Liverpool defender Nathaniel Clyne’s return to competitive action went better than expected after completing the full 90 minutes on his first appearance since pre-season.
Clyne has been sidelined since a July friendly at Tranmere due to a back injury, but Reds under-23s manager Neil Critchley paid tribute to the England international after he featured in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Stoke in the Premier League Cup.
“He has not played for seven months and the plan was to see how long he would go for,” Critchley told liverpoolfc.com.
“He kept putting his thumb up and saying he was OK. He obviously wanted to see out the 90 minutes, which was great for him.
“I thought he was a great example to our players in the way he managed himself during the game.”
Clyne resumed full training with his first-team colleagues earlier this month and in January was added to the Champions League squad for the knockout stages of the competition.
Fellow first-teamers Joe Gomez and Dominic Solanke also played in Sunday’s game with the latter – still awaiting his breakthrough goal for Jurgen Klopp’s side after his summer move from Chelsea – scoring a hat-trick.
“They were terrific goals, proper striker’s goals. You could see the confidence grow in him after his first goal with the right foot,” added Critchley.
“His second goal with his left foot was a fantastic finish across the goalkeeper and then a lovely tap-in at the end.
“All three – Joe, Nathaniel and Dom – were great examples for our players with the way they set the tone.
“It is great to see Nathaniel back and I’m sure all three will play a big part for the first team before the end of the season.”