Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is encouraging Anfield’s latest batch of young hopefuls to take a leaf out of his book and test themselves on an international stage at the Dale Farm Milk Cup.
The Carnlough man may be absorbed in the battle to land a first league title for Liverpool in 24 years but did not pass up the opportunity to send the club’s top junior players to the tournament in July.
It is another major vote of confidence for the organisers who are held in the highest esteem by Rodgers who not only played in the event for Ballymena United three years in succession more than two decades ago but also made the draw last year in Belfast having twice been at the launch during his time as a coach at Chelsea.
“I believe in what the organisers are doing not only in terms of the sport and the extremely high calibre of teams they attract but also from the massive success story as far as selling Northern Ireland across the world,” says Rodgers.
“The Dale Farm Milk Cup is an internationally recognised brand that appeals to all ages and all nationalities.
“No matter where you go across the globe, mention Northern Ireland and the tournament is very often a common theme.
“So many top players have cut their teeth at it down the years and a great number of people have visited the country because of the event.”
Liverpool won the Premier title in 1988 defeating Motherwell in the decider. Last year their Under-16s reached the semi-finals only to lose to County Antrim.
Rodgers’ Liverpool class of 2014 will be in action in a Junior competition that boasts Brazilian giants SC Corinthians who also competed last year. Their ground in São Paulo was visited by Tourism Minister Arlene Foster during a trade mission to Brazil 12 months ago. The club’s new home is the Arena Corinthians, purpose built for the World Cup and it is due to host the opening game on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia while England will play Uruguay there in their second Group D game on June 19.
Meanwhile, Irish outfit Dundalk, who have been visitors since the inception of the Milk Cup back in the early eighties, will continue their long association. Former Republic of Ireland international and manager Steve Staunton turned out for them 30 years ago.