No fooling LFC’s children of the revolution

Posted by Cpt_Reina on August 27, 2012, 04:14:19 PM

If you’re on twitter you’ll have no doubt seen a stat flying around about Liverpool’s average age yesterday. At kick off it was around 24 years of age.

By the time Lucas was replaced by Shelvey it came down again.

Raheem Sterling rightfully is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue right now after consecutive starts in european competition and against the league champions at just 17. But there’s youthful exuberance all the way through this team. And all the way through the club.

Look beyond our 17 year old sensation and you’ll find young players chomping at the bit and making genuine claims for a more sustained part in Rodgers’ first team plans.

In just about every area of the team there is a young player pushing very hard for first team minutes.

It’s perhaps best to start at the beginning.

You’d be forgiven for not classing Martin Kelly as a young player any more. He’s an England international after all. But at 22 he’s still a pup in terms of defenders. An area of the pitch which like the auld arse thread, tends to have a minimum age requirement.

Kelly made his debut for Liverpool 5 seasons ago. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge in that time, but Kelly’s progress has been largely unabated. Getting games on the flank has enabled him, at 22, to be relatively experienced for his age. 50 apps at 22 is no mean feat.

Whether or not his future remains on the right or whether he should be moving in to the middle is a discussion for another thread. But although Kelly might not a part of the current crop of upstarts, he is very much a part of LFC’s future.

Bringing the average age of this post down just slightly is Sebastian Coates.

Copa America winner, young player of the tournament, 2 time Uruguayan league champion and 21 year old. Not a bad wrap sheet for one so young is it?

Sterling will garner a lot of the attention given the week he’s had. But perhaps the most important performance from a young player this week came from Coates against Man City. Here was a player being dropped in the deep end against arguably the finest front line in the league (minus Aguero) and well, he swam, didnt he?

And he needed to. Coates is a player who has a spot ahead of him that’s there to be earned as Carragher nears retirement. But it still needs to earned. It wont be gifted to him. Not by Rodgers and more immediately, not by Carra.

Yesterdays performance will have done him no harm in any regard.

Now, seeing as we’re talking defenders im sure you’re expecting some talk about a certain pair of scouse fullbacks at this point. Not quite yet, but we’ll get there.

Our ‘young vets’ continues apace with Henderson and Allen. Hendo has amassed an incredible amount of experience for a lad his age. To be approaching 150 appearances and only turning 22 this summer is attention grabbing. The vast majority of them coming in the Premier League no less. Allen too has a similar amount of first team experience, but has traversed the leagues to collect it. From the conference up through League 1 and The Championship. Here are two young midfielders who have time and experience on their side. It’s a potent mix.

Now, if Henderson and Allen are a veritable elder statesmen of our youthful revolution, then Shelvey, despite being 2 years their junior, could surely be considered a ‘veteran’ himself.

20 years old and only 3 apps short of 100 senior appearances in professional football. Shelvey is young, but he’s not wet behind the ears.

Jonjo’s been playing first team football since he was 16. He was Charlton’s go to guy by the time he was 17. And he’d made his debut for Liverpool by 18.

Is there any wonder he’s got such confidence in his own ability?

We’ve looked at the defence and the midfield so let’s throw a forward in to the mix shall we?

Borini might not have the first team experience of those previously mentioned but the Italian is well travelled. He played, and scored goals, at just about every level he’s played at. Be it at youth level with Chelsea, in the Championship with Swansea or in Serie A with Roma.

Borini is a player who is not afraid to test himself it seems. His career progression has been clear and staggered. And there’s no reason to suggest it wont continue. The 21 year old certainly isn’t looking out of place so far and has already opened his LFC account.

There’s a pattern emerging with these players you feel. All are massively experienced for their age, not only in terms of first team appearances but also in the levels at which they’ve played. Borini’s played in Serie A and the Championship, Allen at just about every level in English football, Shelvey ditto. Kelly spent time at Huddersfield in League 1. Henderson too has dropped down the leagues and earned his stripes, as well as having masses of experience in the Prem. Coates has played in and won major international tournaments as well as seeing out successful league winning campaigns.

