The English contingent at Liverpool have had a hard time of it of late. Think about Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson or Stewart Downing and the amount of criticism they’ve received over the past year and you realise that the club needs to start repairing its reputation for possessing quality home grown players like Steven Gerrard or Michael Owen that do the nation proud.
The road to redemption begins with the youngsters. The Reds have a number of talented youth prospects waiting in line, indeed the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing forced their way into the first team squad last year, while Raheem Sterling also made his debut. The most promising player of them all could be 18-year-old Jack Robinson though, who broke Max Thompson’s 26 year record as Liverpool’s youngest ever player when he came on as a substitute against Hull in 2010 aged just 16 years and 250 days.
It is testament to Robinson’s ability that he hadn’t even featured in the reserve side before Rafa Benitez thrust him into first team contention on that final day of the 2009/10 season and he’s continued his progression ever since. He made a smattering of appearances in the cup competitions in 2010/11, before making his second Premier League appearance against Arsenal off the bench after Fabio Aurelio inevitably picked up an injury. The two sides drew 1-1, but Robinson impressed all onlookers, coping with the pace of Theo Walcott down the right flank quite superbly for a man of such a tender age and he made his first start in the top flight against Birmingham shortly after.
Despite impressing Kenny Dalglish towards the back end of that season, he was restricted to just two senior appearances last year, both in the League Cup. The arrival of Jose Enrique meant Robinson was pushed down the pecking order, but he signed a new long term contract with the club in October nonetheless. The signs are more promising for 2012/12 though, as Fabio Aurelio, the second choice left back has left the club, meaning Robinson is now second choice in that position, fighting with the Spaniard Enrique for first team action. Considering he is just 18 (19 in September), that’s a significant responsibility taking his inexperience into account, but Brendan Rodgers appears to have faith in the young man’s ability, naming him on the bench for his first match in charge, the Europa League qualifier with FC Gomel.
It should be no surprise to anyone at Anfield that Robinson’s rise to the top has been so rapid. He’s been a regular through the England age groups, starring for the U19 side, making 12 appearances, while anyone who watches Liverpool reserves or the Youth Cup for the last couple of years can see that Robinson possesses the talent to go all the way. Like all modern full backs, he’s comfortable on the ball and has the ability to get forward to provide an attacking option, but unlike his right back colleague at Liverpool, Mr Glen Johnson, he’s solid defensively as well. He’s no slouch either, as Theo Walcott will testify. Watching him play can remind you of another English left back, who made the breakthrough early in his career and has gone on to become one of the best in the world in that position. Hopefully Robinson’s personality is a bit more likeable than Ashley Cole’s though.
With Cole still performing at the highest level and Leighton Baines, Kieran Gibbs and Ryan Bertrand waiting in the wings, the Three Lions aren’t short of quality down the left hand side. However, Robinson seems certain to add his name to that list before too long if he continues his current development. It might be better for his career if he was to play regularly elsewhere this season, rather than providing backup to Jose Enrique, indeed Derby manager Nigel Clough has already expressed an interest in taking the player on a temporary deal. For the time being, Robinson remains at Anfield and you know that he won’t let anyone down if he’s called into action. Who knows, he might even claim the first team spot for himself.