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Who is Conor Bradley? All you need to know about Liverpool star named in the Northern Ireland squad


Conor Bradley

Conor Bradley

Conor Bradley

Conor Bradley is one of two new faces in the Northern Ireland squad for next week's friendly games against Malta and the Ukraine.

So just who is he? Here's a look at the Tyrone teenager who made headlines when he signed a three-year professional contract at Liverpool last summer.

Who is Conor Bradley?

Age: 17. He was born on July 9, 2003

Hometown: Castlederg, County Tyrone

Club history: Bradley began his football career with his local Castlederg club St Patrick's, whom he joined aged nine. He then moved on to Dungannon United Youth, who have a track record of producing talent capable of moving into professional football, such as Northern Ireland international Niall McGinn. It was from there he joined Liverpool on an initial scholarship deal in summer 2019.

Position: Bradley has made a home at right-back for Liverpool's Under 18s although before moving across the Irish Sea, he was recognised more as a flying right winger.

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International experience: Bradley was handed his senior international debut on May 30, 2021, when he came off the bench to replace Stuart Dallas in a friendly win over Malta as part of Ian Baraclough's 'fast-tracking' scheme. He had previously only played for Northern Ireland up to Under 17 level but captained Northern Ireland U16s to Victory Shield success in 2018. Before leaving for Liverpool, he was training three times a week with the Club NI set-up, which, as the IFA's former Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton has explained, helped prepare him for life as a pro. "We've exposed the guys to these unbelievable opportunities in which they're playing against the top kids and top teams in Europe," he said. "They've all had experiences of the levels that are needed. We have to be hard on them because the best will always rise and that's what we've found."

How Bradley arrived on the Liverpool radar: His signing is a feather in the cap of the Liverpool development centre in Northern Ireland, based in Stormont. It was founded in 2008 and Bradley first came through the gates back in 2012. That was after IFA Primary School Coach Steafan Deery alerted club scout Cliff Ferguson to his potential, allowing development centre head coach Stefan Seaton to nurture the talent. In April 2016, he went on a club tour to Germany and was voted Players' Player of the Tour, which alerted the staff at Kirkby to his potential.

Interest from elsewhere: Bradley had Chelsea, Manchester United and Southampton all sniffing around before he moved to Liverpool in 2019, even going on trial to both United and the Saints. However, he was never going to turn down the Reds, and not just because of his boyhood loyalty to the club. "It wasn't just because I support them, it was because they're a real family club and that's something we all really appreciate," he said. "They're also keen on the education side of it, which is very important to me."

Making the grade with the U18s: Bradley made his club debut in an Under 18 friendly against Wrexham in September 2019. His competitive bow came only 10 days later as a 76th minute substitute against Manchester City in the U18 Premier League. His first goal arrived against West Brom in November, converting a first-time finish after being played through by Leighton Clarkson. That earned him a first start in a 3-2 win over Southampton. He also netted against Tottenham and head in a late winner against Stoke. By the time the season halted in March, he had started four of the last five U18 Premier League fixtures.

Moving on up: Bradley is clearly highly thought of at Kirkby, that much was made clear when he was handed a three-year deal in the summer of 2020, but it wasn't the first sign we've had that he was on the right path to progress. That came the previous December, when he did enough to convince then Under 23 coach Neil Critchley to hand him his Under 23 debut, starting in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in Premier League 2 alongside the likes of Curtis Jones. There was also to be a European debut as came off the bench for the Under 23s against PSG later that month. In the 20/21 season, he made 16 appearances for the U23s, rubberstamping his spot as a regular in the team and pushing on towards the ultimate goal.

First team exposure: Bradley was spotted training with the senior Liverpool squad in September 2020, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Mohamed Salah. In footage the club released by LFCTV, Bradley could be seen running drills with the team, as his fellow Under 23 players Leighton Clarkson and Remi Savage also took part along with the likes of Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott; Academy players who have already made their first-team bows.

What sort of player is he? As a natural winger, Bradley is at his best when on the attack with space to run into, which suits Jurgen Klopp's attacking system that relies on both full-backs pushing on and offering a threat. As important as his ability though, according to scout Ferguson, are his intelligence and attitude.

"Where I maybe took Conor for granted is tactically. He's excellent. He takes information on board and makes himself a better player," said Ferguson. "He's really, really good that way. He must be a manager's dream because he does everything and fulfils his role to the letter.

"The player's 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's not happy unless you're really pushing him."

Breaking the Northern Ireland hoodoo: Bradley has high hopes. He has his sights set on reaching the first team of the world champions. If he can manage to fulfil that dream, he will become the first Northern Irishman to play a competitive game for the Reds' senior side since Sammy Smyth in 1954. In that time, as many have 24 NI natives have played for Manchester United but the likes of Cliff Ferguson and Stefan Seaton are determined to begin to even that score.

International call-up: On May 26, 2021, Bradley was named as one of two new faces in the senior Northern Ireland squad, joining fellow teenager Sam McClelland.

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