Kop Star: Damien Plessis

Damien Plessis has made an impressive impact for the Liverpool Reserves since his arrival in the summer of 2007 and made an eye catching debut performance for the first team at the Emirates Stadium last April. Broomy reviews Damien’s encouraging start to his Liverpool career and asks will he become a future Kop Star?

Kop Star: Issue 6: Damien Plessis

AT the age of 13, Plessis started his footballing career at the National Footballing Centers at Chatearoux. He then went on to join Lyon’s Youth Academy at the age of 15. Plessis impressed greatly with Lyon’s Youth team and with the Lyon Reserves team. The Lyon’s Reserve team was competing in the third tier of French Football (CFA). Plessis played 16 league games for the CFA side between 2005-07. But, he failed to make a competitive appearance for the first team.

In the Summer of 2007, Plessis found himself included in the U19 French squad that travelled to the 2007 UEFA U19 Championships in Austria. Plessis had a good tournament despite being sent off in their 1-1 draw with Germany in the opening round. Despite the sending off, Plessis helped France reach the semi finals to which they lost to a magnificent Spanish U19 team which included Liverpool’s reserve team player, Mikel San Jose. Spain eventually went on to win the European U19 Championship.

Plessis joined Liverpool on transfer deadline day in August 2007. The French U19 player penned a 3 year contract with the Reds. The young Frenchman was given the number 47 for the 2007/08 season. On securing his signature, Benitez commented: “He is a good player, big and strong, and we’re sure he will do well for us. He’s only a young boy with plenty of time to work on his game but it depends on his progress how quickly he can force his way into the team.”

Plessis began his Liverpool career in the Liverpool reserve ranks at Melwood. Plessis made his debut for the Reserves in their pre-season friendly against Crewe Alexandra on the 11th September 2007. All season he provided a superb shield in front of the two central defenders. Plessis featured in every game for the Liverpool Reserve league games last season and was instrumental in them winning the Barclays Reserves League. He became a key member of Gary Ablett’s side with his range of passing skills, composure on the ball and his clever positional sense. Plessis was beginning to show he had the physically and tackling to make him a future central midfield star.

His progress certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the Liverpool coaches. In April 2008, Plessis made his debut for the first team in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal. Damien’s inclusion in the first team at the Emirates Stadium came as a shock to many in all honesty, but the 20 year old played a blinder and was heralded as man of the match by many Liverpool websites. Up against the experienced duo of Cesc Fabergas and Gilberto, Plessis looked unfazed. He oozed composure to the point of comfortability, stroking the ball around and demonstrating his intelligence to bide his time and pick a pass. He looked composed on the ball with an 87% pass success rate.

Action LFC Plessis
Plessis in action against Birmingham

Benitez was also impressed after the Frenchman’s debut, “We knew when we signed him that he was a good player. He’s played really well for the Reserves and to play as well as he did today in this stadium, it shows we are going in the right direction.” 3 weeks later, Plessis was again called up for the game against Birmingham City. Plessis again had an impressive game, keeping possession and holding his own against a Birmingham side fighting for Premier League survival.

With all of Plessis’ impressive performances, there are however a few flaws to his game, but of course at his young age these flaws can be ironed out. One area of the pitch where he must improve on is his proficiency infront of goal. Plessis failed to make the back of the net last season, an area of the game which he must improve on this season. Another area of his game which has been well documented is he lacks a yard or two of pace. Apart from this, last season Plessis was one of the stand out players players for the Reserves last season, breaking up the opposition’s attacks and started his side moving forward.

During pre-season this year, speaking to L’Equipe about his expectation for the new season, Plessis commented ‘œI want to play, to play again, and to play as much as possible (laughs)! My plan is to perform well with my club in order to be called up again (with France Under-21). It’s up to me to do what it takes with Liverpool to carry on this way. The good thing with Rafael Benitez is that he doesn’t care whether a player is young or not. Everybody has equal chances.’

Date of birth: 5 March 1988
Place of birth: Neuville-aux-Bois, France
Height: 6ft 3in
Position: Holding Midfielder
Signed from:: Lyon (Aug 2007)
Debut: v Arsenal (a) 05.04.08
Squad Number: 28

Plessis featured in all of Liverpool’s first team pre-season games this season against Tranmere, Lucerne, Wisla Krakow, Hertha Berlin, Villareal, Glasgow Rangers, Valerenga, and Lazio. He then got his big chance to impress in the first team when Mascherano and Lucas were away on Olympic commitments at the start of the season. He started the Champions League qualifier with Standard Liege, protecting the defence well and keeping his passes simple.

He then got another chance in the following match in our 1-0 win over Sunderland. Plessis partnered Gerrard in the center of midfield but was replaced at half time. Although Rafa revealed after the game Plessis had picked up an injury, he failed to impress with the game seeming to pass him by, however, he did have an impressive amount of time on the ball and made quite a few good passes and a few good tackles as well.

After the Sunderland game, forum member Ulster Red wrote:

“Very few youngsters can come into a top team and shine and those who do are full of self belief as well as possessing an incredible talent. Whilst Plessis has not set the world alight, he has proved that he can cope at this level. He has come in, kept things simple and played to his strengths. Until he becomes totally comfortable in the Premier League environment, we are not going to see the best of him. As he matures, he will take more risks with his passing and express himself more.”

On 23 September 2008, Plessis also featured in the Carling Cup game against Crewe Alexandra. He scored his first senior goal for the club in the next round of the Carling Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur on the 12 November 2008. Damien Plessis headed home from Ryan Babel’s corner when Spurs keeper, Gomes struggled at a ball whipped into the box.

However, Plessis has failed to live up to the expectations put on him after last seasons Reserves remarkable campaign and many fans feel he has not reproduced last seasons form for the Reserves this season. Plessis must now step up to the challenge and show Rafa Benitez he is ready for the first team this year…

Has Rafa found a real gem coming through the reserve ranks in Plessis? Can Plessis become a future Kop Star at Anfield? Has he got the potential to stake a more permanent spot in the Liverpool first team? Let us know here.