Exclusive: Scouted Football talk to Rhian Brewster
Last week, we were at the launch of Ellevate Football, a social media app which provides amateur players a platform to get scouted – for more, visit e11evate.co.uk. Joe Donnohue spoke one-on-one with Rhian Brewster, a World Cup-winning forward who has big plans for the future.
Rhian Brewster enters the room and makes his arrival known. Jovial, loud, personable, he makes his way around, seeking out team-mate Adam Lewis. The pair chat and laugh together for a short while before Brewster is off again, ambling about, more than happy to pose for pictures, greeting those he knows and those he doesn’t with equal enthusiasm.
He sits, performs a quick sound-check into the microphone and the interview commences. It is like a switch has been flicked. He becomes focused, thoughtful and considered. The conversation quickly turns to his charismatic, gregarious gaffer.
“My relationship with him [Jürgen Klopp] is very, very good. He’s easy to approach and easy to talk to. I think you need a manager like that.” It feels genuine. Brewster exudes only positivity towards his manager, the man who has stuck by him through injury and come good on his promise to award him his Liverpool debut, should he work hard enough to merit it.
That debut came much more recently than he would have intended. Almost two years ago now Brewster suffered a serious ankle injury which required surgery, keeping him out for the vast majority of the 2018-19 season. Having just won the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup with a star-studded England group and scored five times in his opening nine Premier League 2 games of the 2017-18 season, the injury could not have come at a worse time.
“Of course there was some frustration there, because I’m thinking, ‘If I wasn’t injured, would that be me?’. It does spur me on, because it shows I want to get there.” Whilst his international team-mates - Callum Hudson-Odoi, Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden to name but a few - were out on the pitch, making a name for themselves, Brewster was stricken by injury.
While it hindered his ability to perform on the pitch, it did not deter him off it. Brewster expresses a deep-seated drive during his time on the treatment table, seeing his friends break onto the scene with a mixture of pride and irritation. That remains the same now he’s back on the pitch and back amongst the goals: “I want to do what they’re doing, if not better.”
Rhian backs himself. There is an air of quiet confidence about him. His injury setback has not weighed on his mind too much, he says. Instead, he’s been far too busy focusing on recovering and proving to his manager all over again that he deserves to be included in the first team setup. Direction from Klopp remains the same: “Be patient and you’ll play. Wait for your time and hopefully it’ll come.” It is a daunting task, trying to break into one of Europe’s most potent attacking trios. While it may be a pipe-dream for so many, for Brewster it is a reality – a stark one, but one which he is not shying away from.
“You can’t think it’s easy and you’re just going to get there with your talent, because you need to work hard as well. I’ve seen a lot of people with talent but not everyone makes it because of the attitude and the drive.” He has talent, bags of it, and he knows as much, but it’s accompanied by a quiet calm and a recognition of the task ahead of him. “You’ve got to work for it, it’s not just given to you. You’ve got to earn your way into the starting line-up.”
And so he did. Brewster made his long-awaited Liverpool debut against MK Dons in the League Cup back in September, 18 months after many had predicted him to do so. Unbothered by expectation, he knows he must continue to work hard for the opportunities to arise. Brewster uses Chelsea – a club he used to play for – as an example of how Jürgen Klopp similarly places considerable trust his young players.
“I played with Mase [Mason Mount], and I played with Cal [Hudson-Odoi]. I’m really happy for all those guys.” Like Frank Lampard, he says Klopp is unafraid to blood a young player if he feels they are ready and displaying greater hunger than an established first-teamer.
The conversation then switches focus again, this time to England. Brewster arrived at the event in Manchester promoting Ellevate, a new football app aimed at showcasing amateur players to professional clubs, the day after England U-21 completed a 5-1 rout of Austria.
“The number of ‘ballers we have is wicked,” he states proudly, describing the England setup of which he is becoming a regular fixture. He is right, too. England’s Under-21 crop boasts some of the Premier League’s most exciting prospects. Having played 30 minutes against Austria, he bemoans the quality of their defenders in thwarting his efforts for a first international goal at that level and also that of his team-mates.
“It [the quality] shows. 5-1 at home to Austria, and Austria are not a bad team. I think we can go really far [as a group].” Austria’s under-21 side, captained by Southampton defender Kevin Danso, had been defeated once in their last seven games before England’s demolition, boasting wins over France, Serbia and Turkey, as well as holding Germany to a 1-1 draw, all within the past year.
As the discussion winds down the jovial, cheeky grin returns. His friends from across the room try to distract him and he laughs. It is a reminder he is still 19. The way he conducts himself during interviews might have you forget.
To wrap up, the good-humoured Liverpool teenager recalls that night in Madrid. He didn’t play, but didn’t hesitate in involving himself in the celebrations regardless. “No doubt making my debut away at MK Dons was amazing, I hope it’s the first of many. The support of the fans was amazing, but being in Madrid was different.” He tails off towards the end of his sentence, reminiscing on the immense night before he is off again, buzzing around the room, laughing and joking with anyone who cares to join in.
Rhian’s pinned tweet is an image of his Champions League winner’s medal, draped over the back of his shirt and captioned, “Something for the 96.” He is great value, an extremely likeable and lively character, but still recognises the opportunity and responsibility at his feet. He appreciates the sacrifice he’ll have to endure to reach the vertigo-inducing heights he aspires to. And he’s ready and willing.
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