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Conor Bradley

Discussion in 'Player Performances' started by Skintown Red, Jun 28, 2021.

  1. Skintown Red

    Skintown Red
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    This fella getting a bit of press and talk of him taking Neco’s position.

    Anyone able to post up the articles from the Athletic?
     
  2. elvis

    elvis
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    Conor Bradley: The 17-year-old on the cusp of Liverpool’s first team

    “He got spotted by accident,” Conor Bradley’s first football coach Rory Lynch tells The Athletic. “What happened was we were going to an under-11s tournament and four kids came down with a cold and couldn’t come. His cousin who was playing in the team kept saying to me, ‘Bring Conor, bring Conor’.”

    Lynch was reluctant to take Bradley, now of Liverpool, to the tournament. He had known him from coaching the mini-soccer classes at St. Patrick’s Football Club in their home village of Castlederg in Northern Ireland but still he was wary given that opponents would be up to three years older than Bradley, who was just eight at the time. Instead, Lynch picked up his phone and called around different parents in a desperate attempt to find enough players. It was to no avail and in the end, he had no option but to take Bradley.

    “His cousin never gave up, so I gave in and said ‘Aye, we’ll bring him then’,” says Lynch. “Conor’s house was on the way, so it was just a case of picking him up. He was only very young. We had one sub and that was Conor. Then one lad got injured in the first two minutes of the game.

    “The first thing I told him was if you get the ball, pass it. Don’t take people on, don’t go into challenges. I don’t want you getting hurt. What’s the first thing he did? Blaze into a challenge. I had never seen anything like this kid. He won player of the tournament and was the top goalscorer. It was amazing.

    “He was small but I remember the semi-final game to get us to the final. He scored the winning header from a corner. He was no size at all but just so athletic. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. He was different gravy, as we say over here. I have been involved in football for a long time but I had never seen anything like this before. From that moment, we knew we had something special.”

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    Liverpool think that, too. This is why the club are willing to allow prized academy full-back Neco Williams to move on this summer in search of first-team football without bringing in a direct replacement for the Wales international. Liverpool have Joe Gomez as an option at right-back to cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold if needed, and the feeling at the club is that Bradley is also more than capable of stepping up into the first-team fold.

    The 17-year-old, who turns 18 in July, has shone since joining from Dungannon Swifts in 2019. Bradley, who can also play in midfield, signed a three-year deal with the club in July 2020. His displays at right-back for the under-23s last season convinced academy manager Alex Inglethorpe and elite development coach Vitor Matos among others that Bradley is an extremely talented footballer playing well beyond his years.

    After all, convincing people of his talent is something Bradley has always done — right from that under-11s tournament for St. Pats a decade ago.

    Lynch can remember arriving back into Castlederg, a small village in County Tyrone with a population of around 2,000, where Bradley is from. He could not wait to tell anyone who would listen about the player he had just discovered.

    “I pushed the under-13s manager at St. Patrick’s to play him. I said, ‘Go on and try this kid’. It was the end of their season. I said, ‘Just give him 10 minutes at the end of some games’. He looked at me like I had two heads,” Lynch says. “I begged him. I remember meeting the minibus on the way home when Bradley had played and the coach said, ‘Jesus Christ. Wow. This kid is unreal’.

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    Bradley in action in May’s FA Youth Cup final (Photo: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
    “We knew we had a star on our hands and after that, the club went from strength to strength. We had never won a trophy since we started in 1997 and once Conor got to age 11, we won every league, every cup. More and more, players wanted to come and play with us because they wanted to be part of ‘Conor Bradley’s team’. I think my last year, which was under-16s, we won everything there was.

    “When we entered the Foyle Cup (an international tournament) for the first time, we had a quarter-final against a big team, Coleraine. We thought, ‘That’s us. We are out’. Conor scored a hat-trick against Coleraine and we won 4-1. He beat them by himself. He was unplayable. It was an amazing turnaround for the club. He was well known around the area by that stage. Every club wanted him and every club was looking at him.”

    It was St. Patrick’s coach Steafan Deery who gave Liverpool scout Cliff Ferguson the heads-up on this emerging Castlederg talent. Deery was a primary school coach for the Irish Football Association and Bradley would later be called up to Northern Ireland’s school of excellence programmes. Deery flagged Bradley’s name to Liverpool and at age nine, he was training twice a week at the club’s Belfast base.

    “I remember the first time he went up to Liverpool’s place in Belfast” Lynch says. “The quality on show; I was getting dizzy watching the drills. I was worrying whether he would be able to keep up. Within two or three minutes, he was standing out as usual.”

