Original article here - http://www.redandwhitekop.com/forum/index.php?topic=269493.0
Recent events have stirred my enthusiasm for writing, and I thought I'll stick to what I feel most comfortable with. Every Liverpool fan is excited by our current Academy, and Rawk is at the forefront of that. I hope anyone who has followed these players takes some enjoyment from this piece.
There's been more questions than answers at Liverpool football club recently. It's a familiar situation. Are the owners goodies or baddies? At the very least are they even competent? Should Kenny Dalglish have been given one more season to get things right? Is Charlie Adam rubbish? Is Brendan Rodgers good?
I don't know the answer to any of those questions for sure. What I do know is this:
Our young lads and the fellas who coach them are bloody good.
18 months ago I posed the question 'who will make the grade?'. It's interesting to look back at that and check where these lads are now stationed a year and a half down the line. Just like it will be good to do so come 2014. The fun thing about it is you'll never be right about every player. Young players are notoriously hard to judge. We've seen players who have been tipped for stardom fall into the nothingness of the football scrapheap. Plying their trades in the lower leagues and in a lot of cases even finding their way in the World outside of football. At the same time there will always be those few who go under the radar and go on to become very successful players. There will be players I single out in this piece who probably won't be seen at Anfield, and a few I don't include may end up doing the opposite. Perhaps that's something to do with my judgement on players!
Things were very rosy at Academy level when I wrote the original article. I think it's even stronger now, and with Brendan Rodgers in the hotseat there's plenty to be optimistic about. Now more than ever it feels as though what goes on at Academy level matters. FSG - John Henry in particular seem obsessed with putting greater emphasis on the youth/reserves. It makes sense. These guys don't know a lot about football, when they bought our club back in October 2010, Barcelona were the dominant force in European football. I'm sure FSG looked at their set up and thought 'I want a piece of that'. The fact that Borrell and Segura were already in place was just an added bonus. Buying players at a young age makes sense on many levels; both on the business and playing side of things. Usually, the younger you buy the cheaper it is for the buyer. It also gives the buying club more time to mould the player into what they're looking for. More time to work with the coaches. More time to get the player used to the facilities, the city, the club, and his team-mates. It can only have helped Barcelona that a good deal of their squad have played together from an early age. Puyol and Xavi. Iniesta and Valdes. Messi, Pique, and Fabregas. It would be nice to have that in 5 years time wouldn't it?
Brendan Rodgers - does his appointment change anything?
I think yes. The arrival of the Norn Irishman should give a boost to the lads who are getting towards the age where they're either going to get some games, or find themselves looking for another club. It's been bandied about a lot, but it is a fresh start for the club. There will be players Kenny rated that Rodgers won't, and vice versa. Rodgers worked with Chelsea's reserve team before he dipped his toes into the senior management pool. He's a man who knows and understands players of that age bracket. The gap from the reserves to the first team will only get shorter too. I think there's a good chance we'll see a lot of new signings play games in the reserves before they make the step up to the senior squad. It can only be a good thing too. It makes the transition more fluent and it adds extra importance to the reserve team, thus surely raising the standards with it. It certainly did Lucas Leiva no harm. Also, I'm sure Rodgers will be eager to see the reserves play in a similar fashion.
There's this pacey young winger who's been getting some decent reviews. He goes by the name of Raheem Sterling. You might have heard about him. In all seriousness though; the kid is goin' be a star. I can't even be bothered talking around it either. Everyone can see it. Borrell can see it. Segura can see it. Man United's under 18 coach can see it. Kenny can see it. And so will our new manager, if he doesn't already. Most Liverpool fans had already expected much of the young Jamaican born winger even before he had made his bow for the first team. The comparisons to John Barnes were there from an early age too. Unfair yes, but they were there nevertheless. And not for no reason either. When the fourth official held up his number in Liverpool's home game to Wigan, anyone who didn't know him soon did. It didn't take long for him to show why the hype is justified either. Sterling showed in 10 minutes of football what Liverpool fans can expect to see much more of very soon. Direct with the ball, yet very rarely runs down blind alleys and is incredibly pragmatic in possession. The first piece I wrote on these young fellas, I called Sterling the second best youth prospect at the club. Now I'd be more inclined to say he is the standout. That sums my point up really; things change so quickly in football that it's always tough to make a definitive judgement.
