Last season, youngsters Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, and Suso saw regular action for Liverpool in the league. In part it was thanks to what was at the time a dangerously thin squad forcing their inclusion, something that has since been largely remedied, but it still gave new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers something of a reputation for being willing to gamble on youth.
"Jordon is only 17 years of age and even Raheem is only 18," said Rodgers when asked about the limited first team chances for two of the club's most impressive youngsters so far this season. "We can't forget that. We don't want to rush these young players' development even though we want young players to come through and we want to put them in the first team. We've done that over the course of the last year or so.
"But it is also important to understand that it comes at different stages for some players. Jordon has been in and around the first team for most of the season but there is probably going to come a stage where he needs to go out and play games and feel the pressure, but at 17 years of age, he is still developing."
The calls for Jordon Ibe to see the pitch have mostly stayed muted with Liverpool averaging two points per game and still in the top four conversation a quarter of the way through the season. When it comes to Stering, though, it can be hard to escape the mindset that says since he was a first team regular last season at 17 and stuck in the reserves now that he's 18, something must have gone wrong along the way.
"Look at Raheem's progress and what he's done in the last year or so," Rodgers added, further preaching time, patience, and the acceptance it's almost never a case of going straight from the reserves to superstardom. "He has propelled himself from a youth team and reserve player to an England player. But they still have a long way to go in their professional careers and at this stage we're just looking to manage that and make sure we nurture that for the future.
"Over the last year or so they have seen that they are going to get an opportunity and if they can devote their life, be professional, and take the opportunities when they come then they are going to have an excellent chance. You just have to give them the time and understanding. There are not going to be too many 17 or 18-year-olds ready for the first team, but we want them to be at 20 or 21."
It's been easy to forget at times, especially in the case of Sterling, just how young some of Liverpool's talented reserve players still are. A long season and the inevitability of injuries means both are almost certain to see a bit of action before everything's said and done, but there are still a few years to go before one would expect either should have begun to force their way into the starting conversation for an improved side.
"Obviously I’ve not played as much as I would have liked so far this season but as long as the team is winning and doing well I’m happy," was Sterling's measured take on the difficulty he's had finding minutes this season. "Everyone wants to play, but I’m not in any rush. If I’m picked then it’s up to me to prove I deserve to be in the starting XI and that I can get back to where I was last year."
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