Teenage sensation Conor Bradley will embrace working with Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool’s superstar players on the club’s pre-season training camp in Austria, according to Dungannon Swifts’ Head of Youth Development Dixie Robinson.
Bradley, who turned 18 earlier this month, joined the Reds from Dungannon in 2019 and has made a big impression for the Anfield giants at Under-18 and Under-23 level.
Now, just a couple of months after making his first senior appearance for Northern Ireland as a substitute in a 3-0 friendly win over Malta, the right-back is enjoying fitness sessions and practice games alongside Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk.
There’s even been suggestions recently that should Welsh ace Neco Williams move on, Bradley — who hails from Aghyaran near Castlederg in Tyrone — would be behind Kop hero Trent Alexander-Arnold in the pecking order for the full-back slot.
Robinson played a key role in developing Bradley at Stangmore Park. So too Ciaran O’Kane and Joe McAree, the manager and chairman at Dungannon United Youth. There is a great sense of pride at the club in relation to Bradley’s progress at Liverpool and the fact he is with the first team in Austria — where, coincidentally, he made his international bow.
“There is no doubt Conor will embrace being with the Liverpool first team in their training camp,” said Robinson.
“I think breaking through into the full international squad with Northern Ireland will have made that transition a wee bit easier for him.
“The benefits for him at 18 working with the quality of players Liverpool possess will be phenomenal and working under Jurgen Klopp will be like a dream come true for him.
“In our part-time environment, we do everything we can for young players to help them learn and improve and for Conor to be working under a man of the calibre of Klopp, he is blessed and it can only enhance his career.”
Robinson added: “Conor was always willing to learn. With us he was like a sponge and took information on board and I know he will be doing the same at Liverpool. His work ethic and attitude is top class. Sometimes that’s where a lot of young players fall down but Conor is the complete package because he also has great ability and athleticism.
“He is a flying machine with unbelievable pace and is good on the ball. He is also quietly confident. I think his rise to date has surpassed all of our dreams but it shows how hard he has worked at Liverpool.
“I know there has been talk that he could be next in line at right-back to Trent Alexander-Arnold if Neco Williams leaves and, to me, that is a compliment to Conor. I don’t think that would faze him. He will continue to work his socks off to make the most of his tremendous talent.”
Numerous young players have left Dungannon to go across the water. Even when they depart, the respected Robinson keeps in touch with them to check on their wellbeing and progress on and off the pitch.
In May, Bradley was the talk of the town when he made his first appearance for Northern Ireland, coming on for Stuart Dallas in that victory over Malta.
Robinson beamed: “It was amazing seeing Conor make his international debut. We were so proud of him and delighted for him. In our staff and players’ WhatsApp group it was ping, ping, ping that night.
“From our club’s point of view, it also hopefully showed what we are about, helping young players develop and showing that they can realise their dreams. Conor has set the benchmark for others to follow.”