News of Martin Kelly's contract extension was roundly welcomed given the form he's displayed over the past few seasons, with displays from right-back showing promise and potential as well as enough skill to be effective now. He's had--and still has--more than a few rough edges, but largely he's been solid, allowing many the luxury of penciling him in at fullback for years to come. And now with a longer-term deal, those discussions aren't hypothetical anymore.
It's good news, of course, as he's clearly talented and, if there's anything in his manager's comments, there's a chance he could feature at fullback or in central defense. Those are both areas that are in need of strengthening anyway, but signing him on for the future allows Brendan Rodgers to have a player that can do a job across the back four in the event that the club were in any sort of fitness emergency.
Which brings up one of the only problems with Martin Kelly--after a stop-start beginning to his football career because of back problems, he worked his way through the ranks at Liverpool and, after a loan spell at Huddersfield, made his first start in the 2009-2010 season. A groin injury kept him out shortly after, however, and in each of the next two seasons he'd spend significant chunks of time on the treatment table as well, both times with hamstring injuries. This year was arguably the worst of the lot, with a torn ACL against Manchester United ruling him out for the rest of the season.
That's a concerning string of injuries whether or not he's adaptable, but speaking the day after signing his new contract, he's confident that his return will see a better patch of fitness:
"Today shows the faith that the club have in me and that the hard work I have put in since I was young has paid off. Hopefully I'll put the injuries behind me. We have excellent medical staff here, who are going to work with me and keep me on top of my injury. I'll be coming back even stronger."
Not to sound overly harsh, but if the signing's going to prove to be a good bit of business, he'll have to. The club have struggled for a number of years to have reliable depth at the back, and an investment made in his future has to come along with the expectancy that he'll actually be able to play. I'd doubt the wages are astronomically high, but the commitment from the club is one that's made with the assumption that he'll be playing out his contract rather than receiving treatment for most of it.
At just 22, Martin Kelly falls in the category of those we discussed in the first part of yesterday's post--young, talented, and no questions about whether or not he can have a positive impact on the first team. He can't have that impact if he's not fit, though, and that's the only question left for him to answer.