Liverpool ended their remarkable draw with Arsenal on Sunday with two 18-year-old full-backs in Jack Robinson and John Flanagan, 19-year-old Jonjo Shelvey and 22-year-old Jay Spearing on the pitch, all of which academy or reserve graduates. With Martin Kelly also impressing before picking up a hamstring injury against West Ham, what was starting to look like a major squad rebuilding job may merely require a little post-season tinkering, as Kenny Dalglish’s faith in youth is already bearing fruit. With Fenway Sports Group expected to invest in the playing squad in the summer, the suggestion is that Liverpool may look at adding a couple of marquee signings, as opposed to bolstering their ranks with a significant number of new additions, such is the faith in their latest crop of home-grown talent.
A regular in the Europa League side, Jay Spearing has stepped in for the absent Steven Gerrard and done a sterling job. On Spearing’s recent performances, Dalglish quipped that Gerrard will struggle to get his place back. Thick set, a tenacious presence in the heart of midfield, Spearing has also been particularly vocal in his support of Dalglish: “The
Due to injuries to Kelly and Glen Johnson, John Flanagan was thrown in against Manchester City and shone. He retained his place for the Arsenal game, capping a remarkable rise from the U18 side – for which he is still eligible – having only progressed to the reserve team this season. Martin Skrtel was full of praise for his fledgling teammate in the aftermath of the 3-0 victory over City, claiming that: “He was brilliant. Even though he is just 18, on the pitch he looked like an experienced player. He showed his best and he can be a very good player.”
Jonjo Shelvey, Danny Wilson and Raheem Sterling were all brought in at relatively low cost, with fees that could increase depending on future performance and achievements, all of which look very shrewd signings. Shelvey was already integral to the Charlton side he left to join Liverpool, Wilson had also just been awarded both the Scottish FWA Young Player of the Year award and the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year award, despite only playing a handful of games for Rangers. Signed from QPR, Sterling has risen to prominence with his goalscoring prowess in Liverpool youth side, plundering five past Southend in a 9-0 win, while Jack Robinson is Liverpool’s youngest ever debutant, making his bow aged 16 years and 250 days.
With a spine of home-grown talent emerging just below the surface of the senior side, there is reason for fresh optimism amongst the Anfield faithful. Regardless of who Liverpool target in the summer, surely Dalglish’s signature on a long term contract will be the most significant, he clearly believes in these players and their progress depends on his presence.