Rhian Brewster: England U17’s natural finisher on the fast-track at Liverpool

The striker whose consecutive hat-tricks swept England into Saturday’s Under-17 World Cup final is a product of careful nurturing at Liverpool, where Steve McManaman, Steven Gerrard and John Barnes have had a part to play

They were the goals of a natural finisher and no surprise to anyone at Liverpool’s academy. The background to Rhian Brewster’s World Cup semi-final hat‑trick for England Under-17s against Brazil, however, brought extra satisfaction and encouragement to those charged with realising the striker’s potential for Jürgen Klopp.

Liverpool tailor individual training programmes for their “talent group” – the academy prospects who are judged to have taken the next step and who travel weekly from Kirkby to Melwood for training sessions with the first-team development coach, Pep Lijnders. Brewster, the London-born forward whose two consecutive hat-tricks have swept England into Saturday’s under-17s World Cup final against Spain in Kolkata, has been on the fast-track since Klopp arrived at Anfield.

The 17-year-old striker’s training programme has included working with Steve McManaman. The former Liverpool and Real Madrid player is not a full-time coach at the academy but delivers specific sessions for the club’s young wingers and forwards. With Brewster’s encouragement the pair have worked on anticipating a variety of crosses and losing his marker early to find the space to finish. His first and third goals against Brazil in particular, therefore, when Brewster peeled away from defenders to convert crosses from Callum Hudson-Odoi and Emile Smith Rowe respectively, were reward for the teenager’s dedication on the training ground as well as his instinctive eye for goal.

A combination of the two explains why Klopp, Lijnders, Steven Gerrard, the academy director, Alex Inglethorpe, and many others at Liverpool are convinced they have another genuine article coming through. Not that any public proclamations will be forthcoming from Anfield, where there is patience to accompany promise such as Ben Woodburn, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Brewster.

Steve Cooper, the England Under-17s manager and former Liverpool academy coach, said: “It is an amazing achievement to score a hat-trick in a quarter-final and a semi-final.

“I am not normally one to talk about individuals but to do that needs a special mention. There is no doubt about that. He deserves it and the team deserves it. If you see the way Rhian speaks to the rest of the players in the dressing room about the service he is getting then it says a lot about him. And it is not just his goals but the effort he is putting in for the team. We want to win the ball back as quick as we can and we want to press and that starts with your No9.

Full name

Rhian Joel Brewster


1 April 2000, London


Liverpool, but he started at Chelsea before leaving in 2014

Why did he leave Chelsea?

In his own words: 'I was [there] from the age of seven to 14 but then I told them I wanted to look at my options because I didn’t see a pathway to become a first-team player there. There were a few clubs interested but once I knew Liverpool were one of them it was an easy choice'

Has he played for Liverpool’s first team?

No. Brewster was moved up from the under-18s to the under-23 side earlier this year and was on the substitutes’ bench for the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Anfield in April. He did play in a pre-season game in Australia in July, a 3-0 win over Sydney FC

What does Jürgen Klopp say?

'I’ve followed him for more than a year. He’s a wonderfully skilled boy, real striker, good finisher, fantastic work ethic. He’s in a very good way, he’s a very good boy'

“Rhian is a goalscorer but he is more than that. He is a fantastic character. The feeling is pride and satisfaction in the way we did it.”

Brewster attended Chadwell primary school and Chadwell Heath Academy in Romford. He played for the Shield football academy before joining Chelsea as a seven-year-old under the guidance of Michael Beale, who is in his second stint at Liverpool’s academy following a brief spell as the assistant manager of São Paulo in Brazil.

Beale, now Liverpool’s head of coaching for the foundation phase (the youngest new arrivals), remains a close friend of the Brewster family although it is John Barnes who unwittingly played an instrumental role in the striker’s move to Anfield. Rhian’s father, Ian, is an obsessive Liverpool fan and Barnes was his hero, ensuring there was no doubt in his mind where his son should go when he decided to leave Chelsea at the age of 14. Twenty years after leaving, Barnes is still providing assists for Liverpool.

“I didn’t see a pathway to become a first-team player at Chelsea,” Brewster has said, mirroring Dominic Solanke’s decision to swap Stamford Bridge for Anfield this summer.

Ian Brewster said: “When he was at Chelsea, I didn’t see anybody get through right to the top level. I asked Rhian: ‘If you got £10,000 at Chelsea or £5,000 at, let’s say, Watford but played in front of big crowds, which would you choose?’ He said ‘Watford’ straight away. That told me he wanted to play football at the highest level, no matter where. He’s loving Liverpool and everyone loves him there. People say he’s always smiling when he’s playing. That’s because I used to say to him to go and enjoy himself. Win, lose or draw, he’s done me proud, his family and friends proud and the country proud.”

Brewster was 16 when he caught Klopp’s attention during an academy training session. He was immediately invited to train with the first team and scored a hat-trick in a behind‑closed‑doors friendly against Accrington Stanley last November in front of the Liverpool manager. “I got a ‘well done’ from the boss, which was amazing,” he said. “My confidence was sky-high.”

An appearance as an unused substitute followed against Crystal Palace in the Premier League in April – he might have got on but for a 2-1 Liverpool defeat – and he featured in an end-of-season friendly in Australia before a foot injury delayed further senior appearances in the summer. Delayed being the operative word. Brewster has confidently handled the step up from Liverpool’s Under-18s to the Under-23s this season while also impressing for Gerrard’s team in the Uefa Youth League. “He’ll finish the season with big numbers,” the former Liverpool captain has predicted.

A rare disappointment for Brewster came in the Under-17 European Championship final in May when he missed a penalty in the shootout defeat by Spain. The World Cup final offers England an opportunity to avenge that loss. For the Liverpool striker, for Manchester City’s Phil Foden and hopefully several more, there may be much more to follow.

• This article was amended on 27 October 2017 to correct the name of Chadwell primary school from Chadwell Heath primary school, as an earlier version said.


Andy Hunter

The GuardianTramp

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