverpool squad this year and is trusted to deputise
Doak signed a new long-term deal at Anfield this week and is on the radar of Steve Clarke’s senior Scotland team. Sources close to the teenager say he is level-headed and treats every situation the same, whether it be a kick-about on the park or a crucial Premier League match.
He will certainly be part of the Europa League campaign and is set for minutes – perhaps from the start – against Austrian Bundesliga team LASK on Thursday. Jarell Quansah, the 20-year-old who was thrown in the deep end to start at Wolves last Saturday, is also likely to feature.
Quansah is another tipped for a big future. After spending part of last season on loan at Bristol Rovers, the Warrington-born defender had plenty of offers to leave temporarily again but Klopp vetoed it. The manager trusts Quansah, 20, to deputise when needed.
‘In such a disorganised team like we had in the first half, he was the one who looked alright… that’s a statement from him,’ said Klopp at Wolves on Saturday. Quansah is comfortable in possession and, at 6ft 3in, is commanding beyond his years.
Stefan Bajcetic, 18, was a shining light of a poor campaign when given chances last term. The Spaniard will travel to Austria and could be set for minutes after a lengthy injury lay-off, while Irish keeper Caiomhin Kelleher is in line to deputise for Alisson.
Full-back Conor Bradley was the reason the Reds did not sign cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold
Conor Bradley, the Northern Irish full-back who scored five goals and assisted another five on loan at Bolton last term, was the reason Liverpool did not target a right-back this summer as cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold. He is liked and will get chances but is injured at the moment.
There will also be minutes for new signings Wataru Endo, the Japan captain, and Ryan Gravenberch. The Dutch midfielder signed on Deadline Day then remained on Merseyside over the international break – to the annoyance of his country – and could be set for a first start here.
Aside from the fact the Europa League is a good chance of silverware – Liverpool lost to Sevilla in the final in Basel in 2016 – falling into UEFA’s secondary competition could be a blessing in disguise for many youngsters and fringe players, with Doak by far the shining star.
PREDICTED XI (4-3-3): Kelleher; Gomez, Konate, Quansah, Tsimikas; Gravenberch, Endo, Elliott; Doak, Nunez, Diaz.
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