It’s been an eventful few months for Neil Critchley.
In December he was propelled into the spotlight after Jurgen Klopp asked the then Liverpool U23s boss to oversee the club for their League Cup clash against Aston Villa. It was no one-off either, with Critchley again taking charge of a Reds first-team game in February, this time in an FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury.
Then, on Monday, the 41-year-old bagged his first senior managerial position after he was announced as Simon Grayson’s successor at League One side Blackpool. As a result, Liverpool U23s are on the hunt for a new boss for the first time since 2017.
“For the U23s we are confident in the remaining coaching talent we have to make sure there is no drop-off in the interim period,” revealed Academy director Alex Inglethorpe to Liverpool FC.
“This season has proved the importance of the role and, therefore, we will take advantage of having amazing people already in post to take stock and assess what to do next.”
“Myself [Inglethorpe], Michael Edwards and Jürgen Klopp will work collaboratively on what works best for the future. Pathway is so critical to this club we want to make sure we make the best appointment we can.”
So, who will succeed Critchley?
Paddy Power are now offering odds on the next Liverpool U23s manager and its Barry Lewtas who has been installed as the early favourite, priced at evens.
An appointment could be seen as a natural progression for Lewtas, who has been in charge of the club’s U18s since Steven Gerrard vacated the post in the summer of 2018.
In his debut season Lewtas led the U18s to FA Youth cup glory while they agonisingly finished runners-up in the league, missing out on the title on goal difference. At the time writing, they are currently 2nd in the U18s Premier League table behind Man City, albeit with two games in hand.
Could a Liverpool return be on the cards for Gerrard or Alonso?
Other potential in-house appointments include; 17/10 shot Tim Jenkins, who is head of analysis at the club’s Academy and individual coach for the U23s, the 20/1 priced U18 coach/analyst Jonathan Robinson, and U13 coach Anthony Ryan who is a 66/1 outsider.
As mentioned, Gerrard previously managed the Liverpool U18s during the 2017/18 season. The club legend led the youngsters to a 3rd-place finish before venturing north of the border to manage Rangers.
Now in his second season, Gerrard is attempting to bring glory to the Glasgow club in the form of the Europa League trophy, with the Gers through to the last-16 of the competition. However, the 39-year-old has come under criticism domestically having fallen 13 points adrift of Celtic in the league, while a quarter-final exit to Hearts in the Scottish Cup has pretty much ended the club’s chances of a domestic trophy.
Gerrard will always be linked with a return to Liverpool yet at this particular time its difficult to envision the 4/1 shot taking charge of the U23s anytime soon. Although it’s worth noting that his odds were slashed from 100/1 on Thursday morning...
- Former Liverpool U23s boss— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) March 2, 2020
- Overseen two senior #LFC games
- Helped develop Trent Alexander-Arnold
After three weeks and a plethora of candidates, Blackpool have found their man in Neil Critchley, who has signed a contract to the end of the 2022/23 season 🍊👔#UTMP
Another couple of club legends located within the betting are Xabi Alonso (20/1) and Robbie Fowler (50/1), however both former Reds are currently employed at the moment.
Alonso has been at the helm of Real Sociedad B since the summer, with the club currently fifth in the Spanish third-tier. As a player Alonso previously left Real Sociedad for Liverpool in 2004, and it will be interesting to see if he’s lured back to Merseyside as a coach in the upcoming months.
It goes without saying that an appointment would go down very well. “You know how special Liverpool is, once a red always a red and that's not a slogan, that's not a logo - it's real and we share that belonging,” he told BBC Sport back in August.
Meanwhile, Fowler got his first taste of management nearly 10 years ago as player-manager of Thai side Muangthong United. The venture didn’t last long.
He didn’t return to the dugout until April 2019 when he was appointed manager of Australian outfit Brisbane Roar who are currently 6th in the table, with the former Reds striker named Manager of the Month in both January and February.
The league’s standard season doesn’t come to a close until the end of April, with the Finals taking place the following month, so a move for ‘God’ doesn’t appear likely at the moment. Although circumstances change quickly in football.
Elsewhere, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be backed at 500/1...