Last season, Brendan Rodgers gained something of a reputation for being willing to give Liverpool's most promising youngsters a chance to impress for the senior side. This year, with a little more depth at the manager's disposal, the club's most promising kids have found it a little harder to get a crack with the first team. It's hardly surprising, perhaps, but it has left some wondering just where all the future superstars have gone.
Andre Wisdom and Suso have of course had to go out on loan to find significant playing time due to the club's summer signing, with Suso in particular impressing for Almeria, and until the last few weeks Raheem Sterling had barely seen any action in his second full year as a senior player. Now, though, with both Sterling and 20-year-old Jon Flanagan seeing—and likely to keep seeing—significant minutes, that's all starting to change again.
As was the case last season, their opportunities with the first team are being driven at least in part by necessity, as a congested fixture list and mounting injuries leave the club thin at fullback and on the wing. Still, that Sterling is playing ahead of Victor Moses and Flanagan ahead of Aly Cissokho does suggest it isn't only necessity driving Rodgers to select them. Now, a few more are set to get a chance, at least on the training pitch.
"We’ve had Jordan and Brad training with us, two outstanding young players," said Rodgers after prospects Jordan Rossiter and Brad Smith were called up to train with the senior squad over the coming weeks. "Brad has been out for a long time with an injury but he’s got a lot of the attributes to play for Liverpool. He’s super quick, gets high up the pitch naturally and wants to attack but can defend as well."
After being included in 2012's pre-season tour, Smith missed more than a year of action with a torn anterior cruciate ligament that limited him to 13 youth appearances last season. Having returned to action in October, the Australian left back has since spent time training as a right winger, leading to some uncertainty over which role the Liverpool coaching staff see him projecting to at the senior level.
"Jordan’s got the tools to be a Liverpool player [too]," added Rodgers of 16-year-old midfielder Jordan Rossiter. "I looked at him in training on Friday playing with first-team players and I thought ‘there’s a boy who you can take to Stamford Bridge and he’ll fight and pass and put his foot in.' It’s something I’ll look closely at."
Perhaps the most promising local currently working his way through Liverpool's academy, earlier in the year Robbie Fowler suggested Rossiter has the potential to become the next Steven Gerrard. Though the midfielder shows flashes of attacking talent at the youth level, many expect Rossiter's future to involve sitting a little deeper than Gerrard and comparisons to Lucas may be more apt if nearly as hyperbolic.
Whether either sees the bench in the coming weeks—let alone sees is handed a senior debut—remains anybody's guess. For those keeping an eye on what kind of chances the kids are getting under Brendan Rodgers, though, it will be another positive moment to see two of the academy's brighter talents given the chance to at least train for a little while with the senior squad.
Meanwhile, some of Liverpool's other promising youngsters are in action today in the FA Youth Cup, where the club's U18s will take on Blackpool. The match kicks off at 7PM GMT/2PM EST and can be seen on LFCTV live and online.