Liverpool’s youth team takes on Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup at Anfield this Sunday, 13th March (12pm kick-off).
With the rising costs of wages and transfer fees, never before has the need to develop youth talent been required more than now. With even average players commanding fees far above their true worth, a stable and productive youth policy can be an invaluable asset to provide alternatives to the immense transfer fees that experienced international players cost.
Here, we look at six of the best talents and Kirkby and Melwood, and the six players who could be the next to make the breakthrough at Anfield. Currently working with John McMahon and Rodolfo Borrell and the rest of the youth and reserve staff, you can read below about my top 6 tips for our next first teams stars.
Jason Banton joined Liverpool from Blackburn Rovers in January, and will be eager to impress with a deal until the end of the season. Banton, a fast and skilful winger cum striker, started his career at the Emirates Stadium, where he played in the same youth team as current England international Jack Wilshere. He left Arsenal at age 16, when he joined Blackburn, and he put in several eye-catching performances in the Ewood Park club’s run to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup in 2010.
Currently with the U18s, and training with John McMahon’s Reserves team, he made his Liverpool debut in the rout of Southend in the Youth Cup recently.
A great crosser of the ball, with excellent technique and a vast range of tricks, Jason will be looking to make great strides and to secure a contract for next season, and rumours are circulating that Paul Sturrock is also looking at the possibility of taking Jason on loan to Southend to aid his development.
16 year old schoolboy Raheem Sterling joined Liverpool from QPR in February last year, for a fee which could eventually rise to more than £5 millions. The Jamaican born winger has long been regarded as one of the hottest properties in England, and former LFC manager Rafa Benitez moved quickly to sign up the talented youngster.
Sterling was thrust into the spotlight last month when scoring 5 goals against Southend in the 9-0 youth cup thrashing, displaying an eagerness to attack his opponents, great pace and dribbling skills, and some great finishing. On the back of this performance and his exploits for the Under 18’s, Sterling was selected to travel with the squad for the Europa League tie with Sparta Prague, but didn’t make the appearance the media was craving, which would have made him Liverpool’s youngest ever first team player.
He made his first team debut at 15 in the pre season friendly with Borussia Monchengladbach as a substitute, and it is surely only a matter of time before he makes his full Premier League debut. Rodolfo Borrell doesn’t think it will be long before he is taking on the best of the best, and Sterling has all the talent to be one of the great Liverpool FC players. The England Youth international has also been sounded out as a future first team star by Kenny Dalglish. Watch this space.
Liverpool U18 and England U17 skipper Conor is a versatile Centre Midfielder or Centre back, making great strides at Kirkby. Conor has represented England at several levels, culminating in captaining England to their first European Championship in 2010.
He made his debut for the reserves in 2010, and is very reminiscent of a young Steven Gerrard. Hard in the tackle, with a great engine and a superb passer of the ball, Conor will be looking to make the breakthrough to the First Team set up over the forthcoming 12-18 months. A Natural leader, Coady has also tasted success with Liverpool, helping the reserves to a senior cup double in 2010.
Jesús Fernández Sáez, or more commonly known as Suso, arrived from Cadiz in the summer of 2010. Like Sterling he has also made his first team bow, also against Borussia Monchengladbach in 2010 pre-season. A key member of John McMahon’s reserves, Suso is making a big name for himself at Melwood, turning in constantly impressive performances, with some great goals to boot.
Playing just behind the strikers, many people have made the comparisons with Jari Litmanen, as a player to unlock even the tightest back-line. A host of tricks and the ability to play that killer pass mark Suso as one of the brightest talents at Liverpool.
After signing a professional contract on his 17th birthday in November 2010, he is now tied to the club until 2013. Suso himself revealed his ambition when asked about signing his first deal.
“I feel very happy. I want to be here a lot of years. I want to go on and play for Liverpool’s first team, playing in every game,” he said.
“But if I want to have that I have to work harder and do my very best every day, in every training session.”
At 16 years and 250 days, Jack Robinson broke a 36 year record in 2010 by becoming Liverpool’s youngest ever player on the final day of last season against Hull City at the KC Stadium
The Warrington native, a cultured and promising left-back was rewarded by Rafa Benitez for some great performances in Rodolfo Borrell’s U18’s. Robinson is solid in defence, and loves to get forward and assist the attack. Robinson also made to trip to Prague in February 2010 with Raheem Sterling and Conor Coady, but was not selected to play. Robinson is still yet to appear for the reserves, which makes his progress even more of a success story, and a great tribute to all the coaches at the academy.
An England U17 team mate of Conor Coady, Jack will be looking to cement his reserve place this season, to set himself up to challenge for the First Team Setup.
Toni Silva, the 17 year old Portuguese winger of Guinean descent, joined Liverpool from Benfica in 2009 for a fee of £300,000. Also courted by Chelsea and several top European Clubs, Liverpool beat off the competition to secure Silva’s services. He actually played against Liverpool’s youth team whilst on trial for Fulham in 2009. Silva was outstanding that night, and Liverpool immediately took Silva to Kirkby from the Estadio Da Luz.
A winger by trade, who can play on either flank, Silva is a very skilful player who loves taking on opposition full backs and utilising his dribbling skills. He is reminiscent of his countryman Cristiano Ronaldo in the way he attacks defenders, and Liverpool fans will be hoping he can prove to be as big a talent as the Real Madrid star.
Currently with the U18’s. Silva has starred in the Youth League and Cup Competitions, scoring many goals and providing assists, alongside several eye catching performances.