Liverpool have produced some excellent English players, who have risen through the ranks at Anfield and gone on to achieve success in the first team. But under Rafa Benitez that has not been the case, as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are the only English players still in the first team who came from the club’s academy, and both players broke through long before Rafa took charge at Anfield.
Much has been made about the potential of the foreign youngsters at Liverpool, with the likes of Dani Pacheco, Lauri Dalla Valle and Daniel Ayala tipped for big things. But what about the English youngsters at the club? Michael Ngoo and Raheem Sterling are two youngsters that were signed from Southend and QPR respectively and are tipped for bright futures, but they will have to wait a few years for their chance in the first team. Two youngsters who are tipped to breakthrough to the first team in the near future are English duo Nathan Ecclestone and David Amoo.
Ecclestone is a 19 year old striker that began his career at Bury before signing with Liverpool at the age of 15. Extremely quick, Ecclestone uses his pace and acceleration to cause the opposition problems and thrives on running at defenders with pace. The youngster is also a good finisher, can strike the ball with both feet and can pull off tricks that other players could only dream of doing. Ecclestone needs to work on his positional sense and tactical knowledge, but the natural ability is definitely there.
Ecclestone has established himself in the reserves over the last year and Rafa Benitez saw enough potential in him to sign the youngster on a new contract which runs until 2013. The Liverpool manager said of the talented striker:
“Eccleston is doing well and he played for the first team against Arsenal and Fulham. He is doing well with the reserves. He has quality but the main thing is he keeps working hard because with his talent he can be a player.”
Ecclestone made his first team debut earlier this season in the Carling Cup match against Arsenal, replacing Philipp Degen as a late substitute. The youngster followed it up with another substitute appearance in the defeat to Fulham and was named in Liverpool’s Champions League squad for the group stages, quite a feat for an 18 year old.
Seeking first team football, Ecclestone joined League One side Huddersfield on loan in January for the rest of the season. After a dream debut where he scored the winner against Yeovil, Ecclestone has mainly been restricted to substitute appearance, making 6 of his 10 appearances off the bench. The youngster was sent off against Gillingham for a rash tackle in the 26th minute in only his third start for the club, which shows he needs to work on the tackling side of his game.
David Amoo is another highly-rated prospect at Anfield. The 18 year old winger started his career at Milwall before joining Liverpool two years ago at sixteen. The youngster rose to prominence after starring for Liverpool’s U-18 side last season in their run to the FA Youth Cup final. Amoo can play as a striker, but has been mainly used on the right wing for the reserve team this season, where he has been a regular fixture in the side.
Strong, possessing Olympian-like speed (he represented England in track and field), Amoo combines exceptional balance with bags of skill and trickery. The youngster was built to play on the wing and has drawn comparisons with a young John Barnes. As well as possessing excellent dribbling ability that allows him to ghost past defenders to whip in crosses, Amoo can score as well as create, due to the fact that he was a striker in his days at Millwall and has an eye for goal.
He may have made an easy transition from the youth team to the reserves, Amoo still has a few things to work on if he wants to breakthrough into the first team. He needs to work on his maturity to know which option he should take during a game, and his final ball into the box could do with some work. Amoo is basically a younger, English version of Ryan Babel – quick, strong, explosive, but what the Dutchman should be and not the inconsistent, lazy and petulant Babel we have seen in his time at Anfield.
Both Ecclestone and Amoo have bright futures ahead of them at Anfield and if Benitez gives them a chance, they could make an impact in the first team next season. Both youngsters are improving all the time and with the financial situation at Liverpool unclear, Benitez may have to invest in youth if he cannot spend big in the summer. Throw in the likes of Dalla Valle and Pacheco and Liverpool have an array of young attacking talent at their disposal which could provide their core for years to come.
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