These players are young but by no means are they naive.

Added to that, with the exception of Kelly, they’ve all been bought in.

Which brings me on to the second half of this post. Academy graduates.

I’ll cover myself here by saying that yes, Raheem Sterling too has been transferred in to the club. But he didnt arrive as the player he is now.

Sterling walked through the doors as an immensely talented 15 year old. He looked the part right off the bat. But he’s not just sauntered to where he finds himself right now.

Talent will only get you so far, it can get you to the table but it wont get you fed. Sterling always had the talent, but it’s a talent that’s been honed and sculpted up at Kirkby.

His movement without the ball is now almost as good as it is with it at his feet. His application too can not be faulted. He knows when to press, when to cover. He doesnt complain to referee’s despite the rough treatment he gets. Sterling has been coached, and coached well.

Borrell, Segura, McParland and a host of others can feel very proud of the effect that their work is having on these young players. Their mark can be seen not only on Sterling but on the vast majority of the young lads they work with.

Seeing Raheem taking the stage against Man City yesterday put me in mind of of another players first Premier League start for Liverpool.

John Flanagan had a few tough games last season, not unreasonable for an 18/19 year old defender. But cast your minds back to that debut display against City and the potential is there too see.

Flanagan loves a tackle. That’s what he does. But he knows how to play football too. Borrell’s work has seen Flanagan reach a higher level then he might’ve without him. He’s much more comfortable with the ball at his feet as a result of the academy set up then he probably would have been without the staff currently employed there.

On the opposite flank we’ve got Jack Robinson. Like Sterling Robbo just looks the part. You dont become Liverpool’s youngest ever player without having a natural talent for the game.

Robinson just ‘gets it’. He knows how to defend. He’s got that instinct of when to get close to his man, when to get ahead of him and try and nick the ball and when to stand off. A more natural defender at his age I dont think we’ve seen since Carragher.

It’s at this point Id like to mention what I consider perhaps the most important aspect of the work being done at the academy.

Players like Robinson, Flanagan, Sterling and Morgan have all made their debut in their teens. They’re teenagers earning a lot of money and working in an industry notorious for producing playboys. It’s easy for a young footballer to get ahead of himself.

But you cant see it with these players.

All of them, to a man, have a stellar attitude and approach. They’ve worked very hard to get to the stage they’re at at such a tender age, and appear to have had a philosophy of hard work application imprinted on to them.

Borrell demands as much. And going off of a recently released sneak peak at the forthcoming LFC documentary, should their attitude waver at any point in their promotion, Rodgers will soon remind them of their need to centre themselves.

There’s always a temptation to look down the line with young players. Now that Sterling is a fully paid up member of the first team and Morgan too seems to be catching the manager’s eye people will inevitably look to who’s next.

There are players there who might not be too far behind. Players with similar talent levels. Suso, McLaughlin, Sama, Wisdom, Ibe all went on tour. If Ngoo keeps up his scoring rate then he will surely put himself in contention. Jordan Lussey looks every bit the Liverpool FC midfielder as he captains the U18 team.

But it’s always worth bringing it back to the here and now.

And right here, right now, we’ve increasingly got a squad of young, hungry, promising players who look like they have a real future in the game. I dont think it really hits home until you see them listed.

Flanagan
Kelly
Coates
Robinson
Shelvey
Allen
Henderson
Sterling
Borini
Morgan

All 22 and under. 5 of them academy graduates. All making their way in our first team squad.

Rodgers has part inherited and part building a young squad rich in talent who can provide a base to build on for years to come. If that doesn’t get you excited going forward than nothing will.

Moneyball, philosophy, call it what you like but seeds are being sewn. It might be this season if we’re really lucky. It might be next, or the one after that. But sooner or later these players will blossom.

Start looking forward to it.

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