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Realising Potential

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The irrepressible energy of youth at Liverpool Football Club is one of the driving forces behind the rehabilitation of a season that had looked all but over but now promises so much.

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The lads had heard that Enrique was looking for someone to be the new Suso. Phil would protect them.
The lads had heard that Enrique was looking for someone to be the new Suso. Phil would protect them.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

When Oscar Wilde said that "youth is wasted on the young," the endlessly epigrammatic Irishman may well have been feeling the unwelcome advances of Father Time, for there is nothing quite as morbidly melancholy as a man who knows his salad days have ended, but the famous wit was also making a very valid point about appreciating what is good while we have it. There are those youngsters, however, who make ample use of the advantages afforded by their juvenescence.

Confucius, a Chinese philosopher of far more conviction than his name suggests, is another gent whose sage utterances are just as widely abused as poor Oscar's, but he was correct when he counselled that "a youth is to be treated with respect. How do we know that his future will not be equal to our present?" How indeed? One can only hope that the likes of BT Sport's screeching stuffed shirt, Robbie Savage, will take that on board when next they feel inclined to lambaste a young player from the cozy confines of their ex-pro boy's club den.

Thankfully, there are more far-sighted and forgiving souls engaged in the actual game itself and Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers is a coach noted for his willingness to give youth a chance to flourish. This brave and laudable attitude has paid off handsomely for the Antrim man with a striking amount of fledgling superstars staking first team places over the course of his tenure. John Flanagan, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Javier Manquillo, Lazar Markovic, Alberto Moreno and Jordon Ibe are amongst those who have been trusted with responsibility by the manager, and all have responded, at various paces, in a positive fashion. Other academy kids like Jordans Williams and Rossiter have also tasted first team action and there is a clear pathway visible for the best of the club's youthful talent, in a way that is not necessarily the case at other clubs.

A pleasing by-product of the policy adopted by the manager is that the atmosphere around Melwood reflects that charge of energy which one associates with callow beginners. This vibrancy is matched only by the love-in amongst the players, who seem to appreciate each others talents tremendously. The aforementioned Moreno, effectively a mainstay in Rodgers' new system despite his comparative inexperience, seems a particularly ebullient character. A player as likely to appear in the opposition's penalty area as he is to sweep in and cover the defensive lapses of a colleague, Moreno embodies the vim and vigour of Liverpool 2.0. On the topic of his recent teammate, Jordon Ibe, the Spaniard is thoroughly impressed by what the exciting forward has brought to the squad.

"He is still so young and is showing his value already," Moreno insisted to the official website. "He's young, strong and fast -- and he can play brilliantly using both feet. As well as that, he is from the Liverpool Academy and the fans enjoy having a first-team player from the club's Academy. I bet he will turn out to be a very important player for Liverpool and a great footballer."

There was more enthusiastic eulogising to come from the full back when his new dance partner, Daniel Sturridge, is mentioned. To witness the defender, his tongue sticking earnestly out like a child with a crayon, as he tried to body pop alongside Liverpool's lethal striker, was to see the physical manifestation of that youthfully gleeful spirit. For Moreno, and his fellow squad members no doubt, having Sturridge back is a timely fillip and a reason to believe in the remaining potential of the season.

"You just have to watch him play to see how important he is," averred the unnerving mix of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso. "After being injured for so long, he scored a goal with his second touch [against West Ham]. You can see the type of footballer he is from that. Sturridge is a top player and everyone on the team was wishing he returned as soon as possible -- and he's done brilliantly. He's a very important player for the team."

If Liverpool are to fully realise the promise of this partially rehabilitated season, they will need the likes of Ibe and Sturridge to play with the kind of élan they have already shown. With Besiktas to come on Thursday in the Europa League and the confirmation of a an FA Cup quarter final home draw against Blackburn, Rodgers' men are still in with a shout of silverware, and the first of those famous old pots also brings with it the tantalising prize of Champions League football in the campaign to come. The Turkish side are top of their country's Super League and although they don't boast too many household names, they do have a prolific former Chelsea man leading their attack. Speaking following a dramatic win, Demba Ba, spoke modestly of himself in the third person, before reminding Liverpool fans of his contribution to their title collapse last season.

"Demba Ba did not win the match, we won as a unit and this includes the fans," he said. "Without their non-stop backing, none of this could happen. We showed our true colours down the stretch. I must admit I was a bit excited when taking that penalty shot. As a team, we truly enjoy what we are doing. It is going to be a fun trip to Liverpool because I love playing in England. The atmosphere at Anfield is going to be amazing as it always is. I did my job against Liverpool last season, Gerrard was just unlucky, I did what I had to and hope to do the same this time around."

Oh Demba, you had to bring up the slip, didn't you? That was a faux pas by the Frenchman, motivationally speaking. The peregrine attacker does not seem to realise that, in a clear indicator of the camaraderie earlier spoken of, the Liverpool squad have made it their overtly stated mission in life to help Steven Gerrard attain some final glory before he departs for the United States. Now, with two trophies to battle for and a top four position within reach, a season that had a forlorn look to it is once more infused with the giddy thrill of promise and we have yet to delve into the treasure trove of potential glee that is the imminent Premier League return of  gilet-fancying guff merchant, Tim Sherwood. Heady days, indeed.