Liverpool’s 22-year-old midfielder Kevin Stewart has today signed a four-year deal that signals the club believe the youngster has a first team future at Anfield after impressing new manager Jürgen Klopp first in training and then in five first team appearances so far this season.
It’s something not many would have expected when Stewart signed a two-year deal with the club in 2014 after being released by Tottenham Hotspur. At the time, he was seen as something of a defensive utility player, not quite physical enough to play at centre half but not quite fast enough to have a future at fullback.
Tottenham’s expectations were so low that they were content to let his contract run down, with the assumption being he might find a home in League One or Two. Instead, youth coach Michael Beale—who worked with Stewart at Tottenham before he moved to the Reds—pushed Liverpool to sign him.
"It shows they believe in me and believe that I could go on to become a good player for them," said Stewart of the club’s decision to hand him a four-year contract. "It has just given me confidence in myself and the security of time to prove myself and get better with good coaches and good players."
Part of that confidence, and part of the reason Liverpool have handed Stewart a new deal, comes from a move this season to midfield. Stewart had looked a player without a natural position at Liverpool much like he had at Tottenham, but a series of injuries early in the season pushed him up the pitch.
He hasn’t looked back, seizing the opportunity and impressing Liverpool’s reserve and first team coaching staff with strong performances in the middle of the pitch. If he is to have a long-term future in the Premier League, it now appears clear that it will be there and not at either centre half or fullback.
"I’ve really enjoyed the battle and the challenges that have come from changing positions," Stewart added. "I’ve found it really exciting. I enjoy it more than fullback now, always in the action. It’s more of a battle and you see more of the ball, but I wouldn’t write off [ever] playing as a fullback.
"I like to think of myself as someone who can play both when needed, [but] I want to be seen as a midfielder first who can play fullback"