I didn't know anything about new club or league before loan - but my dream is still Liverpool

As Liverpool welcomes back a number of senior players after injury, the Reds’ Academy renaissance is seemingly over - for this season at least.

It has been a remarkable campaign for Liverpool’s youth ranks, with no less than 18 players turning out for Jurgen Klopp’s first team.

While such a list includes Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, and Caoimhin Kelleher, the rest are all recent graduates or current starlets stepping up in the club’s hour of need.

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With the list of absentees reaching as high as 14 players at one point, the presence of ‘Klopp’s kids’ has very much been needed since the turn of the year to fill the void left by the many walking wounded.

And they have enjoyed a year to remember as a result, playing a significant role in winning the League Cup against Chelsea back in February, with such silverware the cherry on top of the cake after a plethora of debut appearances and a handful of maiden goal contributions.

But with that injury crisis nearing an end, consistent senior opportunities for starlets now look set to dry up at the business end of the season.

Consequently, overlooking Jarell Quansah and Conor Bradley, who are now recognised first team players, Klopp hasn’t actually fielded an academy player since the Reds’ return to action following the March international break.

Of course, that takes nothing away from their successes this season. Even with a new manager at the helm, ahead of Klopp stepping down at the end of the campaign, their time will come again.

The likes of Bobby Clark, James McConnell, and Jayden Danns have all become household names despite their tender years, courtesy of their exploits this season. But it’s not just at Anfield where the club’s next generation of players have caught the eye, ahead of potential auditions in front of Klopp’s would-be successor.

A number of starlets out on loan are catching the eye too, with supporters well-aware of the glowing reports the likes of Fabio Carvalho, Tyler Morton, Sepp van den Berg, Owen Beck, and Luke Chambers have been receiving.

Yet one youngster has perhaps gone under the radar despite his own eye-catching campaign away from Anfield.

Dominic Corness was Liverpool Under-21s captain last season, shining for Barry Lewtas’ side alongside the likes of Quansah and Clark before starting pre-season with the Reds’ first team.

But while a number of his team-mates departed to the Football League, if not granted a place in Klopp’s senior squad, the 20-year-old instead left for the continent as he completed a surprise temporary switch to Swiss Super League side, Yverdon-Sport.

While he has missed the last three games through injury, Corness had been enjoying an encouraging campaign in unfamiliar surroundings. Boasting 20 senior appearances to date for the Swiss outfit, he had also completed back-to-back 90 minutes for Yverdon, even registering his first assist in the process, before the untimely setback.

And the midfielder hasn’t looked back since taking a step into the unknown, with a move abroad always being one that appealed to him even though he knows he might have slightly gone under the radar back home as a result.

“Because I'm out here, it's easy for people to not see how I'm getting on,” Corness admits in an exclusive interview with the ECHO. “The experience has been boss. It's not like I've gone on loan.

“It's just like I take no notice of it because it's out of the way sort of thing, like the quality of the league and players. Every game is difficult. It's a fight.

“I've also learned a different side of football because you came from Liverpool. You're obviously very dominant with the ball. Growing up with Liverpool, we've always had the ball when I played the academy. Sometimes over here, I've had to do the other side of the game a lot more.

“So it's been a different experience for me. Obviously, as a local lad from Liverpool, I have ambitions to play for Liverpool. But I think at this time in my career, it was a good step to take. So far, it's been a good experience and I'm enjoying it.”

He continued: “It's different playing senior football. When I was playing for the Under-21s at Liverpool, we played some up games against senior teams. But coming over to this league, it's one of the best leagues in Europe.

“You play some of the best teams, some Champions League teams, Europa League teams. Some big names, so yeah, it's been good so far.

“At the start I'd say it was a bit difficult, but I've got used to it now. I'm enjoying the lifestyle and culture over here, it's good.

“It's (French) difficult to learn, but I'm taking classes every week and I'm slowly getting there. All the lads speak pretty good English.

“I'd say, near enough, everybody speaks English over there, and the coach as well. The coach speaks, I think, five different languages. So it's easy to mix with the lads and the coaching staff.

“(Playing abroad) has always appealed to me because you watch a lot of footy when you grow up as a kid - not just the Premier League. The Premier League, for me, is the best league.

“You watch a lot of football, but as a kid, I never watched the Swiss league. So when I came over, I was interested in what the quality would be like.

“You know, the quality is going to be good anyway. I don't know if it's in the top 10 in European leagues or just outside of that, but the quality of players and teams is very high. The standard is very good.”

Of course, Corness wasn’t the only Liverpool midfielder to make an unexpected exit last summer. Departing to Switzerland on July 20, 2023, his loan move away from Anfield came little over a week before Jordan Henderson and Fabinho completed their own switches to Saudi Arabia.

But while the 20-year-old admits he knew little about Yverdon before making the move, such a loan had actually been in the works for a while as the Swiss outfit’s persistence ultimately paid off.

