Can Nathan Eccleston make the grade under Rodgers?

Reserve and academy reporter Michael Sweeting takes a look at forward Nathan Eccleston who looked set to be leave the club this summer but is now impressing in training under new boss Brendan Rodgers.

IT’S the 11th November 2011 and League One Rochdale trail 1-0 to League Two strugglers Bradford City in the FA Cup First Round. Watching on from the bench, Nathan Eccleston must have wondered what was happening to his once promising career.

A succession of unsuccessful loan periods at footballing minnows Huddersfield, Charlton and Rochdale had seemingly ended any hope Nathan had of breaking through at Liverpool. Written off as too one-dimensional, too average and simply not good enough – the outlook was grim. Indeed many of the criticisms were fully justified; Eccleston showed a worrying tendency at childish outbursts (his twitter tirades were as legendary as Ryan Babel’s), he appeared reluctant to allow himself to be played as a winger and a goal return of five from thirty-six League One appearances was not a return expected of a potential first team Premier League player.

Fast forward eight months and Eccleston has forced himself back into the first team picture at Anfield. Scoring seven times for the reserves following his return from Rochdale; there was renewed steel and purpose about his play, interchanging brilliantly with Sterling and Suso, the threesome quickly became a frontline to be feared.

Now, with Rodgers’ apparent willingness to use the reserves in the squad, can Nathan Eccleston really turn around his career and establish himself in a red jersey? It would be a most unlikely success story, but on the face of it, there seems to be little reason why it could not happen… the talent is there – that much is clear for all regular reserve team observers – he can go on either foot, shoot accurately and has a strong physical presence that ruffles many centre backs. His major strength however would have to be his pace, best exemplified by his breakaway goal against Sunderland, which also happened to be the first game of the ‘new’ Nathan Eccleston following his Rochdale loan.

Pace, as proven by Rodger’s time at Swansea, is a crucial part of the new manager’s set up and Eccleston seems perfectly equipped to replicate the role of Scott Sinclair. They are similar in stature, build and speed, however with Nathan admittedly lacking match experience, but that is something that only match play will rectify.

While no one is suggesting that Eccleston should become a regular anytime soon, there is surely a persuasive case for this most intriguing talent to become a real squad player as part of the inevitable attacking trio Rodger’s will employ.

With a hat-trick in training on the first day of the USA Tour, it appears Eccleston is as hungry as ever to impress. If he puts in a similar performance against Toronto then it’s quite possible we will be seeing him for at least another year yet.

Whatever does happen to Eccleston in the weeks, months and years to come – a move to Peterborough United was touted and quickly refuted – Nathan can hold his head up high knowing he fought his way back from the dark days on Rochdale’s bench to become a genuine first team contender at Liverpool Football Club and here’s hoping he gets his reward.

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