Whilst the Reds will have been disappointed to see their U19 side knocked out of next Gen via a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham in the Quarter finals, there’s still a major positive that Liverpool can take from their time in this competition. The rise to prominence of 17-year-old Raheem Sterling, who really made a name for himself playing in the inaugural Next Gen competition, has had fans sit up and take notice.
In fact on the basis of an impressive string of games in this tournament, you’d think that he’s slowly creeping into Kenny Dalglish’s plans. He may well find himself on the outskirts of the Liverpool first team next season or even loaned out to another side in search of regular football.
What’s most impressive about Sterling is how direct he is. He’s remarkably confident for his age, has excellent acceleration and can beat players. His pace down the flanks has been a real asset for Liverpool throughout the competition and the way he tore Tottenham’sdefence to shreds with the U19s (admittedly to no real avail) was a sight to behold.
He may be young, but his close control of a football whilst running at pace betrays a natural talent and will surely herald a big future. The Jamaican born England Youth International will surely be a big name on the footballing landscape over the next decade, but it’s important that Liverpool monitor his progress carefully and ensure he’s getting every chance to develop and progress.
To that extent I can’t help but wonder if Kenny can find some space for Sterling in Liverpool’s FA Cup clash with Brighton on the 19th. I’m not expecting a starting berth, but a place on the bench and a few minutes at the end of the game to take on a tired defence could be beneficial for both club and player.
A complaint often leveled against the Reds is that they don’t produce enough young players who make it at the top level – particularly when it comes to attacking-minded youngsters. To this extent Sterling looks like a breath of fresh air and is certainly a step-up from the likes of Nemeth and Pacheco. Whilst it’s important to exercise caution when it comes to his development, there’s also no point in holding him back and not giving him opportunities when they arise.
With this in mind let’s hope that we begin to see more and more of him over the coming seasons.
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