Right, after my debut Balotelli piece I thought for a while on who the next player article should be on, and after considering tackling the Mamadou Sakho issue or writing a piece on how consistently inconsistent Coutinho is (that would certainly divide opinion).
It hit me, what I should do is not look at the players we have brought in and who are in lime light or are making headlines for failed/passed drug tests, I should take a look at the players who’ve come through the ranks.
Now for me I’ve never understood why the Liverpool Academy is in Kirkby, yes I know we needed the room to build one and that site up there had it, but having been on this planet 32 years and been a red for all that time I’ve been brought up by my dad who used to show me an my brother videos of Liverpool destroying teams and back in the day he did get the chance to take photos of them training (I’ll try pass them on for the site).
The players of old would run through brick walls for the manager, there were lads waiting in the wings for their chance to prove their worth if given the chance, and the one thing they all had in common was the first team all trained at the same complex, Melwood. For me that’s vital.
For years now I’ve spoke to my mates, one in particular (even though he’s a blue he’s alright) about why the Academy isn’t producing any players. What I mean by that is we’ve had no one come through it since Steven Gerarrd, and before you say John Flanagan or Jordan Rossiter, I mean someone of real quality, who’s been a first team regular. Is that down to scouting or the Academy? Maybe it’s a bit of both.
You look at some kids who have signed on as a 6/7 year old and has had high hopes (Conor Coady for example or Neil Mellor before him) they haven’t made and its very rare that those players deemed not good enough for Liverpool go on to achieve anything in terms of top flight football. They go to lower league teams and it’s always made me think why? One reason I think is too much focus is on foreign kids which is a shame really because there is local lads who are good enough and can be great given the right coaching, ie Aaron Cresswell at West Ham United. He is a good player, from Liverpool, how was he not spotted and deemed good enough? Having local lads in the team, for me is essential, they know what it means to play for Liverpool, they know what derby day means to fans, what beating Manchester United means to fans, I think to some of the players now it’s just another game and that’s the part of the club that worries me, but anyway I digress…. Getting back to it, A couple of things make which me me think it’s not working is:
1. There is about a 5 mile gap between Melwood and the Academy.
2. The curse of modern football, money!
I’ll tackle the distance issue first.
With the first team at West Derby and the kids in Kirkby I’ve always thought (given I’m a staunch red) what incentive do these up an coming reds have to want to make it in the first team, the lads in the U-21’s who are at the top of the tree in Kirkby they can’t do any better there, now I know a couple do make the trip up to Melwood but is that enough? I think if we want a conveyor belt of talent the U-21’s and the first team they should be training on the same complex, so that these kids can see what their hard work can lead to, maybe I’m biased but I’m not arsed but as a kid, can you imagine going to work an seeing your heroes day in day out and if you work hard your reward of playing with them will come true, you could learn from them, or maybe I’m just delusional. We will never know, but the successful reds of the past worked this way maybe it’s time for a change?
The second issue I have is, well not with the Academy but with modern football in general, I refer back to the incentive part of the last paragraph, again without banging on about history, but again back in the day doing their YTS’s the young reds would have to clean boots and changing rooms, imagine telling some of these kids that now? Look at Sergi Canos for example the kid had a half decent season at Brentford an if reports are true wanted £10,000 a week to stay, thankfully the club declined now he’s at Norwich, but that’s the main problem you see 18/19 year olds driving to the academy in £60-£70,000 cars an they are all on a decent wage, so why would they wanna work even harder, they have everything they want already, maybe I’m wrong but this is what’s good about opinions, we’ve all got one.
Time will tell whether things will change, I did hear few weeks back that having the U-21’s at Melwood maybe in the pipeline but who knows for sure, one thing we do know is, if we want to be successful the Academy and its players need to up their game.
Written by Chris Hurst (@ChrisHurst__)