In all the talk of Daniel Sturridge’s impending return from injury, Jon Flangan has found himself rather lost in the mix. The 22-year-old fullback, though, is similarly nearing a return following a pre-season knee injury that has seen him miss the entire season so far. Flanagan is expected back in training within the next two weeks, and by this time next month the player hopes to be back in action.
"I’ve been out for what has felt like a really long time," Flanagan told the club’s official magazine. "It’s been very frustrating. When the rest of the lads have been travelling to away games, I’ve been having treatment or doing rehab work. That’s one of the downsides of football that people don’t see. Once you are injured, your schedule changes completely. It’s not nice but it has to be done and will be worth all the effort in the end."
Whereas Sturridge will likely walk back into the starting lineup once fit, part of the reason Flanagan’s injury has seen fewer fans obsessing about his status is that fullback is one of the deeper areas of the squad this season. Brendan Rodgers may have chosen to deploy midfield players at wingback in recent weeks, but rather than being due to a lack of natural options it has been a tactical choice by the Liverpool manager.
Flanagan got his break last season when injuries and a shallow depth chart conspired to hand him the chance to prove his worth. In the summer, though, the arrival of Alberto Moreno and Javi Manquillo meant that, along with Flanagan and veterans Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, there were five players fighting for the two positions. On the strength of his performances last season, Flanagan would have at least been in the mix.
He wouldn’t have been a lock to start, though, which has made his ensuing absence a little easier to take from a footballing standpoint, even if it was disappointing to see a player who grew up within sight of Anfield losing out on the chance to build on last season. Yet even having missed most of the season, Flanagan isn’t worried about the competition, and he’s looking forward to getting back into the action and again proving he belongs.
"When I saw that we signed two fullbacks, I immediately thought, ‘I need to up my game now,’" he said. "I know I need to consistently do well if I’m to get in the team and then stay there. I want to keep developing as a footballer. That’s why not being available has been so frustrating. But competition for places doesn’t bother me. I’m always up for the fight."