"It’s great to be back involved at Liverpool and it’s going really well," said Steve McManaman when asked by the Liverpool Echo about his return to the club in a mentoring role for U21 and U18 academy midfielders. Brendan Rodgers invited McManaman to join the club's academy staff along with Robbie Fowler and Rob Jones at the start of the month, and since then the trio have been on hand to give advice to youngsters at their former positions.
"Robbie, Rob and myself were all flattered to be asked by Brendan and we’re just there to help in any way we can," he added. "We’ve all got other commitments as well so it’s a flexible arrangement where we’re able to go down whenever we want. Alex Inglethorpe and Neil Critchley are the main men. They are the coaches and they take the sessions. We’re there to contribute if we see anything we think the youngsters could work on to become better players."
News of Kenny Dalglish's recent return has somewhat overshadowed that of the three ex-players now helping out at the academy, but all are moves that speak to the club's efforts to re-embrace its past in a way that felt somewhat lost when Fenway Sports Group decided they weren't willing to allow Dalglish any further time to build a new-look Liverpool side around now departed signings Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, and Andy Carroll.
"Robbie and myself both joined Liverpool as young kids, we’ve been through that process of working your way up through the system and then making that jump into the first-team squad," continued McManaman. "If any of the kids want to ask questions or bounce ideas off us we’re there. They’ve got our phone numbers. There’s some real talent coming through and if we can help in a small way with that extra 2% that can make the difference then it will be worth it.
"It’s [also] a great opportunity that Brendan has given us as former players. Coaching is something I’m looking at. I went over to Ireland a few years ago to do the B Licence. Robbie is further down the road than Rob or I as he’s trying to get his A Licence at the moment. I’m just trying to learn as much as possible off the great coaches at the Academy. I’m picking up ideas off Alex and Neil."
As for the first team, McManaman thinks Rodgers has Liverpool moving in the right direction again, with the former winger and midfielder especially impressed by the instant impact made by some of the club's summer signings. Add back in the injured players who should be ready to return soon, and McManaman sees plenty of room for optimism in the coming months.
"Brendan’s signings have really strengthened the team," he said. "Simon Mignolet has done really well, Mamadou Sakho has slotted in well at the back, and to get Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea was a great piece of business. I love the way Brendan has got the team playing, and they’ve got the likes of Glen Johnson and Philippe Coutinho to come back into the team over the coming weeks.
"When everyone is back the manager has got real competition for places so it looks very promising. Going forward they’re such a threat. They always look like they are going to score goals."