There were very few positives to take from Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Wigan from a Liverpool perspective. Being outplayed at home, by a side heavily embroiled in the relegation dogfight, is far from ideal, but the ten minute glimpse of Raheem Sterling will at least provide some hope for fans of the club.
The youngster, signed from QPR in 2010, has been earning rave reviews for his displays with Liverpool’s Youth and Reserve sides, turning in a string of fine performances from the left-hand side of midfield. Although still 17-years-of-age, Sterling is thought to be one of England’s brightest emerging talents, and an exciting part of a promising generation developing from the academy at the Reds. Kenny Dalglish is believed to be watching his fledgling stars closely, and with very little to play for in League terms, maybe it’s time to give these young men a taste of Premiership football.
Although the Liverpool hierarchy may well insist that Champions League qualification is still possible, mathematically at least, the recent poor run of results has made a fourth place finish all but impossible. This coupled with guaranteed Europa League football, courtesy of the Carling Cup win, and a relatively laid back run-in provides an almost ideal spring board for some of the Reds youth players to step-up to the first team.
One of the most staggering observations from Saturday’s humiliation was the fact that many men wearing the Liverpool shirt looked disinterested in the cause. This was not the case for Sterling, who chased every ball upon his appearance from the bench, showing some neat footwork and a direct attacking threat. With continuing poor performances from the likes of Stewart Downing, Dalglish could do worse than to introduce some fresh faces, who are keen to impress and establish a role in the senior set-up. Although presenting too many inexperienced men at once could be detrimental, a process of allowing some of the better performers from the NextGen Cup campaign may well introduce some hunger and desire to the ranks, whilst being able to save some big names a rest for the FA Cup semi-final, which has now taken on even greater significance for the Anfield club.
Sterling is not alone in the emerging generation, with many other youngsters showing genuine potential. The likes of Spaniard Suso, and Merseyside born front-man Adam Morgan have been regularly turning in the sort of displays that deserve a level of recognition from the management. As well as the attack minded players, names such as Reserve captain and centre-half Andre Wisdom have been circulating the corridors of Melwood, as a potential long-term replacement for Jamie Carragher and a short term cover option in light of Daniel Agger’s injury problems and an over reliance on Martin Skrtel. Steven Gerrard will need to be managed for the run-in to avoid further injury worries and insure he is available for Cup duties but, in Conor Coady the Reds have a home-grown back-up option who may well be the future of the Anfield midfield.
Blooding too many youngsters at once is a risky strategy, but with careful management, and some wise decision making from Dalglish, the emerging generation from academy may introduce a new verve to the side. Instead of spending once more, Liverpool may well find their next star is very close to home.
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