Just before the start of the season, Vitezslav Jaros was set to step up and challenge Caoimhín Kelleher and Kamil Grabara as primary reserve to the goalkeepers in the first team.
But this changed when he was struck down with a severe elbow injury the day after making his senior debut. Now fully recovered, could 2020/21 be the season that he finally gets to make more of a mark in the senior side?
Before joining LFC in 2017, Jaros played for Slavia Prague, the second most highly-rated team in the Czech Republic. Liverpool legends Vladimír Šmicer and Patrik Berger both originated started their careers at the same club, meaning Jaros was certainly following some big footsteps.
Mark Morris, the Reds’ u23 goalkeeping coach, spotted the then 16-year-old at a training camp and invited him to two successful trials with the club.
His career at Kirkby began in the u18s, who at the time were being managed by club legend Steven Gerrard. In an interview on the LFC site, Jaros described being coached by the Liverpool and England icon as “brilliant”, exclaiming that it was “an honour to play for him”. During his time at the academy he has also formed valuable relationships with goalkeeping coaches Neil Edwards and Mark Morris.
Throughout 2018/19, Jaros was a key player in the Reds’ FA Youth Cup campaign, proving a proficient final line of defence for the squad. His talent came to the fore in the FA Youth Cup Final in spring 2019, where he played a crucial part in the team’s penalty shootout victory against Manchester City.
In his Meet the Academy interview on the official Liverpool site, he claimed to not have been nervous whilst in goal, stating “penalties are like a lottery. You don’t know what’s going to happen and you just have to try to keep your nerve and try your best.”
It appeared the huge amounts of pressure on the young goalkeeper’s shoulders did nothing but elevate his skill, and it seemed only a matter of time before he was asked to play for the senior side at Anfield.
It didn’t take long. In July 2019, the then 17-year-old goalkeeper made his first team debut for the Reds, coming on at half-time during the squad’s decisive 6-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers in a pre-season friendly. This was surely a step in the right direction, with more first-team call-ups expected to follow.
However, only a day later, the young Czech sustained a serious injury whilst training resulting in an operation and rehabilitation that meant he not only would miss the rest of pre-season but the first part of the 2019/20 campaign as well.
As senior squad member Allison Becker was away, Haydock-born academy goalkeeper Daniel Atherton took Jaros’ place, appearing in a number of the 2019 pre-season fixtures at home and abroad. In January 2020, however, Atherton went on loan to Marine, opening up a possible spot for Jaros when he returned from injury.
This return came in February this year, when the shot-stopping Czech was called up to the first team squad for Liverpool’s FA Cup match against Shrewsbury Town. Although he did not play, he experienced the atmosphere of a senior game, an event that surely inspired him to work hard to achieve a start.
Since then he has trained alongside the likes of Adrián and Andy Lonergan, continuing to learn key skills from experienced professionals in what is one of football’s most vital and challenging positions.
Look out for this future star in upcoming first team matches, both in pre-season and during the 2020/21 campaign. Kelleher and Grabara might be ahead in the pecking order, but Jaros has the talent and the pedigree to challenge both.
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