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By ESPN Staff

Hobbs signs professional terms with Reds

Overjoyed teenage prospect Jack Hobbs today celebrated his 17th birthday by signing a professional contract with European champions Liverpool.

The imposing 6ft 3in defender has joined from League Two outfit Lincoln City after completing a successful trial and work experience period during the past month.

Hobbs put pen to paper on a three-year deal at Anfield this morning accompanied by his parents, agent and Imps boss Keith Alexander.

The fledgling youngster, who played his first competitive game for the Reds during Tuesday night's 3-2 reserve defeat to Merseyside rivals Everton, told PA Sport: 'It's a big weight off my shoulders to have finally signed a contract and is brilliant to be able to say I'm now a Liverpool player.

'Three months ago I was watching Liverpool win the Champions League on television and now I've joined them.

'It's unbelievable and I'm still coming to terms with it, but it's the best birthday present I could have ever wished for.'

Liverpool beat off competition from Barclays Premier League rivals Arsenal, Tottenham and Bolton to sign the promising teenager.

They will pay Lincoln an initial, undisclosed compensation fee thought to be around £150,000.

However, the package includes an all-important sell-on clause, which could net the Imps a potentially massive financial windfall in the future.

Imps chief executive Keith Roe said: 'There will also be payments related to appearances and on-field success and Liverpool will also come to Sincil Bank next July to play us in a pre-season friendly.

'That guarantees a capacity crowd and should net us between £60,000 and £80,000.'

The acquisition of Hobbs comes amid a low profile summer transfer spree by Reds boss Rafael Benitez to bolster his reserves following their disappointing, injury-hit campaign last year.

The emphasis has been firmly on youth and in addition to Hobbs, Benitez has also brought in Antonio Barragan, who has already tasted first-team action this season, along with 17-year-olds Godwin Antwi and Miguel Rogue.

The Spaniard wants the club's reserve side to become a breeding ground for hungry youngsters rather than a team packed with unwanted senior players.

Hobbs said: 'Antonio Barragan has already made his first-team debut in the Champions League and that's a great inspiration to the rest of us to try and follow.

'But first and foremost, my aim has to be to work hard and try and establish myself in the reserves.'

Hobbs played only three minutes of first-team football for Lincoln after joining the club from Mayflower Soccer Academy in Boston as a nine-year-old in December 1997.

But Liverpool soon became alerted to his rich promise by Anfield chief scout Frank McParland, who set up an initial trial for the player last month.

The level-headed youngster has not looked back since and the Liverpool coaching staff are now looking to convert him from a centre-half into a holding midfielder.

'I played there against Everton on Tuesday for the reserves and felt I did okay,' said Hobbs, who has also shown a strong talent for cricket but is no relation to his namesake and former England cricket great Jack Hobbs.

'Benitez spoke to me at half-time about my positioning and overall I felt I did quite well.

'I don't mind where I play but I'm taking it as a compliment that they're trying me out in midfield because it's a test of my ball skills as well as my defensive ability.'

Liverpool reserve coach Hugh McAuley said: 'Jack was nice and easy with his distribution and it's good to have players who can play in different positions.'