Back in August 2019 Jake Cain was beginning an exciting new season with the LFC u18s. Incredibly, just five months later, the young defender lined up at Anfield for his senior team debut in the FA Cup fourth round replay.
Born in nearby Wigan, Cain joined the club aged five and was inducted into the Academy at nine. Rising through the age groups, it was clear that he had a talent for passing and slotted well into the midfield. This was a period in which he was fortunate to travel the world with the Reds, gaining experience and improving his game.
The youngster’s talent became even more clear a few years later when he joined Steven Gerrard’s u18 squad despite being 15. Describing his own playing style to Liverpoolfc.com, Cain said: “I like to attack and I like to create chances for the team, score goals and get assists. I’m a good presser and I lead the press quite well, force mistakes from the opposition.”
The talented midfielder went on to be a key member of the 2018/19 FA Youth Cup squad, who were crowned champions after beating Manchester City in the final. From this success, he entered the new season as one of the most experienced members of the u18 squad. In September 2019 Cain signed his first professional contract with the club — a sign of positive times to come.
In the first half of the season the Wigan-born wonderkid progressed well and soon showed why he deserved to join the u23s. Even though he has only played with this age group since December, Cain has already established himself as a solid member of the squad. He also proved himself an asset to the Reds as a member of the UEFA Youth League team, making six appearances and scoring a goal.
It is no surprise then that Cain was selected alongside a number of Kirkby’s talented youths to make his senior debut for the club against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fourth round replay. In an interview with Liverpoolfc.com, he described the experience of playing in front of 52,000 fans at Anfield as “mesmerising” and explained how “seeing everybody smiling and applauding us off was unbelievable.”
The 18-year-old’s progress has continued to be rewarded as he has been invited to train at Melwood with the first team, often being spotted playing alongside the likes of Mohamed Salah and James Milner.
Despite encouraging recent events, it won’t be an easy ride fighting for a place in the first team. Cain is up against the likes of Elijah Dixon-Bonner, Luis Longstaff and Leighton Clarkson, the latter of whom he has known since they both played for the u7s. The pair — both strong midfielders — moved up through the academy age groups simultaneously, and now spend time together every training session working on set-pieces and deliveries.
Although Clarkson also played in the first team match against Shrewsbury Town, he had already made his senior debut back in December 2019, when he came off the bench in a League Cup match against Aston Villa. Could he be just a few steps ahead of Cain in the journey to first team success? It will certainly be interesting to see the two close friends push one another towards that ultimate goal.
Despite pressure from his peers, Cain clearly has the talent to succeed as a midfielder for Liverpool. He is a strong passer and useful in attack, having both assisted and scored good goals this season. He said himself that these were attributes highly sought-after in a Liverpool midfielder, and he is certainly determined to prove it.
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