At the start of the season, no one would have guessed that Jon Flanagan would become a mainstay in Liverpool's starting eleven, let alone that he would regularly do it in such a convincing fashion. Flanagan has been flattered regularly by everyone from his captain Steven Gerrard to former teammate and current retiree Jamie Carragher, but it's his manager's praise that will have the most tangible benefit when it takes the form of a new contract for the young player.
"He reminded me of Steve Nicol against Manchester United on Sunday – a right-footed player on the left side, steady, aggressive, no fear; he's been a revelation, and particularly in the big games. It's great when you see a young player develop like that. You can see the confidence he has now. He has made himself an important member of the squad."
While it was a stroke of poor luck on Jose Enrique's part that allowed the young left back to step up and stake a claim on the position, it was Flanagan's Henderson-esque tenacity and dedication that kept him there ahead of teammate Aly Cissokho. It's unsurprising, as Brendan Rodgers has been very clear about the kind of attitude he values in his players, and it's an attitude he recognizes in Flanagan.
"I think the biggest thing for me has been his temperament," Rodgers added. "That is one of his attributes. He never really featured for me at all at the start. There was José Enrique and others considered in front of him but the most impressive thing for me was that the kid just kept going. He showed his determination.
"How I work is I will always give players an opportunity. I will never disregard players early, they will always have a chance to show that they care and they can improve and that is what he has done."
The new contract is a fitting reward for what's been an excellent year for a player still very much developing his craft. Aside from what it might mean to Flanagan personally, it's an incredibly positive reflection on the club from as well. Graduating players from the youth ranks into the senior team isn't an easy task and most won't make it, but with the club's stated goal to create a much more fluid pipeline from the academy to the senior team, Flanagan and teammate Raheem Sterling could very well be the initial trickle leading to a much larger burst of talent a few years down the road.