Liverpool have certainly endured a tumultuous campaign this season, both on and off the pitch, but a recent upturn in both performances and results under idol Kenny Dalglish’s astute stewardship has seen the club improve on their league position. Martin Kelly’s ascension to a regular first-team role has coincided with this great run of results and it’s of no surprise that the young right-back is being touted as a future England star.
Kenny Dalglish’s time in charge at the club, while it initially got off to a faltering start, has seen the side collect four clean sheets and four wins on the bounce. For a team as low on confidence as this current Liverpool side were at the time the Scot took over the helm, that is a huge achievement in a relatively short space of time.
The Kop legend has tinkered with his formations and tried out several new players since coming back to the club. Martin Kelly, an ever-present in the club’s Europa League games this season under previous manager Roy Hodgson, has since seen his stock rise under Dalglish and he’s gone from promising youngster to guaranteed starter in a short space of time.
It’s worth noting that Kelly has long been touted as a big prospect around Anfield. Rafa Benitez was known to be a big admirer and Roy Hodgson was also seen to be a fan, and his recent success is not all down to Dalglish‘s gentle prodding. His run in the first-team will have come as no surprise to Kopites, who have been impressed with the little they have seen of Kelly up until now, but to the rest of the country, it seems that the unearthing of a genuine gem has been found.
In a week when Kyle Walker was named in the England squad to face Denmark on February 9th, Kelly can consider himself extremely unfortunate not to have received a call-up too. The fact that he’s keeping current England first-choice right back Glen Johnson out of his preferred starting position for his club, with Johnson shunted over to left back, is worth noting and Kelly’s form has been truly exceptional of late.
The immediate retirement of Gary Neville this week has brought into sharp focus the lack of a true heir apparent for the coveted right-back slot in the England set-up. Neville performed the role excellently for England over the years and while his retirement has probably come at the right time for the former Manchester United stalwart, it’s worth remembering just how great Neville truly was in his pomp, and how England have struggled to replace him in his absence.
Glen Johnson is the current preferred choice, but he looks to be on borrowed time at the moment, with the clear deficiencies in his defensive capabilities showing no signs of subsiding any time soon.
At 20 years of age, the thing that strikes you most about Kelly is his maturity. While Walker is fantastic going forward, Kelly is a defender’s defender. He rarely puts a foot wrong from what I’ve seen of him so far. He’s dealt with the pressure of Man United trying to double up on him during Liverpool’s recent trip to Old Trafford and the hostile environments of derbies with both Everton and Chelsea.
He’s not afraid to get forward and his pace down the flank is a welcome asset to have at your disposal. He’s solid in the air and at 6ft 3in he cuts an imposing figure. He‘s also positionally sound and excellent in the tackle.
Walker may have got the nod for the friendly against Denmark, but I think in the long run Kelly will make the right back slot his own. He is only going to get stronger as the season progresses and Liverpool look to have a true talent on their hands and a local boy to boot. The fact that Liverpool’s success has been with him in the line-up is of no coincidence and Kelly looks to be getting better by the game.
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