When energetic 22-year-old defensive midfielder Jay Spearing extended his contract with Liverpool six months ago, fans of the Anfield club could have been forgiven for thinking that his time had finally come. The hungry youngster, who joined the Reds as a seven-year-old, had been made to wait several seasons before he was finally given the opportunity to make a dream debut against PSV Eindhoven in 2008. But despite playing regularly in cup competitions since then, Spearing only began to establish himself in the first-team when Kenny Dalglish was appointed as manager mid-way through the 2010-2011 campaign, and the Wirral-born youngster made 11 Premier League appearances last term.
During the 11 top-flight games Spearing participated in last season, he created two goals, kept four clean-sheets and the team conceded just nine goals.
Yet despite emerging as a key player for the Merseysiders under Dalglish last term, Spearing’s Liverpool career has now come to a standstill. The arrivals of pricey midfielder Jordan Henderson and former Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam have seen Spearing slip down the pecking order and he has only racked up 20 minutes in the Premier League so far this campaign. Steven Gerrard’s ongoing injury problems actually resulted in Spearing being given an opportunity to shine earlier in 2011, but now even the absence of the Liverpool skipper cannot guarantee the youngster any all-important game-time in the top-flight.
So how can Dalglish make more use of this bright talent? Does Spearing have a long-term future at Anfield, or will he be restricted to the fringes of the squad for the foreseeable future? At first sight of his statistics this season, it would appear as though the future is bleak for the local boy. Spearing has only regularly featured in the Carling Cup so far this campaign and Dalglish has often only played with two central midfielders this season, meaning it will be even tougher for the 22-year-old to challenge for a place in the first XI for Premier League fixtures.
But there are reasons to be optimistic. Spearing was facing similar problems last season, but it was only towards the latter end of the campaign that he was finally given a consistent outing in the team. Based on that, it could be that Spearing will be used more frequently as the season rolls on. And there are other stars such as Maxi Rodriguez, who found the net on 10 occasions last term, who have yet to taste regular first-team action in 2011-2012. It looks likely that both will be given more opportunities when Dalglish rotates the squad to keep his players fresh later on in the campaign. A great quality in Spearing has been his patience for the past 15 years. Waiting a little while longer for more first-team action will do him no harm.
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