In the end, I think Sterling may be one of those who ends up being used more centrally. False 9 and all that jazz. It does sometimes seem all a bit modern and hippy, but it's definitely a possibility further down the line. I think there will be an influx of young wide players who end up playing as a 'false 9' when they gain experience. It depends on how Sterling develops doesn't it? If his finishing (he finished top goalscorer for the reserves last season) continues to improve, then Rodgers may want to get him as close to goal as possible.
Next season will be interesting. On paper, Rodgers should take to him. He's very similar to Scott Sinclair in the way that he plays on that left hand side. Of course we hope he becomes a better player than Sinclair. That's no sleight on Sinclair either, it's just how good Sterling can be. And he can be very good if all the important factors blend together. There is a question to be asked though - will a season long loan benefit him? Or do we keep him around and give him the Europa League games as well as the odd appearance off the bench? I'd keep him, personally. There are obvious benefits to sending him on loan to someone like a West Ham or even a Swansea. But, I don't think he's far enough along in his development to merit 20-30+ games a season for any Premiership club. There's always the chance he goes and sets the proverbial house on fire, but again it's not guaranteed. The last thing he needs in his development is to be shipped off to a Premiership club, being given a few games and then thrown on the bench for the rest of the season because he doesn't immediately deliver the goods. To me it's either stay at Liverpool, where I've no doubt Rodgers will improve and challenge him, or go on loan to a top 6 level Championship team. Bolton, Blackpool, Middlesbrough, Cardiff... a good team, where he'll have the chance to make his mark on competitive games week in week out. Reserve games can boast some good players at times, but at the end of the day there's no real pressure. There is for the boys who are fighting for their future, Sterling is one of very few who isn't. Let him go and star for a team in the Championship, take them up - then come back to Liverpool and help send them back down.
Spanish midfielders, there's loads of 'em. The good ones are really good. The best actually. At the European under 19 tournament this summer in Estonia, there will be lots of young prospective Spanish midfielders to take your breath away. The production line that keeps on giving. There will be Denis Suarez, who is thought so highly of at Man City. Saul Niquez of Atletico Madrid is another who may shine. Then there's the kid who will play as Spain's number 10 - Suso. That lad plays for Liverpool, and he's absolutely fantastic. Sure he might take one too many touches of the ball every so often. He may try and play a through pass when a sideways pass would've sufficed. All those things are not unusual when you discuss young players, particularly midfielder's. These things can be ironed out over time. Experience, responsibility, and time all tend to knock these tendencies on the head eventually. Suso is 19 years old. For an 19 year old who has been in England since the age of 16, he's done just fine. More than fine in fact, he's more than held his own. Putting all of those faults to one side, what are the positives to his game? There's a lot more to that side of it than the negative side that's for sure.
Before we go any further, I'll put this out there - I've always been a massive fan of his, so this may end up looking like a bit of a love letter to that absolutely glorious left foot he possesses. Usually deployed on the right hand side for the reserves, he is an expert at cutting inside onto his left foot and opening up the pitch. To go along with that Suso has an exceptional range of passing so that he can usually pick any runs out. A caveat to that is of course some will say he doesn't always choose the right pass. Again I'd just emphasize - he is 19 years old. 19. Not only can he pass extremely well and with great range, he's a fantastic mover with the ball at his feet. He has that rare ability to shift the direction of the ball at the very last second. You see all the great midfielder's do it. At times it almost looks as though they've taken a heavy touch, but such is their footballing brain they work out almost to exact how heavy a touch they can take to encourage the opposing player to lunge in to try and take the ball. More often than not, half a second before contact the ball will be shifted to one side and the defender is left standing on his own whilst the midfielder advances closer to the oppositions box. Suso is able to drop the shoulder beautifully. If a midfield player can time their dribbles effectively it gives them those crucial extra seconds that can make all the difference. At reserve level he is helped a lot by the presence of Ryan McLaughlin (more on him later) who continually bombs up and down the wing Suso often leaves vacant, which of course gives Suso another option with the pass. It also gives him more shooting chances as defenders can be pulled out to McLaughlin, which in turn opens up space infield. For all that technical ability, Suso has probably come on most with his tracking back and his physical stature when tackling and holding off opposition players. It's a good sign though. He has all of the technical attributes needed, so it's nice to see him becoming more in line with what England expects in a midfield player.
All of those things being said, the wee fella is still to sign a new contract. He's still to be offered one in fact. In January he will be free to talk to other clubs. There will certainly be no shortage of takers that's for sure.
