Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has praised young full-back Jon Flanagan and reports on Friday suggest the 21-year-old is to be rewarded for his good form with a new contract.
When Flanagan was given a surprise recall to the Liverpool first-team against Arsenal in early November, making his first Premier League start since April 2012, not many would have predicted the trajectory his season would take from there.
Out of position in that game, deputising for late illness victim Glen Johnson at right wing-back, Flanagan did nothing wrong but didn’t impress either.
Until the Merseyside derby three weeks later. This time, Flanno was again deputising in an unfamiliar role – starting at left-back after Rodgers’ patience with Aly Cissokho had been lost.
Flanagan was a revelation and since then he’s solidified his place in the starting eleven, making 15 starts this season and putting in numerous memorable performances.
From his goal at Tottenham to his performance at Old Trafford last week – which saw him named in stats website WhoScored.com’s ‘European Team of the Week’ – Flanno has become a cult hero at Anfield.
“He has been outstanding,” praised Rodgers on Thursday, speaking to The Telegraph. “He reminded me of Steve Nicol against Manchester United on Sunday – a right-footed player on the left side, steady, aggressive, no fear; he’s been a revelation, and particularly in the big games.”
Nicol made 468 appearances for Liverpool in a career spanning 14 seasons, collecting five league winner’s medals, three FA Cups and one European Cup – if Flanagan goes on to have anywhere near that kind of success, it will be a welcome sight on Merseyside.
“He has made himself an important member of the squad,” says Rodgers.
“If he keeps his focus and keeps working well he can do that [be a fixture in the side for years].”
Does this mean that Flanagan has forced his way into the manager’s long-term plans?
Great credit has to go to Flanno. Had a tough season last year but worked really hard between injuries on expanding his skill set.
— Michael Sweeting (@M_Sweeting) March 20, 2014
I personally never expected Flanagan to become a long-term solution to either of the full-back positions. I thought at best he’d be able to become a very solid deputy on either side, getting plenty of appearances, especially when back in Europe, but never being seen as first choice.
But, just as Jamie Carragher eventually did, could Flanagan become a key component of the starting XI?
“He thought the opportunity might have passed him by but now he is grabbing it with both hands and doesn’t want to let it go” explains Rodgers. “You can see the hunger and his quality in his performances.”
That hunger has certainly been a key driver in Flanagan’s improved performances and mentality.
As some have rightly pointed out, if Flanagan were a 21-year-old German impressing in the Bundesliga, he’d be the subject of ‘scout reports’ on Liverpool fans sites and Liverpool would be scouting the player as a potential signing in an area that we definitely need strengthening.
Can’t help feel if he was called Juan rather than Jon, more would purr at his technical soundness. We do overlook our own quite a bit.
— Chris Bascombe (@_ChrisBascombe) March 20, 2014
Rodgers has consistently repeated his desire to bring through players from the academy and not just to make up the numbers in the first team squad. Flanagan could be the first one that we never really expected that to happen to.
Credit must go to both Flanagan and Rodgers if that does happen.