Harvey Elliott is the new talk of the town. FTF spoke to his first coach at QPR and those who have followed his fledgling career closely.
Slowly but surely Harvey Elliott is becoming a household name. The diminutive winger is the new star of the EFL, he is the youngest player in Premier League history and Liverpool’s future.
For most his name has just emerged onto the scene. But back in Surrey, Harvey Elliott’s name has been on the lips of many for half a decade.
Over the years there were always murmurs about Harvey in the community. First when he broke into Fulham’s U18 side at the age of 14, then when he made his first team debut at 15 and a year later when he was playing Premier League football at 16.
Now 17, he’s tearing the Championship apart.
For those who know him, Elliott’s fast ascendancy has come as no surprise.
‘You could not take the ball off him,’ a student who attended school with Elliott in Year 7 at The Magna Carta School in Egham tells First Time Finish.
‘My friend still brags about the time he tackled Harvey.’
Scott Chickelday is the same. He remembers the fateful day of seeing Elliot for the first time as vividly as if it was yesterday, even half a decade later.
In 2013 Scott had just left Tottenham Hotspur and found himself at Queens Park Rangers. He was due to take charge of the club’s U11 side.
Before he took over, he made a visit to the club’s academy complex to watch his soon to be team in action.
‘He (Elliott) was playing left-back,’ Scott recalls to FTF. ‘He was the smallest kid on the pitch playing a year up and I got told to take a look at him.’
‘In that game I wasn’t convinced. He was steady but at that stage I suggested to the academy manager that maybe he should play with his own age. He told me to take a look at him in training first.’
The next day Elliott turned up early as usual. Him and his dad were already on the training ground practising by the time Scott arrived.
‘I got there 35 minutes before the session and Harvey was already there,’ Scott remembers.
‘We did one vs one and two vs twos, and he absolutely obliterated the session. From that point I was like wow. This kid can play. Why was he playing left-back?’
Immediately, Scott moved him further up the field.
A star in the making
Under Scott, Elliott thrived.
‘When Harvey was playing you never knew what position he was in at these younger age groups. He was just all over the pitch looking for the ball and running the game.’
Scott and Harvey spent two years together in the club’s academy set-up.
‘I remember one game, Chelsea used to batter teams at that level. Sometimes it was a Rugby score.
It was 4-1 going into the last quarter, and Harvey just turned the game on its head. He just ran rings around Chelsea to help us comeback.’
Even back then Scott was awed by the young boy.
‘I knew he was a special player, and I knew he would go far if he kept doing what he did,’ Scott admits.
What impressed him further is Elliott’s professional attitude.
‘He was always the first person in training and the last to leave. In the two years we spent together I never arrived to a training session before him. He’d be doing sprints or doing kick ups before. He just loved football.’
‘His mentality was just football, football, football. He trained like how he played. He always had a ball between his feet.’
Elliott’s dad, Scott, was a major influence in instilling an insatiate worth ethic in Harvey.
‘Harvey’s dad pushed him and encouraged him. He would do work with him outside the training. He supported him completely, every training session and game he was always there. Him and Harvey are both football mad. ‘
Who cares about age or height?
After Queens Park Rangers, Elliott moved across to neighbouring Fulham where he quickly made his way up the ranks. Just a couple of years after working with Scott he was playing U18 football before making his debut with the pros.
One of Elliott’s outstanding qualities since he has emerged onto the scene has been the ability to fit in seamlessly.
Despite his tender age he has not looked out of place playing against players twice his age.
‘Harvey was never blessed with big stature. He was always the smallest player on the pitch.
He’s been playing a year up regularly from a very young age, so he got used to being shrugged around and the tackles. He had to learn to improve his decision making to make quicker decisions to get away from players,’ Scott explains.
Now at Blackburn, Elliott has adapted to the intense physicality of the Championship with ease.
‘ I don’t think very many were expecting him to make the transition to Championship football appear so seamless,’ Jaquob Crooke, a Blackburn Rovers writer for Lancs Live tells FTF.
‘His technical ability was evident from the early stages but his physical stature is what has impressed the most; he isn’t bullied by opposition defenders, he’s not afraid to make a tackle when necessary. Blackburn knew they were getting a good player but even they may have been surprised at the manner in which Elliott has established himself as an important member of the first-team squad.’
‘At Liverpool he’s getting broader now physically. His legs are a bit thicker too. He’s clever with using his body now,’ Scott adds.
The ‘Ronaldo Effect’
At Liverpool, from the very first moment Harvey Elliott stepped on the field , it was evident the Reds secured a phenomenal talent.
In a brief cameo against Lyon in a pre-season friendly, Elliott ran the show as a 16 year old for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
At Blackburn it has been the same. Harvey Elliott has been able to establish himself as an influential member of Tony Mowbray’s side.
Beyond his 4 goals and 9 assists, Elliott stands out in other areas too. For example no winger has made more passes into the penalty box per 90 in the Championship than the diminutive attacker with 5.06.
He also ranks in the top five for smart passes and key passes in the Championship.
To emphasise how important he has been to Blackburn’s build-up play, he has contributed the third most third assists per 90 too.
‘His vision, passing range and intelligence, especially in the final third, are all exemplary. He can identify and assess situations before they have even developed and has the abilities to execute,’ Jaquob Crooke adds.
‘He can initiate attacks and his movement can be superb, both on and off the ball. He’s not afraid to take on a defender but he’s not selfish, either – in fact, that’s the one area Tony Mowbray said he needed to improve, to be more selfish in the final third!’
Mowbray is right. For attackers in the Championship Elliott ranks 49th for total shots taken so far this season (29) which is relatively low.
But nothing has changed since his QPR days and it’s an area the young star is probably already working on if his work regiment is anything to go by.
‘He always stays after training for extra sessions,’ Crooke adds.
Where Elliott does excel is instigating attacks. The winger has made the 4th most progressive runs in the Championship with 3.7 per 90.
‘He was like that when he was younger. He is very direct with his play. Straight away with his first touch he will start to drive at the defence. He has the ‘Ronaldo effect.’ He’s one of those players that as soon as he gets the ball you know he’s going to do something.
He can drive into the final third and cause problems, whether that’s a pass, cross or a shot,’ Scott recalls.
‘Elliott has been a breath of fresh air and is a reminder of the benefits that the loan market can provide, especially for Championship clubs with restricted budgets. We all look forward to him being a success at Liverpool in the future,’ Crooke concludes.
Liverpool certainly see Elliot’s long term future with the club. However, what the short term future holds for Harvey Elliott remains to be seen.
At 17 he’s already been able to stand-out in the tough environment of the Championship.
But with Liverpool’s front three, plus Diogo Jota in the mix it will be difficult to wrestle himself into first team reckoning just yet.
There is an outside chance of Blackburn making the Play Offs. In that case if a promotion to the Premier League is on the cards, Harvey Elliott could certainly remain with the Lancashire based club for another year to help him settle in the Premier League.
Though with his rapid ascension to higher levels year in year out, you certainly would not rule him out of making the step-up to Liverpool immediately either.
Klopp has shown there is a pathway for talent to break-through. Harvey Elliott will have drawn optimism from the emergence of Curtis Jones this season, especially since the pair enjoyed a superfluous partnership at academy level last season.
One thing is for sure, with his mentality to succeed and his work-ethic you would bet on Harvey Elliott to go far in the game.
All statistics taken from Wyscout.