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The summer of 2009 was seen by many reds as the most promising summer of our recent history, and recent developments suggest that whilst the optimism was misplaced and short sighted, it was also very appropriate.
Our league position at the end of the previous season was 2nd, with a record of P38, W28, D11, L2. Our points total was 86. The 2011 Barclays Premier League champions will probably achieve 78-82 points, showing just how good a season we had in 2009.
Liverpool supporters were rightly optimistic during that cold, wet summer of 2009. Yes, we had lost three giants from the 2009 season in Alonso, Arbeloa and Hyypia, but we had brought in players to replace them in Aquilani, Johnson and Kyrgiakos. At the time, there was a consensus of opinion that Alonso was a massive loss, but he wanted to leave so let him go. Liverpool FC focuses on the here and now, nothing else. A new banner for Aquilani, “Il Principino”, was erected in the corner of The Kop. The mood was very much one of “onwards and upwards”.
The bookmakers made Liverpool 11-4 second favourites for the league before the opening game of the 2009/10 season with Spurs. We lost that game 2-1 and from then on things started to crumble. The turmoil off the field was reflected on it. From October onwards, we never climbed higher than 4th place and ended the season 7th.
Rafael Benitez refused to sign a contract in January 2009. A reported pay rise to £4m per year and full control over the transfer budget were agreed, but Benitez held out for one last concession: to take control of the academy from John Owens.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Benitez said “I believe the academy is a very important part of the future of the club. The length of the contract was already agreed and this showed my long term commitment to the club. I know the academies of Ajax, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Valencia and they are producing players regularly. The way the system works there means the manager has an input into development and I think this could be the way forward here and we would hope that this would help us make better use of local talent.”
Victories over Manchester United and Real Madrid within a week gave Benitez the perfect opportunity to strike his desired deal and the Liverpool board gave the green light for Benitez to implement a radical overhaul of the academy. The future of Liverpool FC was finally alongside its present in the hands of Benitez.
They say that from small acorns giant oak trees grow, and Benitez had just been granted the freedom to start fertilising Kirkby.
Benitez brought in José Segura and Rodolfo Borrell from the Nou Camp to head up a team that would use the Barcelona blueprint for academy success. Segura and Borrell coached both Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi during their time at Barcelona’s La Masia academy, developing a first team that many people are now calling the best ever assembled.
Less than two years since the seeds of our future success were sown by Benitez, a vibrant young youth team is starting to make its mark on the world. This season has seen both the U18 and U16 teams really start to blossom. The U18 team are unbeaten since October and have been the subject of much media hype since the 9-0 demolition of Southend. They followed this up with a 4-1 win against Stoke in which Sterling hit a brace and Conor Coady smashed in a Gerrardesque volley. All eyes will be on them next Saturday* as they face Manchester United in the Sixth Round of the FA Youth Cup.
There is also much to get excited about within our U16 set up (some of whom also play for the U18s). In the latest England U16 & U17 squad, there are a total of 7 Liverpool players who are eligible to play for the U16s, comfortably the most of any club in England. The next best youth set up in terms of England call-ups is Man City with 5, who Liverpool beat 2-1 earlier this month thanks to goals from two of our England starlets, Sterling and Morgan.
Here are our U16 England starlets:
England U16 Players
England U17 Players Eligible for U16 Squad
A look at the England Youth Squad competing in the 2002 European Championships tells its own story about what the future may (or may not) bring for these players. David Raven, David Mannix and Mark Smyth represented Liverpool in that competition alongside a certain Wayne Rooney of Everton. Smyth actually scored in the opening game against Finland. If you are wondering what happened to Smyth, he was released by Liverpool at the end of the 2004/2005 season, signed by Accrington Stanley and most recently played for Bangor City in the Welsh Premier.
For me, this sums up our prospects at the Academy. There is bound to be a Smyth amongst the starlets but there just might be a Steven Gerrard in there as well.
The acorns planted by Benitez in Kirkby in 2009 are coming along very nicely at the moment, but they need plenty of TLC and some will inevitably fall by the wayside. For everybody connected with Liverpool Football Club, we are watching and hoping for the giant oak trees to grow.
*FA Youth Cup 6th Round Date TBC
Follow me on Twitter @joescouse_lfc
My LFC Blog: www.joescouse.blogspot.com
Andy Carroll is looking forward for the game against West Ham next week to be his Liverpool debut, although he actually has been prepared for United game on 6 March later.
He’d been work hard for his injury and keep denying that he would never play for the rest of the season
One of the closest source said, “Andy is very happy about the condition right now”
“it’s not impossible if he plays at Upton park later. And he is now focusing on that game”
We all do want to see his debut as soon as he can. But even if he does can make it, do you think that West Ham game is still too soon for him?
So far Liverpool that I’ve seen seems “toothless”. I must admit that “El Nino” gave us the sharpness in front. (nb : I’m not discussing about him now).
We still looking for Suarez to sharpen his “teeth” in front of the goal and I hope so much that Carroll very soon can join the team to strengthen our front line.
-mind my bad english-
The candidates I’m presenting to you today are three players of quality and their future is a constantly subject to media speculation and declarations that are bound to see them play on a different turf come next season. Two of these players, both being fully established internationals for their country are currently warming the subs bench and are getting close to no playing time at their respective clubs. The third, and undisputed star in his native country is playing in a league that although thrives on the cash provided by this or that oligarch, is far from having the prestige of the traditional leagues which we are all accustomed to. These players have also been mentioned by many of you in your comments, so let’s take the occasion to present them and perhaps include them on our wish-list for next summer’s transfer window.
