For a club as steeped in history as Liverpool, there's a natural hope that history's younger sibling, legacy, maintains an unbroken thread from one generation of players to the next. It's not just the passing of club philosophy or attitude from era to era that's important, but the enduring wish for there to always be a Merseyside local somewhere in the starting eleven.
With the firing of two Academy staff last week and the oft-cited stat that no Academy graduate since Gerrard has made any significant impact on the team, there has been a lingering spectre of doubt as to whether or not Liverpool could eventually become a club for which there isn't a Scouser playing a major part. That would be a very Modern Football™ situation for the club to find itself in, but Jamie Carragher's retirement last season and Steven Gerrard's own not being all that far off put the club much closer to that reality than not.
Young Jon Flanagan's sudden ascendancy into the first team would give the doubters temporary pause on this front, though. While it's unrealistic and perhaps a tad unfair to expect anyone to hit the heights Gerrard did as an Academy graduate, Flanagan's assuredness on the pitch in his last two outings allowed many to experience the most fleeting of feelings in football: optimism. With Martin Kelly existing in a semi-permanent state of injury and invisibility, Flanagan increasingly looks like Liverpool's best bet at maintaining an unbroken Scouse supply line to the first team.
“You look at our team and our star man for me was Jon Flanagan by a country mile,” Gerrard told the Liverpool Echo after the match against Everton. “He doesn't get many headlines but as captain of the team he was the player I am most proud of.
"I thought he was unbelievable. He's been fighting hard in training just to get in the 18, never mind the starting 11, but the manager threw him in at the deep end against a top class player like Kevin Mirallas and I thought he was sensational. It was one of the best derby performances I have seen for many years."
High praise indeed coming from the captain himself, and certainly not an exaggeration designed to bolster a young man's confidence. There is no room for anything but the truth in a derby, and Flanagan was second only to Simon Mignolet on the day. The importance of the derby to the local element of the club — both the players and the fans — isn't one to be underestimated and the intangible qualities that Gerrard sees in Flanagan are the same as those who served another local lad well in past clashes.
“He reminds me of (Jamie) Carragher in a lot of ways," Gerrard continued. "I don't think you would judge Jon in terms of ability or skill, but he is all about heart, desire, determination and fighting for the cause. He's a Liverpool fan like myself so I know what it meant to him to come into a derby and finish as our man of the match by a mile.
“I didn't have to say anything to Jon before the game. He's a local lad and you don't need to tell them what the derby means. He's known what to expect from an early age. Jon was on the front foot, he was aggressive. He did exactly what the manager told him to do before kick-off. He asked him to be positive and anticipate the danger. He was brilliant."
To be spoken of in the same breath as Jamie Carragher will likely give Flanno a big thrill; it's not every day your talismanic captain compares you to the hero you nearly killed in a collision two years earlier. It may be a wee bit premature to label Flanno as the unlikely heir to Carra, but there's a lovely enthusiasm surrounding the player at the moment that he'd do well to drink in while he can.
“All of the players gave him a round of applause when he came in the dressing room afterwards,” Gerrard added. Seems the rest of Flanagan's non-Scouse teammates are not immune to a bit of a love-in themselves.