This week the excitement surrounding Liverpool’s youngster Raheem Sterling has been fascinating, especially as the Reds boss Kenny Dalglish has named him in the squad for the Europa League tie in Sparta Prague tonight. Video highlights have circulated the internet showing Sterling scoring 5 goals against Southend United in a FA Youth Cup tie on Monday night where Dalglish watched happily from the stands and it is no secret that ‘King Kenny’ highly rates this promising 16-year old.
Watching the highlights, I was not surprised to see Sterling weave in and out of challenges, with his change of pace, quick feet and excellent ball control – let’s not forget a brilliant end product. But it only joins other videos and compilations of the player since the age of 14, and despite his size he could feature for the first team tonight in Prague which would make him Liverpool’s youngest first team player. If or rather ‘when’ Raheem does start to feature in the first team it will only be a mixture of emotions for me with Sterling being a product of QPR’s youth system.
Being a Queens Park Rangers supporter, I’ve not had much to shout about over the years having seen us relegated twice and promoted once. Even more so the club has not had a strong history in producing young talent especially in my time as a fan, with only Kevin Gallen being the only strong example of a player who broke records at youth level and was rewarded with a Premier League debut at Old Trafford. However, Gallen along with the likes of Richard Langley, suffered bad injuries at a young age that harmed his progress into what would’ve been a regular Premier League player at the very least.
I would have loved to have seen Raheem Sterling stay at the Rangers and break into the first team, which he probably would have done by now. It would fill me and R’s supporters alike with a sense of pride given his exceptional talent, but you can’t deny the player’s ambition for wanting to play for a huge club like Liverpool. Also, I’m actually quite happy that this loss of a young promising talent looks to be worthwhile with the possibility of first team football. It was not long ago that another talent from ‘our’ (QPR) youth set-up was snapped up by Tottenham Hotspur at 15 years old, but since then Dean Parrett hasn’t made the ‘Rooney’ type impact that was talked about. Despite a first team appearance in the Europa League, Parrett has since been on loan to Aldershot and Plymouth – which makes me shout “you should’ve stayed at the Rangers!”
We’ve also been extremely unlucky with our youth players in recent years and I am not just talking about the ‘bigger’ clubs taking them away. The tragic death of young striker Ray Jones, who looked to be a player with huge potential and had already made 37 appearances in the first team at just 18 years of age, was a very sad day. Personally, I highly rated Jones despite only scoring 6 goals – we were a cash strapped team fighting off relegation. If I liken him to a player today, it would be Liverpool’s multi-million pound signing, Andy Carroll.
If Sterling is to feature in tonight’s game then it can only be great for the player and for the club (both Liverpool and QPR) because the Reds get to display one of their many talented youth players whilst Rangers are due some add-on fees depending on appearances and success. Whatever happens tonight, Liverpool certainly have a superstar in the making.
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