Eljero George Rinaldo Elia is an exciting winger, attacker and attacking midfielder. The 24 year old Dutch international is currently on the books at Hamburg where coach Veh has strangely marginalized to bench warming duties. The Dutch attacking powerhouse, like most talented dutchman of this age, is on the watch-list of most of Europe’s top Clubs. Elia moved from Twente to Hamburg in July 2009 for a fee close to Euro 9 million. He will be definitely on the move this summer, and the Reds will keep a close tab on him if they are intent on securing more quality on their left wing of the attacking front.
Ibrahim Afellay is a 24 year old (25 in April) exciting Dutch forward of Moroccan descent. It is claimed that the Reds made an offer for his services to PSV Eindhoven but he opted to do an ‘Ibrahimovic’ and chose FC Barcelona instead. Given that the blau-grana continue to dominate world football, his choice could be deemed the most logical, but players should now look at what happened to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and say “If he didn’t make it, will I?’’. The Swede did not make it because Barcelona works as a unit, and the jaw dropping forward is not much into hard-lined schemes and tactics. Afellay has found life at the Nou Camp harder than expected, and will be itching for more playing time at the highest level. Barcelona would be looking to recover the Euro 9 million spent on the player, who plays as an attacking midfielder with verve and speed and is never shy of having a shot at goal.
Keisuke Honda needs no introduction for those that know world football. The 24 year old Japanese midfield playmaker cum attacker was the master of Japan’s success in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Voted ‘the most valuable player’ in the recent 2011 Asian Cup, Honda is an exciting player to watch and is phenomenal in set pieces with his venomous strikes bearing a resemblance in power and trajectory to an ex-Man Utd star we all loved to hate (and admire). Currently plying his trade with CSKA Moscow for whom he signed in December 2009 for a reported Euro 6 million on a four year contract. Bringing the blonde samurai to Anfield would be a very amazing experience and a possible financial bonanza, as the Reds would force their way into a football crazy market like Japan. Can you imagine merchandise sales with Honda in a Reds’ shirt??? Apart from the millions of replicas shirts sold in the land of the rising sun, the best thing about his arrival would be that it would not just be a marketing exercise, because he truly is an exciting player.
By Daniel Nilsen
After 7 goals in 2 matches, much of the talks have been on the 16 years old sensation, Raheem Sterling. 14th of February he managed to score 5 great goals in front of Kenny Dalglish, in the fifth round of the FA Youth cup against Southend United. The day after it was confirmed that Sterling was in the squad for the UEFA Europa League match against Sparta Prague. At an age of 16 years and 71 days, he could be the youngest player for Liverpool FC if he got the chance. However, that didn’t happen. Disappointing for many, wasn’t he in the game squad.
The day after, 19th of February, he was back for the U18′s again. In a League match against Stoke City he scored 2 new goals in a game they won 4-1.
Sterling joined Liverpool in February 2010 from Queens Park Rangers at the age of 15 for an initial fee of £600,000. The talented winger arrived in Kirkby with a reputation for his pace and flair, making an immediate impact when he scored on his U18 debut in a mini derby triumph against Everton.
QPR’s head of youth development Steve Gallen on Sterling: “His ability is frightening. Balance, speed, awareness. No-one I’ve ever seen compares to him. He’s a fantastic player and I really hope he does well.”
Remember he is still young and we will get much fun from him in the future.
On Twitter we able to get #dontbuythesun trending in many countries yesterday.
This was in protest to Crawley Town being sponsored by the rag. JFT96
We have a new writer on EOTK, welcome aboard Ben. His first postings can be found here.
The owners are considering a friendly at Fenway more…
(That would be awesome, Boston here I come)
Sterling scored another two goals as the U18 beat Stoke 4-1 more…
Kenny believes that Carroll’s ‘down-to-earth’ personality will be a hit with the fans more…
The 22nd Anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster will be commemorated on the Spion Kop more…
David Fairclough talks about how Raul could be our new Terry Mc more…
(Not too shabby)
Sparta’s Manuel Parnic is now being linked more…
(It is always like that, we get linked with a player from a team we play against)
Tommy Smith blames Sparta for the bore draw more…
The Red legend is also excited about Carroll and Suarez more…
There has been a change of change in one of the reserve matches more…
(Good luck lads)
David Moyes wants Nathan Eccleston more…
(I bet Nathan Eccleston will be the only one living in Liverpool next year, and of course still playing for LFC)
On Twitter @empireofthekop
Many Reds joined in a Twitter protest this evening by adding the tag #dontbuythesun to their tweets causing this tag to trend in many countries including the UK, Ireland and South Africa.
Manchester United were playing non-league side Crawley and while most of us Liverpool supporters never like to see United win, this time it was different. Crawley are sponsored by the despised rag “The Sun” and for this reason many Reds and Evertonians wanted Man Utd to win. Manchester United did beat Crawley 1-0 and for the first time ever in my life I will say “Well done Man Utd”.
For those who want to find out why this rag is not read in Merseyside please visit http://dontbuythesun.co.uk/
Thanks to the folks at @thisisanfield for getting the ball rolling.
Justice for the 96
on Twitter @empireofthekop