Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea last night showed more than a few glimpses of the bright future which lies ahead for this club; a club which has always put a huge emphasis on building from the ground up and developing their talent from a young age.
Jamie Carragher captained the side to the win at Stamford Bridge last night, proving how the Liverpool Football Club can turn a local lad into a legend – a scrappy 12-year-old into a 683 game champion.
There are 5 kids I want to talk about from last night, each who contributed in a different way, but each who will together form the foundations for Liverpool.
I’m going to start with Andy Carroll. I know what everyone’s thinking, for a 35 million pound signing, 5 goals in 33 appearances probably isn’t good enough, but I feel what people are forgetting is the fact that Carroll is just 22-years-old. His early form at Newcastle means he’s been in the system and in the spotlight for a while now, allowing for his age to be quite deceptive. He scored 34 goals from 103 games at the Toon, and developed into one of England’s most promising prospects, however that’s no reason to judge him too early. He’s shown tiny glimpses of what he can do when it’s his day (remember City at home last season), and that’s enough for me to warrant more time to develop. He hasn’t started this campaign as well as some would have liked, but at the end of the day he’s the age and type of player who could remain at this club for the next 10 years, so stick with him.
The next youngster is Jordan Henderson. Again, a lot of expectancy went to Henderson’s shoulder’s when he was signed for 16 million pounds in the summer, but I feel the 21-year-old has dealt with it brilliantly. He’s making a pretty good fist of keeping Dirk Kuyt out of the side, and his potential was there for all to see last night at Stamford Bridge. He was the architect of the first goal, with his sublime pass to Craig Bellamy creating the chance. While Henderson is playing on the right hand side of the park now, I think you’ll see him get his opportunity in the centre in the next few years, and I believe he’ll relish it. I’ve seen enough from Jordan in his first few months at the club to know he has quality in abundance, and I think he’s certainly a player who will anchor the midfield in years to come.
Sebastian Coates was close to Man of the Match for me last night. He was immense in the centre of defence. At just 21, the Uruguayan reads the ball magnificently. He makes defending look easy by having the natural ability to be a step ahead of the action. He was credited for his aerial abilities in the Copa America, and at 196cm that’s understandable, however it’s his sheer knowledge of where to be and at what time which makes his clearances so brilliant. I’m extremely excited to watch Coates in the seasons to come, because I believe he’ll be at the heart of Liverpool’s defence for a long time.
One of the more unluckier players in the squad is Jay Spearing. The 23-year-old was almost a veteran of a young Liverpool side last night, and proved what he can add to the starting line-up. After a successful back end to the 2010-11 season, Spearing’s seen his opportunities limited this campaign due to the summer signings of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson, however when given his chance last night, he took full advantage. He was as annoying as ever in the middle of the park, bullying the much more experienced Frank Lampard and his Brazilian partner Ramires. It must be frustrating for Spearing to be so good last season, yet only play just 5 times so far this season, however he didn’t show it last night. This hard work and determination when given his chance proves to me Spearing has a future at the club, and that his time will eventually come.
Then there’s the goal scorer, Martin Kelly. At just 21-years-old, I remember when Martin was given his first starting place at Liverpool, a Champions League clash with Lyon a few years back. He was close to best on ground that day, and from then on all Liverpool fans knew they had a talent. He continued to fight with Glen Johnson for a first team place, as well as fighting with persistent injuries, however he finally looks settled and ready to compete again with Johnson for that position at right back. He was immense last night, and deserved his goal. He’s quick going forward, determined to win every contest and doesn’t hold back in a challenge. After that match against Lyon, I’ve watched a lot of Martin, and I really think he could turn in to the next Jamie Carragher, and believe me, I don’t say that lightly. If he can stay injury-free, I really think Kelly has the potential to go a long way.
Finally, a lot of credit for the progression of these boys has to go to Kenny Dalglish. Although Spearing and Kelly may have been signed under Rafa’s rule, Dalglish’s decision to blood these youngsters in such important fixtures (as well as others such as Flanaghan and Jack Robinson), has seen them grow in stature and gradually make a name for themselves. Kenny’s well and truly bringing back the glory days, and I think the only missing element – the silverware – isn’t too far away.