    Naturally, the interest in Bradley continued to skyrocket. The more he played for Northern Ireland, the more scouts that would show up to Castlederg in search of him. Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea were among those to send trackers to trace the then-central midfielder, who reminded Lynch of Steven Gerrard.

    “I spoke to a referee recently and he said, ‘I used to love going to referee your teams’ and I asked him why,” Lynch reflects. “He said, ‘Every game, a stranger would come up to me and would ask to see the match card, wanting to see what number Conor Bradley was wearing’. It was scouts all the time from Blackburn and wherever. He had so many watching him.”

    Even for all the hype surrounding Bradley, he and his family stayed loyal to St. Patrick’s. His parents, and in particular his mother Linda, wanted him to enjoy his football and it was thought that playing with his friends would ensure that. The Bradley family ran a local business at the time and sponsored the team, and would often take them all out for celebratory meals after league or cup success.

    Away from St. Patrick’s, Liverpool and Northern Ireland, Bradley also played Gaelic football for St. Davog’s and enjoyed his athletics, too. Lynch says if he wasn’t a footballer, he is convinced that Bradley would be playing Gaelic football at county level right now.

    Liam Lynch, who is the younger brother of Rory and is now in charge at St. Patrick’s after Rory gave it up five years ago, says he can remember being awestruck by Bradley. “I wasn’t his coach but I remember watching him. He was outstanding. The work rate he had for his team. He would egg them on and motivate them. That was really good to see in a 10-year-old.”

    At 14, though, Bradley’s talent outgrew his hometown club and he joined Maiden City further north. After a short stay there, he then moved on to Dungannon Swifts for two seasons.

    Dixie Robinson is head of development at Dungannon and spent a long time trying to persuade Bradley to join the club.

    “I probably had his mum tortured with phone calls. We had known about him since he was 10 or 11,” he says. “Once we got him here at 15, the coaches were all blown away by how talented he was. Right away, he caught everyone’s eye. He had the temperament, ability and work ethic to match.

    “The frightening pace that Conor has; nobody really had the electric pace that he has. That’s what you need to play top-level football. We knew if he went to Liverpool and worked really hard, which he has done then he would climb the ladder and do really well for himself. The news he might be about to be training with the first team permanently has just blown us all away. If he gets that senior debut, that will be magnificent.”

    Bradley already has his international debut ticked off. The full-back came on to feature for Northern Ireland against Malta in May. This made him the fourth-youngest player in history to feature for Northern Ireland — sneaking past fifth-placed George Best by three days.

    None of what Bradley is achieving really seems to surprise anyone who has coached him, though. Terry Fitzpatrick, who was the youngster’s final coach at Dungannon before he joined Liverpool in 2019, was only really surprised by how good Bradley actually was was when he first watched him play.

    “As the under-18s boss, I went down to watch the under-16s to see who the next boys coming through were. Conor was first on the list,” Fitzpatrick says. “From the first match I saw him, I just thought there was something special about him. His work rate was second to none and was right up there with his ability as well. What really stood out to me was his understanding of the game at that age was right up there with whatever I had seen. Within a week or two, he was with the 18s.

    “He was so hard-working. His family fell into this bracket as well. He lived over an hour away from where we trained. He would come down an hour early and me and him would do an hour before training just to sharpen up on things. That says all it needs to say about Conor and his dedication.

    “His standout quality on the pitch was his selflessness. At the time, we were playing him as a striker and that’s when you could see his level of ability right in his first touch. Playing in different positions will never be a problem for him because of his understanding.”

    Some will see it as a huge stroke of luck for Bradley if Williams is to depart this summer. However, any promotion up into the first-team echelon has been earned. Bradley has always played above his age group, so if he becomes the first Northern Irishman since Sammy Smyth to play for Liverpool in 68 years, then it will have been as well-earned as all of his achievements up until now.

    “People have always said to me you shouldn’t be so sure he is going to make it,” Lynch says. “But I always knew he was special. Mitchell Park to Anfield? It might never happen again.”
     
  3. Skintown Red

    Skintown Red
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    Good man yerself Elvis!
     
  4. LFCRebel

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    Yep, looks like we have a total superstar on our hands and Irish too :)
     
  5. elvis

    elvis
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    Stylistically he's very like Robertson apparently.
     
  6. Ron1892

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    Liverpool have received an approach from League One side Bolton Wanderers to take Conor Bradley on loan from the 2022/23 season. Liverpool Echo.
     
  7. Skintown Red

    Skintown Red
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    A loan was always needed, especially now the Aberdeen cub is coming in. Hopefully he'll be on the Guinness and steak diet
     
  8. Ron1892

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