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Conor Bradley: Tyrone teenager signs three year professional contract at Liverpool

 

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Special talent: Conor Bradley has sparkled in Liverpool’s underage sides

Special talent: Conor Bradley has sparkled in Liverpool’s underage sides

Special talent: Conor Bradley has sparkled in Liverpool’s underage sides

Conor Bradley's three-year professional contract at Liverpool has been rubber-stamped.

The right-back enjoyed a fruitful first season at the club's Kirkby Academy and was rewarded for his efforts with the bumper deal, the longest the club is permitted to offer a 17-year-old.

Slightly too old for the Under 16s, Bradley went straight into the Under 18 panel on his arrival at the club last summer and by the time the campaign came to an abrupt halt, he had established himself as a regular starter, even making two appearances for the Under 23 squad.

His first goal arrived against West Bromwich Albion in November and he scored a superb effort against Tottenham on his FA Youth Cup debut in December. One of his season highlights was a late headed winner against Stoke in January.

The Dungannon United Youth graduate will now look to push on towards fulfilling his ultimate ambition of playing for the first team of the club he has supported all his life.

"It's a bit overwhelming that I'm going to join the club that I support," he told the Belfast Telegraph before moving to Liverpool last summer.

"Hopefully I can take it all in my stride."

Confirmation of the deal is a boost to Liverpool's Stormont-based Northern Ireland development centre, its head coach Stefan Seaton and scout Cliff Ferguson.

On the recommendation of IFA Primary School Coach Steafan Deery back in 2012, it was Ferguson who first brought Bradley into the Liverpool fold.

Even then, he says, it was evident that a big future lay ahead for the Castlederg lad.

"Conor was really, really easy to identify," Ferguson told the Belfast Telegraph. "He's a great mover - a really athletic kid.

"The players' talent gets them to Liverpool, that's a given, but the rest is down to attitude and Conor's will to win stood out even at nine years old. That's the best thing for me.

"He initially came into our group of under nines, tens and elevens but it wasn't long before we had to move him up and play him in with the older kids, Under 12s and 13s, because the lad needs a challenge. He's not happy unless you're really pushing him.

"If he felt things were too easy, he wasn't long in letting you know. That real work ethic, the mentality and the attitude, it beats ability. Of course he has plenty of talent, but his attitude is top class."

If Bradley does make it all the way to the first-team squad, he won't be the first pushed through by Ferguson to join the elite ranks, as he also played a key role in the signings of current back-up goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher and defender Conor Masterson, now with QPR.

Bradley could, however, become the first Northern Irishman to play a senior game for the club since Sammy Smyth in 1954.

Jim Magilton has come closest in the interim, having been an unused substitute.

"Conor's constantly looking to improve and he has an opportunity to do that every day he's at Liverpool," said Magilton, who has also helped Bradley's development as the Irish FA's Elite Performance Director.

"There's no doubt he wants it and he now has an unbelievable chance to watch Trent (Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool right-back) and to ask the questions, 'Why Trent and what did he do?'

"These are the sort of things that you think about when, like Conor, you have that ambition to get into the first team."

Belfast Telegraph