Paul Anderson was once told by West Bromwich Albion that he would never be a Premiership player. But now the Liverpool striker, aged 17, is the latest player to be dubbed "the next Michael Owen".

Anderson is expected to be one of the key players when Liverpool take on favourites Manchester City in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup final at Anfield tonight.

It is the first time Liverpool have reached the final - the second leg of which is at Eastlands on April 22 - since the side featuring Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen won the trophy in 1996.

Now they have put together a side of promising Academy youngsters and the cream of Rafael Benitez's elite reserve-team squad, which trains with the senior team at Melwood.

Anderson, who joined Liverpool from Hull City in the January transfer window, has made a huge impact and was on the bench for the Champions' League home defeat by Benfica last month.

That is a far cry from a couple of years ago when Albion said he would not succeed. The Leicester-born youngster said: "I thought I'd done enough to get a deal but they just said they didn't think I'd ever be a Premiership player.

"At least they were honest. Adrian Boothroyd, now manager at Watford, was the man who told me. To be fair to him, he said I was a good player, just not quite good enough for them to hand me a contract. I didn't agree but at least it was done to my face."

Anderson suffered a string of rejections before opting to join Hull, the club his father played for, but he says in an LFC magazine interview that there were times when he felt like giving up on his ambitions.

He added: "I didn't think I wanted to do this any more - I wasn't sure I wanted to be a footballer but my dad made sure I knuckled down. I wouldn't be at Liverpool now without him. He was an apprentice at Hull but maybe didn't have the right attitude to make it all the way. When he saw that starting to creep into me he was there with the advice."

Liverpool noticed Anderson at the same time as John Welsh joined the Yorkshire club on loan. Eventually, the clubs agreed to a straight swap and Anderson found himself part of Benitez's plans. He said: "The manager gives me advice and I've been trying to take it on board."

Liverpool have lost both their Academy league matches against City this season but have knocked out Youth Cup holders Ipswich and runners-up Southampton.