Liverpool midfielder Kevin Stewart has expressed his determination to stay and fight for his place, despite speculation over his future this summer.
Stewart made just nine appearances for the Reds in 2016/17, playing a mere 16 minutes over four outings in the Premier League.
Of those to feature last season, only the injury-plagued Ovie Ejaria (six) played fewer minutes in the league than the 23-year-old, reduced to a peripheral role.
This was compounded by a disappointing hernia problem suffered towards the end of the campaign, and now Stewart is widely expected to leave the club before the upcoming season.
But despite suggestions Brighton & Hove Albion, Stoke City and Burnley are all interested in securing his services, Stewart’s sole focus is on regaining his place under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
“Trying to break through, trying to stay fit and trying to be ready for when I’m called upon [is my aim],” he said.
“Next season there are going to be a lot of games, especially if we qualify for the Champions League.
“So I just want to keep fit in the summer, work hard and then see where the season takes us.
“That’s the thing that keeps me going—I’ve done it before, so I know it’s possible.
“I see the players I train with and they’re amazing players I’m competing with and playing with, but I will keep believing because I’ve been through it before.”
Stewart’s testimony that he has endured similar strife already in his career is accurate, having fought his way into contention on Merseyside after a series of low-level loan spells.
Before his debut for the Reds, Stewart spent time with Cheltenham Town, Burton Albion and Swindon Town, and before that, was released by Tottenham in 2014.
The midfielder is also right to suggest Liverpool’s increased schedule will require a larger squad, with Klopp’s side contending on four fronts next season.
But whether he will be given the opportunity to do so, with the likes of Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Georginio Wijnaldum and Philippe Coutinho all ahead of him, is questionable.
If Brighton are interested in bringing Stewart to the AMEX Stadium, for example, it may provide the boyhood Liverpool supporter with an opening, as he looks to establish himself at the top level.
Turning 24 in September, this is a crucial juncture for Stewart, and assessing his options would be wise.
However, it should be commended that Liverpool’s No. 35 is still determined to fight for his place.