Michael Folivi definitely has a bit about him.
During his brief cameo last night, the teenage striker had a slight pop at Jerome Sinclair for not making the right angled run and then left one on Joe Allen. He was also not afraid to pull any punches in his assessment of the game, talking lucidly and with great maturity for one so young. There was certainly no trace of it being ‘all about the three points’ you usually find from monosyllabic young footballers. His first answer was longer than a minute and the club reporter only had to ask him four questions in a near four-minute interview.
“We’ve got a few days off now and we need to look at ourselves,” he said in a similar fashion to how Valon Behrami, the experienced pro, did after the Sunderland defeat. “Silly mistakes are costing us games. The heads dropped against Spurs but they didn’t drop here and we stuck at it for 90 minutes. We need to cover up our mistakes and be a bit more clinical at the other end.”
See what we mean? He was pretty bang on the money and almost Deeney-esque in his interview style.
“There were loads of positives to take from the game,” he added before giving an insight into how Walter Mazzarri was in the dressing room after the game. “The gaffer is still happy with us. We understand it’s a bad period for us and we’ve got to cut out a few mistakes. Everything we did on the training pitch, we’ve taken onto the pitch, so he was happy with those things.”
The 18-year-old was more than just happy with his first-team debut and rightly so. He was struggling to hide the smile on his face during the interview yet still mindful that it probably wasn’t the best look to be grinning on camera when the team has just lost for the seventh time in 10 matches. His debut has been on the cards ever since Mazzarri took him along for the ride to Liverpool.
“I signed my [new three-year] contract, I travelled to Liverpool and I was raring for my chance,” he said. “The gaffer has given it to me and I’m grateful to him, my family and everyone behind me. I just need to kick on.”
Folivi has been a permanent member of the first-team training group since the game at Sunderland and was called onto the bench at the 11th hour against Spurs. He went one step further against Stoke.
“From to the speaking to the captain afterwards he just said he’s noticed in training I’ve been doing well and that I deserve my chance,” he said. “I don’t want to look back – I want to carry on going. Being on the pitch is just surreal. It’s what you live for.”
Folivi became the 59th player from the club’s academy to play for the first team, following hot on the heels of Brandon Mason becoming No 58 against Spurs.
“Until the youngsters are given the opportunity you’ll never know,” he said, again with great confidence. “They’ve believed in me here, given me a new deal. It’s about luck really. I didn’t get my opportunity against Spurs…but there are loads of injuries and the kids have to step in. It’s a man’s game and we have to step up to the plate. Hopefully I have.”
List of the last league games played by academy players since the Pozzos arrived:
Michael Folivi (v Stoke, Jan 2017)
Brandon Mason (v Spurs, Jan 2017)
Tommie Hoban (v Birmingham, April 2015)
Bernard Mensah (v Bournemouth, Jan 2015)
George Byers (v Charlton, Jan 2015)
Jonathan Bond (v Huddersfield, Jan 2015)
Lloyd Doyley (v Wolves, Dec 2014)
Sean Murray (v Ipswich, Nov 2014)
Alex Jakubiak (v Huddersfield, May 2014)
Josh Doherty (v Huddersfield, May 2014)
Luke O’Nien (v Barnsley, March 2014)
Connor Smith (v Doncaster, Sept 2013)
Jack Bonham (v Leeds, May 2013)
Adam Thompson (v Peterborough, April 2013)
Lee Hodson (v Birmingham, August 2012)
*List compiled by Jon Sinclair