At the start of the season, few would have pinned any of their hopes for Liverpool's success on Jon Flanagan. The 21-year-old fullback was on the fringes of the youth team, never as highly regarded as prospects both ahead of and behind him. A solid career in and around the Championship level after his days at the club eventually ended seemed, to most at least, the likely career trajectory.
He might have been a local product, and he could certainly be counted on to put in the effort, but then the same could have been said for Jay Spearing before him. And of course, in a year or two, the same might well still be said of Flanagan. For now, though, hopes for his career have unexpectedly been raised rather higher than Championship journeyman, and Flanagan is embracing them.
"I’m feeling more confident now I’ve had a run of games," he said in a recent interview with broadcaster ITV. "Maybe last year I didn’t feel like part of the squad but now I’m in the team and having a good run so I’m feeling a lot better and more confident. To be a local lad and support Liverpool all your life and to go on to play for them is a dream come true for me, really."
Having already made Aly Cissokho surplus to requirements at the club, Flanagan is set to play a key role in Liverpool's unlikely title challenge in a season when most were hoping just to be in contention for the top four with ten games remaining. Liverpool are still outsiders to win it all, but with a Champions League place seeming increasingly secure, the goal is pushing even further up the table.
"It’s on my mind and I think it’s on a lot of the lads’ minds that we could be up there at the end," added Flanagan of Liverpool's title chances, "but our priority was top four and if we can push on I’d be delighted with that."
He's certainly not the only one who would be delighted if the club could push on for more even than the top four—or the only one enjoying his unexpected rise from fringe player to playing a major role Liverpool's hopes of doing just that.