After four months on the sidelines with a dislocated ankle, Harvey Elliott is back in full Liverpool training and could soon be ready to reprise his role from the start of the season
James Milner summed up the current mood around Liverpool pretty well with a simple tweet on Tuesday evening.
“Buzzing to see this guy back out there with us #baller,” he tweeted.
The picture which accompanied the caption was of Harvey Elliott, back in full Liverpool training after four months on the sidelines.
It is easy to forget now just how exciting the start of the season was for Reds fans and Elliott himself.
The 18-year-old spent last season on loan with Blackburn Rovers where he contributed 11 assists in 41 games and was nominated for the EFL’s Young Player of the Season award.
Andrew Powell/Getty Images)
Elliott arrived back at his parent club for pre-season with hope rather than expectation; a pathway into the first team was far from assured.
But after signing a new contract and catching the attention of manager Jurgen Klopp and coach Pep Lijnders in pre-season, the midfielder embarked on making his breakthrough in the early stages of the 2021/22 campaign.
On paper his four Premier League appearances in August and September don’t look like much: 250 minutes on the pitch, no goals, no assists.
Yet at the time they were almost revelatory. Many Liverpool fans had been frustrated by the lack of movement in the summer transfer window, with Ibrahima Konate the only new addition and no replacement signed for Gini Wijnaldum.
Elliott almost single handedly changed that narrative. Then disaster struck: a tackle from Leeds’ Pascal Struijk caused a dislocated ankle on September 12.
The prognosis was not good. He could have spent the rest of the season focusing on rehabilitation.
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But on Tuesday evening, there he was, back in training alongside his team-mates, providing the club with a much-needed boost.
Understandably, Liverpool won’t rush him back into action. Yet the excitement was palpable when Lijnders spoke to the media ahead of the second leg of the team’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Arsenal on Thursday evening.
“He didn’t lose his football brain during the time he was off,” Lijnders said. “Yesterday, it would be a crime not playing him if you see him train like that.
“Some players don’t knock on the door, they run through it. And Harvey is a player like that in each session.
“But he is coming back from a long-term injury so we need to take our time. The most important thing is he gets team fit and prepares himself well for the moment he is really ready.
“It’s great to have him back. You saw in pre-season and in the first games of our season how he influenced our game, our style and our right side.
“We’re really happy that he’s back with us on the pitch, not individually on the C-pitch in the back, but with us doing all the things we normally do.
John Powell/Getty Images)
“We like the players with goals in them. We like the players who don’t just have dribble or technique but always search for the last pass and he influences our game a lot.”
Lijnders has neatly summed up the appeal of Elliott – he is a player completely unafraid of trying things, of doing everything he can to progress the ball up the pitch.
That rare attribute, coupled with what Klopp called his “old head” in November, makes him able to step straight back into the breach, when his coaches deem him ready.
Once they have got the Arsenal Carabao Cup semi-final and Sunday’s Premier League game against Crystal Palace out of the way, Liverpool have a two-week break when they can regather themselves after a brutal winter schedule.
Of course, not having any fixtures for 14 days is helpful when a team is without three of its biggest stars in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita – but it could also be key for Elliott.
If all goes to plan, he could reprise his impact from the start of the season. He could be like a new signing all over again.