Perhaps one of the reasons for that is his effort in training. Now, as I outlined above, he's made huge strides with his work rate and his strength, but clearly Borrell feels he could be doing more after singling him out in an interview earlier on in the year.
Now for a wee bit of balance, because it's important isn't it? There are a few sneaking question marks about how Rodgers will take to Suso.
I think Suso comes up a little bit short in terms of what Rodgers wants in his centre midfield players. Britton and Allen who most regularly played in the centre of Swansea's midfield move the ball incredibly quickly. It's control and pass. Control and pass. Oh - and move too. Can't forget that part. pas agus bogadh!
Suso is a player who loves to be on the ball. He loves it a little too much sometimes some might say. Suso has everything in his locker, he just needs to curb his enthusiasm a tad. Suso needs to embrace his Larry David. If the centre midfield players don't move the ball at the required tempo then it affects the whole team. The wingers gets that little bit less space and the defence gets that bit longer to organize itself. All that being said; Suso has time on his side, and if he shows the hunger to buy into Rodgers' methods then he can eventually become that well rounded player we all know is in him.
As a winger he maybe lacks the off the ball pace that Rodgers has thus far liked in his wingers. Whilst Suso is more than a match to Dyer and Sinclair in terms of ball playing ability (soon he'll be far superior to either if he isn't already) he lacks the pace to run in behind full backs like the two Swansea boys can.
In the end I think Suso will get games centrally. At the moment he's probably better off playing wide because it allows him to take more time on the ball. When he becomes more mature then he can definitely be a great number 10.
David Silva, great player that he is.... started off playing from wide. He dribbled more than he passed. The modern day David Silva plays more centrally and also puts more emphasis on the passing side of his game than dribbling. I think Suso will take that path too.
Will he do it at the same level Silva is doing it at now though? That's a question that I'm not even gonna attempt to answer.
I didn't think it could be possible for fans to get so excited over a player who they've barely seen play (don't worry, Aquilani hasn't been demoted to the Reserves). Joao Teixeira joined the club in late January amid much bluster and fanfare. There was some method to the hype though; Teixeira was one of the Sporting Lisbon players who stood out most in their outstanding 3-0 demolishing of our under 18 team during the Next Generation competition. The Portuguese side outclassed us for the duration, and Teixeira was at the heart of everything good for them. His role wasn't quite as a number 10, but he wasn't an orthodox centre midfield player either. He played in between the both. Whilst his choice of passing and his movement caught the eye, it was as much his ability to move at great pace and for the whole game as well. Teixeira's stamina was outstanding that night. Whilst there was probably a desire to compare him to the likes of Rui Costa and Deco who have both represented Portugal with great success, he's probably more like Tiago who was vastly underrated for years at Braga, Benfica, and even Chelsea. Chelsea were the team of the moment when Tiago played there, and yet he still never really got the plaudits he deserved. Teixeira at Anfield never looked spectacular, but he did what you want in a midfield player. He passed with intelligence, his workrate was good, and his anticipation for his and Sporting's opening goal was promising.
There isn't much more to tell thus far. Injury has kept him back, and he's yet to make his Liverpool debut. Fans will get a chance to see Teixeira in action this summer though, like Suso he will represent his country in this summers under 19 European Championships.
He's a player Rodgers will like though. Aren't they all.
Andre Wisdom has had a funny old time of it recently. A supremely talented defender who is comfortable both defending with and without the ball. There aren't many strikers who can beat him in a physical battle, and you won't see a lot burning him off for pace either. Some will say he's gone backwards in the last year or so, but I don't think so. Wisdom has managed to strike up a pretty good partnership with German defender Stephen Sama. It's been a positive for both players. The question in regard to Wisdom is a simple one - what does he do next? Like Sterling, there are a few options for him. There are a number of teams in the Championship who I'm sure would be happy to take him. Ideally it would be under a manager who encourages their centre backs to be comfortable on the ball. I could see Gus Poyet doing for Andre Wisdom what Brendan Rodgers did for Steven Caulker and in turn Harry Redknapp. Oh wait... maybe Villas Boas, or Laurent Blanc. Not only did Rodgers give Caulker valuable game time, he vastly improved him as a player. That years stint at the Liberty stadium added at least 5 million onto his transfer value. The minimum requirement from a loan deal, in terms of whether it's a success or not is whether the player in question comes back a better player than when he left. Caulker absolutely did, and then some.
