A recent UEFA Poll on the top youth academies across Europe placed Liverpool in fifth place behind the likes of Ajax, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. Three of these four clubs have finished in the numero uno position in their respective leagues while Barcelona finished with four other trophies. When one puts that in perspective it only highlights the quality of work that has been put in by Frank McParland and Rodolfo Borrell at Kirkby.
Andre Wisdom and Suso have broken through to the first team under Brendan Rodgers this season while Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey have established themselves as first team regulars in the Liverpool squad, keeping out the likes of more experienced English counterparts such as Stewart Downing and Joe Cole. Martin Kelly has been impressive whenever he has been called on. Such has been the impact of these youngsters that Roy Hodgson has handed England call-ups to several Academy Graduates such as Martin Kelly, Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling.
The points table shows Liverpool in 11th spot but as any footballing man would tell you, it is early days yet and the table may well have a very different look by the end of the season. Barring some poor finishing and uncharacteristic defensive errors, Liverpool’s start has been bright even though they haven’t quite had the points to show for it.
Necessity is the mother of invention they say. Working with a very thin squad and a reduced budget compared to previous seasons, Brendan Rodgers has had to be bold and innovative in his approach. Several players from the Academy have been handed debuts and they have been impressive to say the very least.
Shelvey, Sterling and Suso have already become household names among the Anfield faithful. Shelvey and Suso have already signed new contracts with the club while Sterling is scheduled to be offered one soon. The future looks highly promising indeed, but there are plenty of proverbial “golden eggs” to be laid from the Liverpool Academy yet. We look at a few young players who are knocking hard on the doors of the first team and may turn out to be stars in the near future for Liverpool.
The 18 year-old German-Turkish footballer was signed from Bayer Levurkusen earlier in the summer for £1 million. The boy from Düsseldorf, Germany has an astonishing scoring record for his national youth team which has earned him the nickname “Gerd”. Yeşil has scored 32 times in 33 games overall at youth level and is certainly on his way to living up to his nickname after the legendary German goalscorer.
Yeşil made his first team debut against West Bromwich Albion in the Capitol One Cup and impressed everyone with his movement and awareness inside the box. With Liverpool down to one recognised striker following the injury to Fabio Borini, Yeşil looks certain to get more games in the coming months. He may well make his European bow against Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday as Rodgers plans to give Luis Suarez a much needed rest.
Turkish international Nuri Sahin was glowing in his praise for Yeşil and was confident that he would be a success at Liverpool. Sahin commented that “he can smell the goal and that is a quality you cannot teach.” Liverpool fans will hope that Yeşil can shine at Anfield and take some of the goal-scoring burden off Suarez’ shoulders.
The young left-back was once Liverpool’s youngest ever player to feature in the first team when Rafa Benitez handed him his debut at 16 years and 250 days. Jack Robinson has been on the fringes of the first team but has made steady progress since then. This season, Robinson looks to be ready to take his chance and has impressed under Brendan Rodgers.
Robinson has already been involved in the first team this season having featured in the Capitol One Cup and the Europa League for Liverpool. The boy from Warrington who signed a new contract with Liverpool last year has a growing reputation as a solid left-back. Robinson was one of the few players who came out with their reputations enhanced in the game against Udinese.
Liverpool have just one senior left-back in Jose Enrique with Glen Johnson often switching flanks filling in in his absence. Jack Robinson’s rapid development has given food for thought for the manager. With The Reds competing in multiple competitions both domestic and in Europe, Robinson is sure to get plenty of chances to impress the Liverpool faithful even further.
After the transfer deadline day fiasco and Liverpool’s striking problems compounded by the injury to Fabio Borini, Brendan Rodgers will be looking to the reserves to make up for the lack of striking options up front.
Part of the answer could lie with 18 year-old Academy forward Adam Morgan. The Liverpool native has shone throughout the youth ranks and has top scored at different age groups. Adam Morgan is quick and has a knack for finding pockets of space inside the box. Liverpool need a poacher to finish off the glut of goal-scoring chances and Morgan may be the solution. Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler commented that “as a finisher he(Morgan) is probably one of the best I’ve seen for a long, long time.”
Brendan Rodgers is a fan of the Liverpool lad’s instinctive goal scoring ability and he will be looking to integrate him into the system in the future. Morgan has recently been playing in an unfamiliar position on the right for the reserve team. Mike Marsh commented that the shift was to accustom him to the position which he was likely to take up in the first team. The window of opportunity has arrived for Morgan. Only time will tell if he is able to fulfill his potential and grab the same with both hands.
While the top clubs in the Barclays Premier League like Manchester United, City and Chelsea are buying established superstars in their fight to supremacy. Liverpool have adopted a more patient approach. The side is already the youngest in the Premier League and is showing signs of rapid improvement.
A footballing vision entrenched through the ranks within the club coupled with an emphasis on promoting youth and creating top footballers through the Academy, Liverpool may well have a winning formula on their hands. Liverpool defender Alan Hansen once scoffed at Sir Alex Ferguson’s move of introducing several players from the youth academy such as Beckham, Scholes, Butt and Neville saying “you can’t win anything with kids.” History proved otherwise, as Ferguson’s men went on to win the league and cup double the same season and eventually became one of the most successful teams of all time. United eventually went on to claim Liverpool’s “perch” when they overtook Liverpool’s League title haul of 18 in 2011. Brendan Rodgers would be looking to repeat the favour with this current crop of talented Liverpool youngsters. The irony would certainly not be lost if that were the case.