Martin Kelly has made one of the most impressive academy breakthroughs for LFC in a long time. Displacing an English international from his preferred position is no easy feat, but having it come from a newly minted first-team player playing out of position is truly impressive. He eagerly grasped the opportunity to play and didn’t relent until he had firmly established himself on the first team.
With no offense intended for Jay Spearing, it has been many years since a Liverpool academy player has risen through the ranks and made a significant impact. In fact Jamie Carragher and Stephen Gerrard are generally regarded as the last two great Liverpool academy graduates to make it, which is understandably a troubling fact.
Aiming to fix the problem, Rafa Benitez put significant focus on the youth setup and we also saw Kenny Daglish acting as academy ambassador to inspire the youth. As a result we are now seeing a number of promising young players coming up and are beginning to knock on the first team door.
Much has been made lately of young Raheem Stirling, Suso, Connor Coady and others in the academy, however it is most likely they are too young to make a significant impact next year. Instead I am focusing on those academy graduates on the cusp of the first team and who will be more than squad players.
As I see it, the potential candidates are:
– Stephen Darby – Right back – 22 years old
– Jay Spearing – Midfielder – 22 years old
– Dani Pacheco – Striker/Attacking midfielder – 20 years old
– Daniel Ayala – Center back – 20 years old
– Nathan Eccleston – Striker – 20 years old
– David Amoo – Striker / Winger – 19 years old
– Tom Ince – Midfielder / Striker – 19 years old
Note: I have not listed Jonjo Shelvey, Danny Wilson, or David N’Gog as they are not academy products.
I will take a probably somewhat unconventional approach and say Daniel Ayala. Why him you ask? Well he had a very solid run at Hull on loan this year before getting injured. How good? As the BBC stated “(he) was a key figure in a back-line that one of the best defensive records in the Championship”. Furthermore he benefits from a possible opening in the first team: Sotorios Kyrgiakos’s contract expires this year and the young Spaniard is in a prime spot to take his roster spot.