Gerrard's a fan, Klopp next? Liverpool youngster Kane hoping 'perfect' loan spell can launch Reds career

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Herbie Kane Liverpool 2017/18
Herbie Kane has been making a big impression on loan at Doncaster Rovers this season but he has his eyes on a first-team role at Anfield

Say what you like about Steven Gerrard, but he knows a player when he sees one.

It was in 2016, when writing his second autobiography, that the Liverpool legend chose to single out two young players coming through the Reds’ Academy. “These boys,” he wrote, “really caught my eye.”

One of them, Trent Alexander-Arnold, has since established himself as a first-team regular at Anfield. He’s a Liverpool starter, a full England international. He’s played in a World Cup and a Champions League final. Yep, Gerrard got that one right.

Not every journey is the same, though, and while Alexander-Arnold has done his growing up at the highest level, the other player picked out by Gerrard four years ago is coming of age in a different manner, at a different level.

Herbie Kane will line up for Doncaster Rovers today, as Crystal Palace visit the Keepmoat Stadium for an FA Cup fifth round tie.

It’s a big deal for Donny, and a chance for the on-loan Kane to underline his impressive development with the League One club this season.

As loan spells go, this has been close to perfect. Kane, who turned 20 in November, has made 36 appearances in all competitions, chipping in with seven goals from central midfield. He signed a new, improved contract at Liverpool in December, and his progress is being closely monitored by Jurgen Klopp and his staff.

“Yeah, it has been [perfect],” Kane tells Goal in an exclusive chat ahead of today’s game. “When I first came, the aim was to get in the team and play as many games as I could.

“And I always want to contribute with goals and assists, so I’m glad I’m able to do that. The manager [Grant McCann] has trusted me to play pretty much every game, so I couldn’t really ask for more. It’s a tough league and he has lots of experience. And with him being a former midfielder, it helps me a lot.”

Herbie Kane Liverpool 2017/18

Kane was born and raised in Bristol, but grew up idolising Gerrard – “I always looked at midfielders,” he says, “and Stevie was the one” – and last season he was given the chance to play under his hero for Liverpool’s under-19 side in the UEFA Youth League.

“I played more as a sitting midfielder,” he points out. “But I’ve always been more of a box-to-box midfielder. I’ve always been a midfielder who looks to get goals.”

He’s certainly got goals this season – seven of them, in fact. Not bad for a first season in league football.

“I don’t set targets,” he smiles, adding: “But I’ve got the number 15 in my head now. Why not, eh?

“The good thing is I can feel the improvement. The area I knew I’d need to improve was the competitive side, things like second balls and battling in the midfield.

“It definitely helps that I’m coming up against different styles every week. Some teams play football and challenge you that way, others go a bit longer and you have to adjust and deal with that. It’s good for my development as a player, because you’re always gaining experience and learning. I can feel I’m improving in those areas.”

Kane has already had a taste of what first-team football at Liverpool would entail, having been invited regularly to train with Klopp’s senior squad last season.

““The main thing I took away was how determined and hard-working everyone was,” he says. “Yes, they’re great players, but it’s the mentality they have as well. They are all on it, every single day, they never let up. They’re so focused and driven, it stands out a mile.”

“It’s so competitive, but it’s great just to be involved in those sessions and to see these players and how they work.”

The hope, of course, is that such opportunities will arise again in the future. Doncaster are in the play-off places in League One, with promotion to the Championship a realistic possibility.

After that, Kane is clear on his ambitions.

“I don’t make any secret,” he says. “I want to catch the Liverpool manager’s eye.

“I want to leave a footprint with this loan spell and give him something to think about come the summer. I want to be in his eyeline, maybe try to get on the pre-season tour, get an opportunity there and see what I can do.

Herbie Kane Liverpool

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“Every journey is different. It may be that I need to get 50 or 100 league games under my belt first and then we see from there, or things may change. You never know in football.

“There are some people who get the opportunity and take it, and that’s great. Trent has done that and that’s a big inspiration for everyone. But for others it’s about going out, playing games, experiencing league football and seeing how you develop there. That was the point of this loan spell, and I’m happy with how it’s gone so far.

“Palace will be a huge challenge but we’re confident, and for me it will be good to test myself against these players. I don’t mind saying it, the Premier League is where I want to play my football in the future.”