The step up from youth level standout to senior level contributor is a massive one, and one the overwhelming majority of youth prospects fail to ever make. The pace is faster, the opposition equal parts more wily and violent, the schedule is tighter, and the goal becomes to win, not just develop.
Despite big investments in their academy, Liverpool has struggled in the past to produce first teamers from their own ranks, recent graduates Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe notwithstanding. Part of the issue has been players remaining stuck in the youth and reserve leagues for too long, making the leap to the Pace and Power™ of the Premier League much too steep.
Last season marked a change in approach, as younger players were sent out on senior loans to gain the much needed experience. This season the trend has continued, with the club sending fifteen players on out loan, ten of which are twenty-one or younger.
Ryan Kent makes it sixteen. The speedy, two-footed winger has been quietly developing into quite the prospect in the shadows of more lauded talents like Harry Wilson, Sheyi Ojo, Sergi Canos and Jerome Sinclair, and has Coventry manager Tony Mowbray all kinds of excited.
"Ryan is a player we've been tracking for some time and we're really excited about his potential.
"With the injury to James Maddison, I felt it was important to bring in a player of a similar ilk and someone who possesses that technical ability in forward areas.
"He can handle the ball, play off both feet, play anywhere behind the main striker and has plenty of pedigree having featured for the England Under-20s last week.
"There is a lot of competition in the squad at the moment but we hope he can come here and enjoy the environment we've created, and flourish."
While League One is a few steps away from the Premier League in quality, it's certainly miles away from youth football, and Coventry seem to be at the upper echelons of it this season. And at only eighteen years of age, Kent has plenty of time to develop into a starting-caliber player for his parent club. This is about as good of a next step as he could have hoped for.
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