The dawning of a new day has arrived folks, Liverpool have a bright young, dynamic manager at the helm in 39 year-old Brendan Rodgers and a cast-iron identifiable ‘philosophy’ to get behind. Cautious optimism has spread through the halls of Anfield these past few weeks, which means it could be the perfect time for the club to loan out some of its bright young things.
Liverpool have become somewhat well-known in recent times for failing to bring youth-team players through into the first-team set-up, which led to a radical overhaul from top-to-bottom by previous manager Rafa Benitez of the club’s failing academy. Only now is it starting to pay dividends and the club has an exciting young crop of talent coming through the ranks in the likes of Suso, Raheem Sterling and Connor Coady, but the club should really consider utilising the loan system to their benefit a lot more in the coming months.
Manchester United have benefited hugely from using the loan market the past couple of years, with both Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley going away on respective season-long loan deals to Sunderland and Wigan before coming back and staking their claim for a place in the starting eleven.
The impact that regular first-team football in the Premier League has had on them has been huge; they’ve matured, become more technically proficient, while adapting to the rigours of the top flight in the process. Nobody is for one minute suggesting that the likes of Sterling and Suso are going to walk into a Premier League club this season, that’s obviously setting your sights way too high far too soon, but a gradual progression up the leagues has to be explored.
Cleverley for example, enjoyed loan spells first at Leicester and then a breakthrough year at Watford as a hard-working and creative right midfielder before he secured his chance with Wigan – proving yourself somewhere first then taking your chance when you make the step up is what it’s all about.
Liverpool could be found guilty of not cherry-picking the right clubs with the same footballing culture for their youth-team players to go out on loan to in the past, the result being that the young players development is stunted by a lack of first-team opportunities. For instance, Ghanaian Godwin Antwi had four loan spells in two years, Craig Lindfield also had four loan moves in two years while Robbie Threlfall was shunted out to Hereford for two years running despite making just 12 appearances altogether. Clearly not enough care was taken in the past, rather a ‘well we’ve got to get them out there in the lower leagues, so they’ll do’ attitude.
It’s not that the quality isn’t there either – Tom Ince, Paul Anderson, Adam Hammill, Lee Peltier, Mikel San Jose, Zak Whitbread and Jack Hobbs have all made it elsewhere in recent times. They may not be of sufficient enough quality in some cases to have become a regular starter, but they’re of Championship quality in most cases, and are they really any worse than the likes of Phillip Degen, Antonio Nunez and Gabriel Palletta? Players brought in at far more expense from across the world to plug squad gaps.
There should be an established system whereby the club’s young talent is loaned out between the ages of 18-20 at clubs which will guarantee them first-team football, if they won’t, then what’s the point sending them there in the first place? They could gain experience of not playing back at the club, confined to reserve-team football, but at least learning from the same training methods that the new manager wants the entire club to play with.
The Liverpool academy clearly doesn’t have the same currency of status as either Manchester United’s or Arsenal’s, and the fact that the club’s youth-team players aren’t courted by the same level of lower tier clubs is worth drawing attention to, but that doesn’t mean that they should compromise the player’s footballing education by simply loaning them out for the sake of it, it has to be a move that will benefit the player and the club.
Rodgers seems serious about cultivating a steadfast set of principles in the way that he wants his side to play, while the likes of Pep Segura and Rodolfo Borrell have been doing a very good job with the youth-team sides – now is the ideal time to see if these youngsters will sink or swim, you can’t mollycoddle and protect them forever, there are plenty of real footballing sides within the lower leagues these days, it’s not simply confined to the long-ball antics of the past, so in the right environment, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be snapped up and allowed to flourish. The club need to utilise the loan market in their favour, otherwise decent young players that could have been something more at Anfield, will continue to slip through the net.
You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1