Improving the standard and quality of our youngsters has been the priority of Liverpool Football Club for a fair few years. The reorganisation of the Academy a year and a half ago, along with financial investment in bringing in the brightest youth talent the country has to offer, such as Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling, will take some years to come to fruition. In the mean time, players are still coming though the Reds ranks but they invariably come up to a barrier just below the first team. Reserve team football has been a problem for some years now. It neither offers the quality of football to provide a bridge between the academy and the first team, nor does it breed the competitive environment needed to make it at the top level. The loss of faith in the reserve league has led to some clubs, such as Tottenham Hotspur, to withdraw their reserve teams completely and put out on loan all of those who don’t have a realistic chance of playing in the first team.
Liverpool continue to utilise the reserve team as a way of fostering their young talent. The young Spanish star Suso is already making an impact at this level. For me though I would like to see more youngsters go out on loan as I believe it can accelerate their development. A case in point is Jay Spearing. The Wirral born midfielder had played the best part of two years of reserve team football until last season without any sign of a breakthrough to the first team. The Reds however allowed the player to go out on loan to Leicester City at the end of last season, allowing the player to play for the Foxes all the way until the play-offs. The Championship in my view is a far better way of improving skill, tactical understanding and positional play among young players than the reserves, and Spearing looked a better player when he returned to Liverpool for the start of this season. He performed very well in a combative display against Steaua Bucharest last Thursday. He may not still make it as a first team regular, but we now know a lot more about the player than if he had been left to play in the reserves.
The same could now be said of Daniel Ayala. The Spaniard was sent out to Hull City on a month’s loan at the start of September and after three starts, two clean sheets and a goal against Derby County to his name; the 19 year old has impressed so much that the Reds have accepted that Ayala can stay until at least January. Tigers’ manager Nigel Pearson said of Ayala:
“For a lad who’s 19 years old, he’s done very well. I’ve seen plenty of defenders who like to look good rather than be good. He knows what to do and he’s settled in very well. He has a very good manner about him.”
Some may have questioned Roy Hodgson’s decision to put him out loan as, after all, he impressed while starting for Liverpool’s first team last season against Stoke City and Burnley. Ayala would have most likely have started either on the bench for the Reds this campaign or in the reserves. Game time like he is getting for Hull now, is invaluable experience for a young defender and I have no doubt that he will return to Anfield a better player. Clubs in England don’t have the luxury of a ‘B’ team in a lower division like Barcelona, Real Madrid and others do abroad, and so the Championship and other Premier League teams must be the testing ground for our young players, rather than a midweek evening fixture at Prenton Park.
Follow us on twitter @live4Liverpool
Live4Liverpool is recruiting columnists. For further info contact the site editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Coca-Cola Happiness Machine strikes again – this time in London!