Rafa Benitez is one for making strange decisions. Upon naming a fairly unknown Martin Kelly in his starting line-up for this seasons Champions League game against Lyon, you could have be fooled into thinking this was one of them. However, in and around Anfield, the 19-year old defender has been quietly building up a very big reputation.
The defender, who stands at over 1.90m, can play in any position across the back line. Having graduated to Liverpool’s Melwood centre, the first team training facility, in 2007, Kelly has gone on to become a well respected talent. Despite missing two years of his academy development due to a persistent back injury he has returned and will be looking to put his injury nightmare behind him. He made his senior debut as a substitute in a Champions League clash with PSV on December 9, 2008, before being loaned to Huddersfield Town. He made seven appearances for The Terriers which included a late winner in a 3-2 win over Walsall.
That is a promising start for any young player but given the extent of his injuries, it is credit to the player that he is still chasing his dream.
“The injury has made me more determined. Having those two years out meant I missed so much from my development. I was lucky to get a chance to come to Melwood, and I think that me coming here has meant I’ve developed at least twice as quick.”
Kelly went on to feature for the England U-20 side that endured a miserable U-20 World Cup and failed to win a single game. However, soon after his return, Kelly was handed his full debut by Rafa Benitez in the home Champions League tie against Lyon. Despite being most comfortable in the heart of defence, Kelly’s performance at right-back in the game showed that he is versatile and more than capable to do well on either side. Unfortunately his debut was cut short when he came off with an injury during the second half. However, with Glen Johnson also out injured, his recent return to fitness will be an added bonus for Liverpool. Not only will in benefit the team but it could also provide Kelly with a chance to make a real name for himself. Even at just 19 years of age, 2010 could be the start of a very promising future.