From Spare Part to First Choice, Flanagan Continues to Impress

Paul Gilham

Starting the season as an afterthought, Jon Flanagan has become one of Liverpool's most important players in the absence of Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, and the young fullback is determined to keep going.

After using November's derby match against Everton to put his name in the running for Liverpool's surprise of the season, Jon Flanagan returned to the starting lineup after missing a month with a hamstring injury against the same opponents. And once again, the results were impressive, with the young fullback most had long assumed didn't have a future at the club making another strong case to change opinions.

"It's great for me as a local lad," a jubilant Flanagan told LFCTV following Tuesday's thumping 4-0 victory. "These are the games that you want to win. To come out 4-0 winners was just brilliant for all the lads. It's great for me that the manager believes in me and he's thrown me in for these big games. It's great that he's shown his faith in me and hopefully I can keep going."

Over the summer, few would have counted Flanagan amongst the club's top four fullbacks. Now, with his impressive form and injuries to Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, he finds himself at the top of the depth chart on both sides of the pitch. Despite his rapid and rather unexpected ascent, Flanagan isn't taking his newfound status as one of the club's most important players for granted.

"My objective is to take each game as it comes," he said. "I was back in the side against Everton and it was just great to be back playing again. We'll go again against West Brom on Sunday. We just need to keep going and hopefully I'll keep playing. I think we made a statement tonight. We showed what we can do and we showed that we're not going to lie down easily. We want this fourth spot."

With Johnson out indefinitely and Martin Kelly struggling to rediscover his best form, Flanagan is likely to have an extended, uncontested run as the club's first choice right back. Having shown he can also fill in on the left, if he continues to play the way he has when given the chance this season, it's not impossible to imagine Liverpool heading into next season with Flanagan the first option to fill in at either position.

Few would be willing to project him as a long-term starter for a side that wants to establish itself back in the top four and compete for silverware domestically and in Europe, but then two months ago few would have been willing to suggest Flanagan had any kind of long-term future at the club. Having already changed a lot of minds on that front, it might be unwise to keep talking about Flanagan's future in absolutes.

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