By Scott Taylor
Josh Dobie is one of four Liverpool U18 players to be released, as Neil Critchley starts planning for the new 2016/17 season. Midfielders Callum Nicholas and Jack Watts are also among the list of released players published by the Premier League. Goalkeeper Owen Wheeler is the fourth and final youngster to be released from the Kirkby Academy.
Dobie was one of the longest serving youngsters to be released having joined the Kirkby Academy as an U5 player. He progressed through the U16s and into the U18s, but was competing with Kris Owens and George Johnston for the left-back position. Dobie made just six appearances this season, with five of those coming off the bench. He was named in Liverpool U19s’ UEFA Youth League squad in September 2014, and featured in the Milk Cup in 2013.
Nicholas has struggled with injury since arriving from Manchester United in the summer of 2014, and this season was no different. The central midfielder, 18, made five appearances this season, scoring once, that coming in the Reds’ 3-1 win at Stoke on 19 January. The skillful player competed with Herbie Kane, Ovie Ejaria, Liam Coyle and Adam Phillips for a place in the Liverpool midfield, and found it hard to cement a place in the starting XI.
Watts has been a prominent fixture in the U16s, but found it hard to breakthrough to the U18s this season. The winger has appeared in many pre-season tours for the U17s, but failed to make the step up to Critchley’s side. He made just two substitute appearances for the U18s in 2015/16, both of those coming in the Reds’ pre-season tour of Ireland in August 2015.
Wheeler has been at the Kirkby Academy since joining in 2012, working his way up to the U18s. However, after a promising start to the season, Shamal George was given the number 1 jersey and Wheeler made just five appearances for Critchley’s side. He had a trial with Wolves during the season and leaves Liverpool after falling behind the pecking order, even more so with the signing of Kamil Grabara.