Conor Bradley has reflected on a ‘crazy year’ after making big strides with Liverpool and Northern Ireland.
It’s been just over 12 months since 18-year-old Bradley made his international debut in a friendly against Malta despite never having played a senior match at club level, but since then he has won five more caps and played Champions League football among five appearances for Liverpool.
He got his second competitive start for Northern Ireland in the 1-0 home defeat to Greece last week when he faced Liverpool team-mate Kostas Tsimikas and although the result was disappointingly, it was another big night in his still young career. .
“It’s been a crazy year for me personally to get called up to the senior team at this time last year and then start against Greece,” Bradley said.
“I’m just trying to take it all in my stride and keep working hard and doing what I usually do and I’m grateful to Ian (Baraclough) for giving me my chance and my starts and a few starts and I I’ll keep going to keep my head down.
“I’m developing both as a person and as a footballer, which is the main thing for me. I feel like I’ve made giant strides in the last year and I hope I can do something similar by next year.
A few months after earning his first Northern Ireland cap, the boyhood Liverpool fan fulfilled a dream by playing out their Carabao Cup win at Norwich.
He made his Anfield debut in the same competition beating Leicester on penalties after a 3-3 draw in December, having also come on as a late substitute in a Champions League win over AC Milan at San Syrup.
“It really was a dream come true when I walked onto the pitch and heard all the fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’,” he said of his time at Anfield. “It was a dream.
“Coming to Europe was also very special for my debut in the Champions League. It was pretty crazy. It was a wonderful night and I was grateful to Jurgen for giving me this chance.
“Everyone knows everything about the manager. He helps you so much. It doesn’t make you nervous or anything. All he wants to do is help you and try to make you better.
“He talks about different things tactically and how to play with and without possession and he’s really helped me tremendously since I’ve been working with the first team.”
Bradley’s versatility has been a huge help in his progress so far. Where Northern Ireland have used him as a full-back or right-back, he has tended to advance further for Liverpool, and he has insisted he is happy to play wherever he is called upon.
While working with both the Liverpool first team and Steven Davis and Jonny Evans with Northern Ireland, Bradley is trying to learn as many lessons as possible from those who have played at the highest level.
“You learn about the sacrifices they make, how hard they work to be the best they can be. You pick up stuff on their positioning and the different ways they defend and the different ways they can cross the ball,” a- he declared.
“Being training and working with them is going to help me and keep me getting better and better…
“I’ve looked up to Steven and Jonny since I was a kid and to be on the same team as them is amazing. I keep trying to learn as much as I can and take little bits and pieces and work them into my Game. “