With the emergence of Conor Wickham in recent months and Jack Wilshere’s devastatingly effective performance against Barcelona last week seemingly the talk of the town, now, more so than ever before, people are clamouring to know where the next teenage prodigy will spring up from. Here, we’ll take a look at six youngsters currently plying their trade for Liverpool which are destined to make the grade in the very near future – some you may have heard of, some have already featured for the first-team whereas one or two are products of Rodolfo Borrell’s increasingly successful youth-team policy at the club and still play for the academy.
Borrell recently opined: “I think we have some really exciting players coming through and I am very proud that some of them were involved in the build-up to the match against Sparta Prague.” Liverpool have placed special emphasis on integrating and producing first-team worthy youngsters over the last 18 months, and with Kenny Dalglish now at the helm, you could be catching a glimpse, if you haven’t done so already, of all of the players listed in the coming seasons. Let’s kick off with the list shall we?
Conor Coady – Coady had the honour of captaining the England under-17 side to the European Championships last summer and he has recently forced his way into the first-team picture at Anfield after a string of impressive performances for the academy. Capable of playing at centre half or in midfield, Coady is tough but with a touch of class to his play. The 18 year-old recently made the bench for the club in their Europa League knockout away fixture to Sparta Prague and current manager Kenny Dalglish is known to be a fan.
Andre Wisdom – Coady’s partner at the heart of defence during England’s victorious European Championship campaign. Bounced back from heartache in the final against Spain after initially scoring an own goal, to score the equaliser that set England on their way to victory. Great strength of character aside, Wisdom looks comfortable with the ball at his feet and is capable of playing all across the back four. The 18 year-old defender has drawn comparisons in some quarters with Sol Campbell.
Raheem Sterling – The Jamaican born forward has grabbed all the headlines in recent weeks for his, shall we say, sterling efforts for the Liverpool youth team in their recent 9-0 victory in the FA Youth Cup over Southend, with Sterling bagging five goals. Poached from QPR in 2010, the 16 year-old travelled with the first-team squad for Liverpool’s recent Europa League clash away at Sparta Prague. Although he eventually failed to make the bench, big things are expected of Sterling and with the ball at his feet and in full flight, he bares an uncanny likeness to a certain John Barnes.
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Martin Kelly – Technically, defender Martin Kelly appears to have already made the grade at Liverpool, but it’s worth remembering that the young England hopeful is still just 20 years of age and relatively inexperienced despite his mature performances for the first-team to date. The fact that he’s keeping current first-choice England right back Glen Johnson out of his preferred position at the club, with Johnson having been shunted over to left back to accommodate the ever-improving Kelly, says it all. Superb performances against Everton and Chelsea this season mark Kelly out as a fine defender with a great temperament and he could well be England’s first-choice right back by the next World Cup. Kelly has already made 21 appearances for the club across all competitions this season and he could have a huge impact if he keeps going at this rate over the next few years, for both club and country.
Conor Thomas – Amidst all the furore of transfer deadline day at Anfield, you’d be forgiven for letting slip from your mind the signing of 17 year-old Conor Thomas on loan from Coventry with a view to a permanent move. The midfielder has been hailed as Coventry’s brightest prospect for years and there was outcry among sections of the club’s faithful support that they had let such a talent slip through their fingers so easily just days after he’d made his first-team debut in the FA Cup against Birmingham. The nature of the deal is a strange one to say the least, but Liverpool were said to be tracking Thomas for months prior to his switch. Apparently the club decided to swoop quickly in the January transfer window to ward off any potential interest from rival Premier League clubs in the future, which in itself, tells you the youngster must have bags of potential.
Jack Robinson – The all-action left back made headlines last season when he became the youngest ever player to make a first team appearance for the club after a cameo appearance off the bench in the final game of last season against Hull. A regular at England youth team level, the 17 year old attacking minded full-back is also known to love a crunching tackle. Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher has stated of Robinson: “He’s really young and playing in a higher age group – for England as well. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about him. I wasn’t even in the youth team when I first went full-time and he was a regular at 15 which shows you he has something about him.” With the club’s relative paucity of first-team options at left back, Robinson could well be one to watch for next season as he continues his meteoric rise up the footballing ladder.