Liverpool Under-23s coach Neil Critchley has left the club to take over as head coach of Blackpool.
The 41-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the Seasiders, who currently sit 13th in League One.
Critchley spent six-and-a-half years with Liverpool’s Academy, joining the Reds from Crewe in 2013 as U18s coach. He moved up to take charge of the U23s in 2017, and has played a key role in the development of players such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Curtis Jones and Neco Williams during his time at Kirkby.
This season he was given two opportunities to take charge of a Liverpool first-team fixture. When Jurgen Klopp and his senior squad headed to Qatar for the Club World Championship in December, Critchley led a team of youngsters in the Carabao Cup quarter-final at Aston Villa.
Liverpool lost 5-0, but earned huge plaudits for the manner in which they performed against an experienced Premier League outfit.
If that was impressive, what followed in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury Town last month was remarkable.
With Klopp and his squad on a mid-season break, Critchley’s team defeated League One opposition in their FA Cup fourth-round replay in front of more than 52,000 supporters.
Reflecting on his new role, Critchley told Blackpool’s official website: “I am absolutely delighted. The trust and faith that has been shown in me gives me a very special feeling inside. I can’t wait to get started.
“The time I’ve had at Liverpool has been truly special. I’ve been incredibly well supported there from Alex Inglethorpe, the ccademy manager, and all the staff. It’s a truly special football club and it’s the people that make the football club the place that it is. It would have had to have taken something equally as special, if not more, for me to even think about leaving.
“But from the conversations I’ve had here, I got a really good feeling about the people, where they want the club to go and how they want it to grow.”
Critchley’s job as U23s manager will, Liverpool say, be taken on by existing staff until a permanent successor is found, with Tim Jenkins to take on the role in the short term. Liverpool flew to Portugal on Monday morning ahead of the U19s’ UEFA Youth League last-16 clash with Benfica, for which U18s coach Barry Lewtas will be in charge.
Critchley’s departure will, for sure, leave a hole at Kirkby.
“It’s a bittersweet day in many respects,” said Inglethorpe.
“Obviously losing a person and professional of Neil’s calibre is something that is a disappointment, but at the same time we have great excitement and joy that he has been given this wonderful opportunity.
“We see this as a reflection on the Academy as a whole, that it’s an environment where players and coaches have a pathway to progression and self-improvement.
“Blackpool want Neil because of the work he’s done at Liverpool and it shows to everyone within our system that if you work hard and work smart then rewards are there.
“Neil epitomises the best qualities of a modern coach: leadership skills, intelligence, compassion and a hunger for individual and collective improvement. Blackpool are very fortunate to have him and we wish him well.
“For the U23s we are confident in the remaining coaching talent we have to make sure there is no drop-off in the interim period. This season has proved the importance of the role and, therefore, we will take advantage of having amazing people already in post to take stock and assess what to do next.
“Myself, Michael Edwards and Jürgen Klopp will work collaboratively on what works best for the future. Pathway is so critical to this club we want to make sure we make the best appointment we can.”