The other option is keep where he is, and give him games here and there I.e in the Europa League and Carling cup. I think he's best off going and working under a manager like Poyet and getting loads of game time, but failing that he sticks around, trains with the first team and picks up some of the qualities that Rodgers discovered in Caulker.
The worst thing that could happen is he sticks around, gets no game time and stagnates in the Reserves.
The reserves might just be a different pot of chicken next season though. The standard will be raised I think, and considerably so too. The one question is how long does it take to do it, and how much time will Rodgers have to see it through? No matter how we treat our reserves, and I do think It will get closer to the first team in terms of transparency and style. The thing is though, the scheduling and the quality of opposition is out with our control. I'm sure Rodgers and Henry would like to have a conveyor belt from the reserves to firsts like Barcelona do, but we don't have our reserves (B team) playing in the Championship. Week in week out, on nice pitches, in games that actually matter.
Wisdom went on the summer tour last season and appeared as a right back. That's probably the one position where we're stocked up in. Centre back, where he's best at anyway is probably an easier gateway for him.
Again we just have to trust that Rodgers knows how to handle this one. I'm sure if Andre Wisdom thought about Steven Caulker, it would give him a great deal more to be optimistic about.
One of the many disappointing things about last season, although it got little attention, was the absence of Jack Robinson. The young left back came in at the back end of the 2010/11 season and immediately showed his quality. Thrown straight in at the deep end, Robinson made his début at the Emirates from the bench. He was tasked with foiling Theo Walcott, and whatever people might say about Theo Walcott, no one can deny this - bloody hell he's fast. The wrong type of character, especially a 17 year old could have been overawed by the situation. You can't switch off when you're marking Walcott. He might not always front his marker up, but if he gets a chance he'll run into any space he gets. Robinson handled it like a seasoned pro. He never got too tight, and he even managed to beat him in a foot race a couple of times, which is no mean feat.
Not only does Robinson defend with commitment and ferocity, he also uses the ball with great diligence and picks his moments to attack with a lot of intelligence. Quite often with young players you'll catch them looking awfully like they don't know what their meant to be doing or where they need to be. Robinson never gives off that impression. When Robinson came into the team back in 2011, there was another young local full back on the opposite side of the defence - John Flanagan of course. Flanagan got more game time and himself looked impressive. Whilst Flanagan probably attacked with more regularity and gusto than Robinson, he also seemed more reliant on the adrenalin getting him through. With Flanagan, no matter how well he played it always felt as though he was on the verge of panicking and making an error.
Unlike Robinson, Flanagan got more first team experience last season to add to the 7 games he played the season previous to that. Typically, a couple of below par games led to him being written off by a select few who had been praising him only one year previous. It's the nature of the beast that is modern day football I suppose. A terribly ugly beast at that. Okay there's no getting away from the fact that the boy had a stinker up at Ewood park, and that was only for the half hour or so that he was on the park. It happens though, and it's all a learning curve. So yeah, he had that one poor game in amongst 4 or 5 (at least) really good ones. I also thought he was terrific away at St James' park, which on the whole was a terrible team performance. There may be a reason why Flanagan has finally found himself out of the spotlight though. I think it has something to do with a fellow countryman of our new manager.
Ryan McLaughlin has caught the 'thing' Glen Johnson has, who then passed it on to Martin Kelly, who then passed it on to John Flanagan, and now McAlves (sorry!). If you play right back for Liverpool, you're a bit quality. Liverpool don't do bad right-backs. Well, I suppose Glen Johnson is the exception because he can't defend and is a League 2 level right back who's somehow managed to scramble together 40 caps for England. If only we had someone like Kyle Walker to show young John, Martin, and Ryan the ways of how a right back should play. I digress, lets get back to Liverpool's newest and shiniest right back prospect.
McLaughlin basically picked up where John Flanagan left off in the under 18 team. Always providing an outlet on the right hand side, attacking with almost relentless pace and swagger. Not only does McLaughlin have the fitness levels and the pace to comply with the role, he has that rare ability to get his head up in the final third and pick out a man with his cross. McLaughlin impressed so much that he was given the right back berth in the Next Gen series, ahead of John Flanagan who was still eligible to play. The Irishman did himself no harm either, and he was rewarded with a few reserve team games at the back end of last season.
