The east London-born forward is hoping he can follow in the path of Sancho and Foden
It is the moment when Rhian Brewster bows his head and lowers his voice that you see the toll the past 15 months have taken.
Brewster is the young Liverpool striker whose eight goals helped England’s Under 17s become world champions in October 2017; he is friends with Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Morgan Gibbs-White, who all used that campaign in India as springboard to achieve their dreams.
By rights, Brewster should have done something similar. Jurgen Klopp has loved the 18-year-old since he watched him score a behind-closed-doors hat-trick against Accrington Stanley in November 2016 and believes Liverpool will have ‘fun’ with him in the future.
Rhian Brewster is back in first-team training following his nightmare spell on the sidelines
The highly-rated 18-year-old Liverpool and England starlet trains at Melwood on Wednesday
The reason Klopp specifies ‘in the future’ is down to a sequence of injuries that have put a hugely promising career on hold. An ankle injury sustained against Manchester City’s Under 23s in January 2018 led to complications in his right knee, four operations and endless hours of rehabilitation.
Such a sequence would test even the most experienced professional, so what was the worst point.
‘No,’ Brewster says quietly. ‘I’m not going to comment on that.’
He doesn’t need to, as the frustration is written all over his face; someone so young shouldn’t have to deal with the doubt and desolation a long-term injury brings. One thing he has not done, though, is sulk. Brewster is resilient and this week he received the all clear to return to full training.
‘If you’d have told me before my injury that I’d be down the road I’ve been down, then I’d have told you to get lost,’ he says, smiling now.
‘If you’d told me I’d get through it, I’d have said “yeah, whatever, no way”. But to get through it to where I am now, I could never have done it myself.
‘It’s about having the right people behind you – my family, my friends and the club that I’m at; people like Jurgen, the boss always asking how I am when I’ll be back. He and the other players have been there since the beginning; they have all helped me on this journey.’
There is a significant mention for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with whom he has built up a close bond, for helping him through the difficult moments.
‘When I was getting closer to that first session, I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up on the day,’ he continues. ‘Even just doing the warm-ups with them and playing games within training, it’s going to be very good for me. I didn’t want to be the guy that looked rusty. I wanted to be ready to go.’
We meet at Anfield at an event for the LFC Foundation’s Respect 4 All programme. There are 200 children in the room but they all know Brewster, who certainly has respect from all after he spoke out in December 2017 about tackling racism on the back of incidents he had experienced.
The Liverpool teenager celebrates after helping the Young Lions reach the final in India
Brewster was part of England’s successful Under 17 side which won the World Cup in 2017
The ex-Chelsea youngster (left) has grown up with the likes of Angel Gomes and Phil Foden
‘I’ve had to grow up (quickly) from a young age, moving away from London and up to Liverpool at 14,’ says Brewster, whose career began at Chelsea. ‘I’ve had to grow up quicker than most boys my age. I’m only 18 and people say I seem older. One of the kids told me I looked 30!
‘I always knew Liverpool were such a big club, but obviously not playing a first-team game or having an appearance under my belt and they all really know who I am already, it shows what a big club it is. It makes me want to do well for them and for this club.’
The desire to see him play is obvious. With Sancho’s reputation blossoming by the week at Borussia Dortmund, Foden firmly in Manchester City’s quadruple chasing squad and Gibbs-White having helped Wolves establish and Calum Hudson-Odoi emerging at Chelsea, Brewster is the next in line.
‘I want to see myself play!’ he says, with a telling smile. ‘I speak to Phil and Jadon, they are doing really well. It gives me more motivation, really. It shows that it can be done. To be honest, I just want to be out there, showing people what I can do and what I have been missing since I have been out.
‘I can’t wait to be back. We send each other messages individually to see how we are getting on. I speak to Jadon here and there. It’s not like I am with Ox. But we chat to each other, we see how we are going in training. We speak a bit. They are an inspiration, of course.
Brewster is in regular contact with Borussia Dortmund and England star Jadon Sancho
‘Seeing what they are doing at such a young age… it’s just a bit of added motivation and it shows you that it can be done. I just want to get my chance at Liverpool and prove what can be done. Dreams do come true.’
Brewster makes a point of telling that to one child who asks what is required to become a make it to the top. Before he leaves, he repeats the message. This injury may have tested him mentally and robbed him of precious time but his focus has never wavered.
‘It’s always at the back of mind,’ says Brewster. ‘If you work hard, if you dream big, they do come true. Hopefully, this year my dream will come true and I will walk out on to Anfield. I want to finish my career here. I want to be one of the best strikers that has ever played for Liverpool.’
He’s been very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very helpful! Not just because he’s become a friend to me, but also because he’s older than me and has been in the game a long time.
To have that experience around me, it helps a lot. And me looking at him doing everything right in his rehab, I’m looking at that thinking “if he’s doing that, why can’t I do that?”
Brewster has become close friends with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during their injury spells
BREWSTER ON … STUDYING ROBERTO FIRMINO
He is the best at what he does. He is not an out-and-out striker; he is a false nine. He comes and gets the ball, he runs in behind. If you can take bits off him, bits off other players to put into your own game, then you can be one of the best strikers.
I look at Bobby – his work rate, his assists, what he does on the ball. I have been watching him for 13, 14 months and it’s not bad to have him as a striker to look up to, is it?
The Liverpool teenager looks up to senior star Roberto Firmino due to his sublime work rate