'Real eye-opener' - Liverpool youngster explains how the EFL paved the way for season success

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Liverpool: The youngster has shone this season and it wouldn't have been without his crucial experiences in League One.

Jarell Quansah has been one of the standout young stars in the Premier League this season, but how has he made the jump from Bristol Rovers last year to stopping Erling Haaland at Anfield?

The 21-year-old has featured far more heavily than anyone (and probably Quansah himself) ever predicted. With four centre-backs ahead of him in the pecking order at the start of the season, his game time always looked to be minimal but his tough experience in the EFL prepared him for the step-up.

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A season-ending injury suffered by Joel Matip opened the door for potential minutes and, after being thrown into the game against Newcastle United in August with Liverpool down to 10 men, he hasn't looked back since. Totalling 24 appearances in all competitions, with one goal and three assists, he has looked incredibly settled and has played with the confidence of a player with years of experience - but that is simply not the case.

Prior to this season, he managed just 16 appearances on loan at Bristol Rovers in League One and those minutes were his only experience of senior football before his promotion to the first-team squad. Reflecting with The Athletic's James Pearce in an exclusive interview, he believes being thrown in the deep end in the EFL was vital experience for his development. “My first game, we got beaten 5-1 (away to Morecambe) but somehow, despite the scoreline, I played well,” he says. “I learned more in those 90 minutes than in the previous couple of years.

“It was a real eye-opener. I was thankful for the manager (Joey Barton) who trusted me and played me in every game. The different strikers you come up against, different styles. We had a young back four and a lot of teams would go direct against us, thinking they could bully us. Trying to win aerial duels, getting bashed about a bit. There were times when I thought, ‘I’m miles off it’. In academy football, I was comfortable, never really challenged physically, chilling and cruising through games. Then I was thrown in at the deep end a bit. It was a wake-up call but so good for me."

There are others on loan in the EFL; Fabio Carvalho and Tyler Morton are both playing well at Hull City, while Conor Bradley's experience with Bolton helped mould him into an exciting young defender which shows how important loans can be to the lower leagues. With Klopp set to depart in the summer, it will be interesting to see if he remains in the first-team squad next year as a new manager comes in. Matip will most likely leave in the summer at the end of his deal, and with Joe Gomez becoming more of a utility defender, he's certainly earned his place as their back-up central defender and the future looks extremely bright for the academy graduate.

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