So yeah, we're incredibly healthy in the full back areas. I wouldn't bet against seeing them all progress even further next season. Enrique and Johnson certainly have to keep on their toes.
One player who seems to split opinion is Conor Coady. I can't say I've decided either way yet. There's no doubting he has quality about him, and his leadership skills for one so young are brilliant to see. As a player though, he's a funny one. I think next year is the key for him. If he fails to make an impression, then I think he'll really be on the back foot in terms of carving a long term career out for himself at Liverpool. I think he's definitely one who will be helped by Rodgers' arrival. At times last season he struggled with midfielder's running off the back of him. His movement isn't the best attribute he has, but he has a nice awareness about him. If Rodgers/Borrell can get him playing in a strict and well drilled philosophy, then he's got the potential to flourish.
He was one of the players who impressed most on last seasons summer tour, even scoring a well taken goal against Guangdong. The arrival of Teixeira will help too, I'm sure of it. I think Coady and Teixeira is actually a very balanced and on paper excellent centre midfield pairing. Coady's attitude is spot on, so with the likes of Teixeira coming in and raising the bar, it gives him something to aim for.
This may be the most downbeat part, and it pains me to say it because the player in question is such a joy to watch. What to do with Adorjan? Adorjan is a player for the old fashioned football fans. A proper old school play-maker. In the mould of Riquelme, and therein lies the problem.
Problem I hear you say, being compared to Riquelme. Well, of course there is only Juan Roman Riquelme. Despite the beauty and simplicity of Riquelme's football, he's a player who has to be accommodated within a system. Find the right system and the right role for him, and you have yourself a goldmine of long range passes and metronomic god like ability with the ball at his feet. It's just, getting all those things going for you - at a massive club like Liverpool is extremely ambitious. That's the task that faces Hungarian play-maker Krisztian Adorjan. A player who has quite exceptional ability with the ball at his feet, but can only play one role.
What happens then? I think he'll tickle Rodgers' footballing cockles and I think you'll see at least an attempt to fit him into the long term vision of the club. It's been suggested before, but perhaps a loan move to a Dutch club where number tens are a lot more common would benefit him greatly.
Ask John Guidetti.
Now for the peak of this article, which will be quickly followed by the dramatic decline when I take up the reins again. I refer you to Cpt Reina who knows and has followed this players development a lot closer than I have. I quite agree with everything he says, which is not unusual I might add.
Ngoo is as unpredictable a player as there could possibly be. He makes no sense at all. For a player of his height and frame to be able to do some of the things he does with the ball, it just doesnt add up.
His ability to carry the ball forward is probably up there is at the club. Up there with Suarez. Or at least it is when he gets it right. Which is approximately about 60% of the time. He's incredibly sporadic.
But when he does get it right he looks downright special. He has an uncanny ability to just drift past players, it looks awkward even when its working but it happens too often for it to just be luck. And what he's started doing more and more now is using his body to help him along. He's started to just bully his way past people and beat them for strength and pace as much as skill. Added together its a potent mix.
He's not a natural goalscorer. Not by any means. But, he does score goals. He tends to miss the easier chances and them create and score a much much harder chance later on in the same game. He's an utter enigma.
In short, I dont know what to make of him. And that's why I love him. He's a player that will be a late bloomer you feel, and probably wont be at LFC if or when it happens. But Id like to see him go out on loan and get some proper football under his belt to help possibly speed that process along.
If it clicks with him, and he's able to level out his peaks and troughs then he could be some player. But it could swing either way.
As balanced and as good a review as your likely to see of any of our young players. This is probably a good moment for me to mention that Cpt Reina has very kindly taken some of his own time to help me put this piece you're reading together. His knowledge, not only of the youth players, but of football in general has been absolutely invaluable to me. Most of the players I touch on from this point onwards have mostly been down to his knowledge and input, and due to my laziness quite a lot of the words will be exact quotes from him! Anyway, thanks again dude, It's greatly appreciated.
One of Cpt Reina's favourites from last season, and one of mine too, oh... and Juan and Vork's (I think anyone with eyes in fact!) has been Jordan Lussey. The local midfield player has impressed most in his début season, not only because of his footballing ability but his impeccable attitude.
