Football’s enormous expansion within the past three decades has allowed many modern football fans to study footballing youth vehemently. Whereas before the baptism of the Premier League, youngsters were relatively under the radar until their first appearance, now, supporters can keep a close on youth prospects across the globe before they have signed their first professional contract.
The scope of modern day football allowed fans to watch youngsters evolve from the raw ages of 15 and 16 into a fully-fledged Premier League footballer before even entering adulthood. The development of modern technology has allowed fans to watch youth games on their club’s TV channel, to scour the internet for statistics and articles on any particular footballer or to share their opinions on emerging talents on various social networking sites.
One particular set of supporters that extensively scrutinize their youth squad are those who adorn the red of Liverpool. Kirkby Academy is renowned for historic graduates such as Billy Liddell, Ian Callaghan, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and of course Steven Gerrard. It’s reputation as one of the best academies in both England and the world consequently means that Liverpool fans constantly observe their youth squads, waiting to unearth the next unpolished diamond.
Brendan Rodgers’ youth policy has enabled an increasing number of opportunities for youngsters to demonstrate their talents with Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling and Suso having amassed 50 Premier League appearances between themselves last season. Lloyd Jones, Conor Coady and Jerome Sinclair also all earned first squad call ups throughout the course of Rodgers’ inaugural season. Another teenager, Jordon Ibe has recently constituted a regular first team berth this season, further proving his willingness to provide opportunities for the younger players in spite of their inexperience.
In fact Liverpool had the youngest average age for a squad in the Premier League last season, with an average of 23.22 slightly ahead of Arsenal’s 23.24.This therefore provides inspiration for those within the Liverpool youth set-up, with Sterling having surpassed the Academy ranks rapidly to establish himself a regular.
One of the latest youngsters being nurtured at the Kirkby Academy is versatile attacking midfielder Daniel Trickett-Smith. Regarded as one of the club’s most exciting prospects, the teenager is tipped for eminence and will undoubtedly be in the current crop of academy players Rodgers will be pending for a senior squad place in the near future.
The Reds had to fight off fierce competition from Manchester City in order to secure the highly-rated youngster’s signature but the Merseyside club eventually won the race by dispensing the sizable sum of £300,000 with additional bonuses for the-then 16 year old.
Hotly tipped to be one of the next big talents off of the Liverpool production line, the midfielder has a wealth of talent at his disposal, having now featured regularly for two of England’s top footballing academies.
The English youth international switched from League One’s Crewe Alexandra, following in the footsteps of Rob Jones and Danny Murphy to make the switch from Gresty Road to Anfield. Right-back Jones and midfielder Murphy both had efficacious Liverpool spells and Kopites will be hoping the trend of successful signings from the Cheshire club continues.
Hailing from Staffordshire, Trickett-Smith’s career began when he played for Stoke from the U9’s level to the U11’s. At age of 11, he swapped the red and white stripes of Stoke for the all red of Crewe Alex, where he plied his trade for their infamous academy. He soon began to attract scouts with several stand-out performances.
Most notably, a game against a prestige Chelsea youth side in a 2-0 win back in 2011 in which he showcased his precise passing and superb control and which also culminated with a fantastic finish to seal his side’s victory. (Keep an eye out for on the No.12’s neat touch and pass at 2:35 and his goal at 3:30: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyUPqs5EK_E#t=223)
It was at the age of 16 that he caught the eye of Liverpool scouts. The Reds hijacked the youngster’s proposed move to Manchester City and the move has yielded remunerative for both parties. Since making the switch, the 18-year-old has enjoyed tremendous form and has made a huge impact at youth level, adding an extra dimension to their forward play. Trickett-Smith’s first season was undeniably successful, as he scored 11 times throughout the year and finished second behind Jerome Sinclair as the Under 18’s top goal scorer.
It was an impressive feat, considering the youngster predominantly played last season in central midfield or operating as a No.10, just in behind the centre forward. His most effective position is when he is deployed as an offensively-minded midfield role which allows him to exploit the space behind the striker/s, receiving the ball and then feeding passes in to forwards and wingers. However Trickett-Smith is so superbly versatile that he has the adaptability to play on the wing or in a central forward position and still play with quality beyond his peers.
The midfielder’s rich goal-scoring vein of form meant that he was one of the stars of Liverpool’s march to the semi-finals of last season’s FA Youth Cup. Since signing his first professional contract over the summer, Trickett-Smith has forthwith extended his run of auspicious performances into the current season, much to Liverpool’s beneficence .
The 18-year-old has also latterly been reunited with ex-Crewe academy director Neil Critchley who has now taken the role of Liverpool U18 coach. Critchley arrived earlier last month after six years as academy director with Crewe Alexandra.
Under Critchley, he has three goals in his last three U18 games, scoring one in a 3-3 draw against Norwich and both goals in a 4-2 defeat at home to Fulham. He also featured in all three of the U21’s pre-season friendlies and subsequently earned himself a start in an opening day loss against Southampton in which he gained an assist. It would come as no surprise to see Trickett-Smith ensconce himself into Alex Inglethorpe’s regular group as the season progresses.
The teenager has established himself as an intelligent footballer who takes extra care in possession and has the awareness and composure to make good use of the ball. He can both create and score goals, with his clear-cut passing and his fine finishing yet he also has an astute positional sense, taking up clever positions off the ball, creating the space for opportunities.
Since his arrival in April 2012, the midfielder has shown noteworthy glimpses of his remarkable talent, such as a sumptuous 25 yard strike against Sunderland as an inexperienced U18’s side crushed the Black Cats youth side 4-1. In March, Trickett-Smith again exemplified his ability as he salvaged a point for the Reds when he turned superbly in the penalty area and fired home to secure a 2-2 draw against Spurs.
To avoid the cliche, the attacking midfielder is certainly set for big things as long as those responsible at the Reds ensure he abstains from the propensity of many modern young footballers whose egos surpass eclipse their capabilties. Nevertheless Trickett-Smith has consistently demonstrated that he certainly has the ingredients to flourish, it is up to Brendan Rodgers to decide when the opportune moment for his unveiling on the big stage is.