“Over the summer, I knew there was a bit of interest,” he said. “Before I got there, I knew about the interest.

“But then over a little period of time, it became more and more. I'd say when we came back for pre-season, it was obvious then it was more serious because we're coming close to the start of the season.

“The season over here starts much earlier than England, so they were pushing to try and get me over because the season did earlier than in England.

“There's always rumours or a little bit of interest or this club knows about you or that club knows about you. But I think the good thing with Yverdon was they were very straightforward with what they wanted.

“They were very clear that they wanted me. And I think that was also a positive for me because it made me feel like I was wanted by the club.

“I'll be honest, I didn't know about the club. But when I found out about the interest, I did a lot of research about the team, about the league. I watched a few games and stuff like that.

“I talked to (former Liverpool team-mate) Liam Miller, who was at Basel at the time, about the league and stuff like that.

“Because I didn't know much about them, I was probably putting it, not on hold, but just until I found out a little bit more about the league, the club. But I'd say after that, they remained the same with the interest.”

Liverpool have remained in contact with Corness during his time away, even paying him a couple of visits in Switzerland. Meanwhile he took advantage of the Swiss winter break to return home and pop back into the AXA Training Centre.

But that doesn’t mean he was kept in the loop when Klopp announced that he would step down as Reds manager at the end of the season back in January, with the midfielder admitting he thought it was a wind-up at the time.

“Same as everyone else, apart from the lads at the club!” he laughs when asked how he found out about Klopp’s decision. “I found out, I was just on my phone and I got a notification.

“I didn't know if it was real or not, but then I saw it all over the place and I was lost for words. I didn't really know what to say or think about the situation.”

While Corness might not have played professionally for the Liverpool first team, he has trained with the Reds and featured in friendly fixtures. As a result, Klopp has still had a vital impact on his fledgling career to date.

“I haven't played professionally, but I have trained and I have played in two mid-season friendlies for them (in Dubai) when the World Cup was on,” he recalled. “For me, he's (Klopp) been a massive, massive help because it can be difficult, you know, for a young lad going up to the first team, but he just makes you feel welcome.

“And to be fair, when you train with the under-21s, the coaching style from the Under-21s manager, Baz (Barry Lewtas), he tries to give you the best possible opportunity so that when you go over there, it's not like a surprise, which I think is a credit to the club because they have the same philosophy throughout.

“But yeah, as I say, he (Klopp) just makes you feel welcome. It's not like you're going up there and you're frightened. He just makes you feel part of the team.

“Every single player's got massive quality. You can take a little bit of the game from everybody. It's unbelievable to train with them and just seeing the quality that they have up close.

“I was just trying to take as much as possible from Thiago’s game for example, because, for me, he's unbelievable. It was a pleasure to be able to train with him.”

He continued: “(Dubai) was an unbelievable experience. Obviously, it's an unbelievable experience to be with them (the first team), but as well as being in Dubai at the same time, it made it ten times better.

“We trained, we were there, I think, near enough two weeks or just under two weeks. We trained a lot and there were two matches as well. It was an unbelievable experience.

“I’ve still got both tops from the matches I played (against Lyon and AC Milan). It's not a professional debut, but still a debut coming on for Liverpool. So it was a surreal moment and I was made up.

“He (Klopp) just gave me a high five, a hug, and said, ‘Just go and express yourself. Do your thing. There's no pressure on you.’

“Actually, I was quite nervous, obviously, but two minutes into the match, all the nerves went and I was good to go.”

Following his parent club’s fortunes from afar this season, Corness has been delighted to see the likes of Quansah and Bradley make their mark in the Liverpool first team.

And while he hasn’t considered who could end up replacing Klopp in the summer, he is still hopeful of following in his team-mates’ footsteps when he reports back to the AXA Training Centre this summer.

“Out of the lads, I'd probably say I’m closest to Jarell. I played with Jarell and Conor my whole life since I was about seven years old,” he recalled. “Conor joined a bit later, but I'm probably closest with Jarell because I've been with him through my whole academy time here and I’m made up for him.

“I've played with the lads since I was like seven years old. So that's ten plus years in the academy. Basically all the lads who've stepped up, I played with them last season, so I'm over the moon for the lads there. They deserve it so much.

“I'm just made up because I've played with them last year, seen them develop and now they've gone on to play for the first team and even won a trophy. I'm made up for them.”

He continued: “I've developed as a player, I think, as I've been over here. Hopefully, by the time I come back, I will have kept developing.

“For the rest of the season, the aim is just to try and play as many games as possible. Then finish the season and then go back into Liverpool in as good a shape as possible and try and impress whoever the new manager is, or look at whatever gets put in front of me.

“The club are keeping in touch with me just to see how I am. But obviously that's not a massive factor for me at the moment, who's going to be the next manager. You don't need to be worrying about that.

“So it's just focus on what you're doing now and then everything will fall into place when it does happen.”