The Ormskirk born midfield player managed to combine wonderful passing ability with the knack of scoring goals from the centre of midfield. Lussey finished second only to Adam Morgan in the clubs goalscoring chart from last season, netting an impressive 9 goals in 27 games. More games than any other first year player. Under 18 coach Mike Marsh even conceded Lussey's progressed quicker than he or anyone else expected.
“At the start of the season I would have expected him to be involved more after Christmas and in the second half of the season. He only turned 17 last month after all, but with the way he has been developing, we felt it would be wrong to hold him back."
Lussey played as one of the 2 in the 4-2-3-1. The more progressive of the two, usually alongside Baio. Despite not being up to much physically, Lussey more than makes up for it in the way he passes the ball and of course the way he times his runs from deep. It'll be interesting to see whether that's something he'll keep as he moves up the ladder. Coady seemed to have that uncanny ability to time his runs from midfield when playing for the under 18's. Since his move to the Reserves we've seen less of it.
What I like most about him is his ability to play the initial pass, then find space in between the lines. That's when his shooting prowess becomes handy.
Next season - more of the same really. Again there's that carrot that if he plays well he'll get games in the Next Gen and perhaps the Reserves. Still, he's doing well where he is and there's no need to change it just yet. His presence in the Next Gen games will certainly be interesting. Whilst Coady and Roddan both have their own unique qualities; Lussey is more the type of midfielder that Sporting Lisbon team that dismantled us twice would look to produce from their Academy. His presence will surely allow us to keep more possession of the ball.
Along with Lussey, Jack Dunn made an impression for the under 18's last season. Able to play in any one of the attacking roles in behind the lone striker, Dunn even found himself at left back for the 18's at times. Not only is he highly thought of at Liverpool, Dunn represents England alongside Robinson and Sterling on a regular basis.
Direct, tough, and good on the ball, Dunn makes for a fierce competitor. Despite being left footed, he shares a similar style to Steven Gerrard. Always looking to move the ball forward and able to hit shots form range to great effect. When starting on the left flank, Dunn is adept at moving into the middle of the field and opening up space for the oncoming left back. As with Lussey, the early signs are promising, but it's way too early to tell. Just hope for more of the same, and with his character and drive - anyone would be daft to count him out.
Cpt Reina on Adam Morgan:
Morgan came in for some stick this season when he had a dry spell of about 6-8 games and he was missing chances. It pissed me off not least because it was like reading a first team player thread at times with people only living in the here and now.
People started to hint that he's wasnt actually all that good and completely forgot the fact that he was just a 18yo lad who was suffering a dip in his form. And that's what I maintain it was, a dip in his form rather than a true reflection of his ability.
Morgan ended the season with 13 goals in 21 apps for the U18s and 5 in 17 for the reserves. 18 goals in 38 apps (not all of them starts) isnt too shabby, especially considering the dry spell he had when he couldnt hit a barn door.
The fact that he got 5 at reserve level is heartening and encouraging for his full time promotion.
As a player he seems to have been boxed in as this 'fox in the box' type striker which translates to "scores goals but has little else to his game". Which I personally dont believe to be true.
Ive seen Morgan play through ball's from the halfway line that had Suso done them people would still be talking about them. Just as Ive seen him beat a man for pace and skill that people would pay a lot more attention to had it been Ibe or Sterling that done it.
Morgan has many strings to his bow. He's quite good at just about everything. Can pass, bit of pace, decent in the air, can create the odd goal for himself. He's not great at any of them, but he's alright at all of them.
Where he does excel absolutely is in his finishing. He's absolutely deadeye on his day. And looks like the most 'natural' finisher we have at the entire club, and I include the first team in that. When Morgan gets put through 1 on 1 I just believe he'll score. He knows how to. I dont get that feeling with anyone else really. Gerrard's possibly the closest. Suarez when he's on it. But Morgan has that Owen, Fowler, Rush goalscorer gene. He just knows.
Also his workrate is top notch. He runs all day and closes the defenders down as if his life depends on it.
Whether he's suited to playing as a lone striker remains to be seen at the highest level. He's not all that comfortable with his back to goal and that's an area which is of the upmost importance in that role. He's not all that big or all that strong either.
A full time promotion to the reserves will be good for him.
Again, a fantastic assessment. I think Cpt Reina is a striker for his pub team!
