Liverpool defender, Jamie Carragher, believes the ‘feel-good factor’ has returned to Anfiled since the £60 million January acquisitions of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, and hopes the club will spend big again this summer as the Reds attempt to regain their status as Premier League title challengers. Liverpool are currently 6th in the League following Monday night’s 3-0 rout of Manchester City and are well placed to contest a fifth placed finish and qualify for the Europa League next season.
The Premier League encounter featured an impressive debut for 18 year-old defender, John Flanagan, who only discovered he would start less than two hours before kick-off. Carragher reserved special praise for the local born Flanagan, describing his performance as ‘outstanding,’ before stating: “I’m delighted for him and I think it gives the whole club a lift when you see a local lad come through – the supporters love it.”
Flanagan was afforded his opportunity due to a spate of injuries affecting several Liverpool defenders, and given his excellent display, shouldn’t Kenny Dalglish seek to promote other Kirkby academy graduates to the senior side in favour of additional expensive signings? Liverpool have a checkered recent transfer history, but the purchases of Carroll and Suarez appear to be shrewd business, so shouldn’t Liverpool’s current stars be supplemented by the club’s acclaimed youth prodigies who have waited long enough for first-team opportunities?
Carragher certainly believes Liverpool’s youngsters face a bright future on Merseyside and has encouraged them to use Flanagan’s performance as well as Martin Kelly’s cementing of a first-team place as motivation to succeed at Anfield. “The young lads at the Academy, it shows them it can be done. There’s a bit of competition now between him and Martin Kelly for the local lads. It’s great for everyone really that you’ve got two local lads like that coming through.”
The better Premier League sides have always sought to give their best academy scholars a chance in the first-team, and of course that’s how Steven Gerrard developed at Liverpool, but the club have fallen behind their adversaries in terms of academy promotion in recent years and currently have a precocious crop of talent to rival any in the League. The club have been experiencing a transition since the end of the 2008/2009 season and appear to be heading in the right direction at present, so now would be the best time to blood a few youngsters and only buy specific players they actually need.
Academy director, Frank McParland and technical director, Jose Segura, have been nurturing Liverpool’s young talent for the past two years in conjunction with Kenny Dalglish. The gifted pool includes the likes of Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Jésus Fernández, Michael Ngoo and Toni Silva who have all been tipped for senior inclusion soon. Flanagan, who made his debut alongside another academy graduate, midfielder Jay Spearing, believes Liverpool’s production line has been given added incentive by the appointment of Dalglish as temporary manager.
“Kenny has been a big help to me and the other young players,” the defender said. “He’s been working at the club for the last two years and he was at the academy so he knows all of the youngsters well.” Pep Guardiola has been lauded for his decision to include Sergio Busquets and Pedro in the Barcelona first-team following his promotion to senior team manager, having worked closely with both during his time as coach of the club’s youthful B-side. Both experienced rapid ascendancy to the Spanish international squad and featured significantly during Spain’s triumphant World Cup campaign last year.
This feature surely only serves to aid the development of younger players and should assist Dalglish in his bid to be appointed permanent manager of Liverpool from the start of next season. It would seem that most aspects of the Anfield outfit are perfectly in place to encourage a return to the top, with first-team stars beginning to demonstrate their quality, an academy brimming with potential and a head coach who is not only loved by the fans, but has a deep knowledge of the club’s academy players. Forget Ashley Young and Gary Cahill, Liverpool’s biggest signing this summer would be Kenny Dalglish.