I'd just like to add a couple of things re Morgan. I think it's plain to see that it'll be very difficult for him to make it here. Not due to a lack of ability, but because as a lone striker he still falls short. That's not to say he'll never bridge that gap, but it'll be a fair effort. It's also not because he's just a finisher like so many would have you believe. Morgan is great at dropping deep, involving himself in the play and spreading the ball about. I once compared him to Giuseppe Rossi in that regard. Whilst Rossi isn't a particularly great dribbler, or a great passer, or all that good in the air he's still good at them. Rossi, like Morgan is a 7 out of 10 at almost everything. The career trajectory with Rossi is interesting too: at Man United he was known as a wee left footed goal poacher who played as high up the pitch as possible. On the rare occasion he did get a run out for United, it was difficult to distinguish how good a 'footballer' he was, because all of his work was done inside the box. Then comes the move to Villareal, which as we now know with hindsight was the best possible move he could have made. Rossi has come on leaps and bounds as a player since arriving at the Madrigal. Now he combines excellent finishing with astute link up play and great hold up play. Sadly, two consecutive leg breaks means that we won't be seeing him until next year. If it wasn't for injury, Mario Balotelli would have something else to moan about, because Rossi would be lining up alongside Cassano, of that I have no doubt.
So yeah, again there's clear parallels for Morgan. It's important to stress that I'm not saying he'll ever be as good as Rossi, but he's got loads of qualities to be proud of and it's up to Liverpool to get the most out of those qualities.
The last player I wanted to have a look at, is Nathan Ecclestone. I couldn't quite make my mind up on him, but a last ditch thought or two from Cpt Reina persuaded me to put him in. Ecclestone may not be one of the clubs best prospects, but he's certainly an interesting one. Here's the Captains thoughts on him:
Ecclestone has gone through the ringer the past few seasons, I'll be honest, I didnt like him. Not as a player and not as a person (as much as I could ever profess to 'knowing' him).
Thought he was arrogant, big time and nowhere near as good as he thought he was. And it showed on the pitch. He was average for quite a long time. He alienated the clubs he went to on loan, supporters and coaches alike (or so it appeared) and I was hoping we'd get rid of him and his incredibly, unjustifiably, high wages as soon as possible.
But then he returned from his latest loan at Rochdale, in November last year. And almost immediately it looked as if something had 'clicked'. Like a switch had been flicked inside his head. He returned and he looked hungry, he was putting in the hard yards on the pitch, he looked less selfish, he looked like a player.
Attribute it to whatever you want. Loans to lower league clubs showing him it's not all flash cars and big watches, failing to make much of a mark at these clubs, or simply just growing up a bit (im sure many, if not most people have had that moment when they just mature a whole heap). Whatever it was something seemed to have put the fear of God in to him upon his return and he appeared invigorated by it.
He was arguably the reserve team's best player that second half of the year.
Why I think he's potentially one of the most interesting at this point is because he's one that seems to have a genuine route in to the first team.
Ecclestone and Sinclair and Dyer look right together. Their respective styles of play are similar. Ecclestone can play that position. Id say that IS his position. He's not a winger, nor is he a striker. He's a wide forward. He's got the pace, the ability to beat a man and the eye for goal. It suits him to a tee.
It also just so happens to be a position we're incredibly light in right now (transfer market still being open and all that).
There's an opportunity for Ecclestone there if he care to take it. I dont know if he will. I dont know if he's even good enough to. His new found work ethic and attitude might have arrived a little too late.
But, he'll be one of the first back from pre-season. He'll be coming back off of a good 5 months of form. He fits a certain 'mould'.
Stranger things have happened.
At the very least it will be interesting to see whether Rodgers hands him an olive branch during pre season. Who knows... if Ecclestone can catch Rodgers' eye early in pre season then he might just have a chance. Although we don't know what the clubs transfer plans are, as it stands the club isn't exactly stocked in the striker department. As Cpt Reina pointed out above, Ecclestone can also play from wider areas.
He's now had a number of loan deals that haven't quite come off for him, so It's now sink or swim time for him. If he isn't going to be given a chance here, then a permanent move away from Anfield is probably best for both Ecclestone and the football club.
There's other lads like Ojo, Ibe, Sinclair, and Smith who have all been signed within the last year, and it's great we're competing for the best youngsters England has to offer. It certainly seemed like something Comolli was focusing on, but then again I think the owners themselves were the ones instigating that, so expect to see more of the same. But, at the end of the day, some of these boys are only 14 and 15. It's probably a waste of time, and unfair to judge them at this juncture.
Until next time...