Raheem Sterling made his debut for the Reds when he came on as a substitute for Dirk Kuyt in Liverpool's loss to Wigan at Anfield on Saturday. The youngster's time on the field may have been very limited, about 16 minutes to be more specific, due to the timing of the substitution. However, it did not prove a deterrent or an excuse for him to not show his skill and ability.
In this video, we can see what all he is capable of. No one wants to hype all this and create an undue burden of expectation on the lad. What was evident though, was that Liverpool's academy contains at least one gem that Kenny Dalglish can ill afford to waste, sell or not develop.
Sterling was able to conjure up this magic in a mere 16 minutes. Now let us take things a bit more in perspective. The lad has just turned 17 in December 2011 and he made Liverpool players on the day look inept and Wigan defenders run terrified. What is more satisfying from a Liverpool fan's view is that Sterling did not need much time to set himself up to the match pace. This as well as his decisions on passing, crossing or running when given the ball portrayed a mature and confident player.
Hold your horses everyone. Wasn't it lowly Wigan? Yes it was, but that same Wigan beat Liverpool at Anfield. Liverpool may have played badly but Wigan also deserve some credit for forcing them to play absolutely woefully for a team having top four ambitions. It was probably Liverpool's second worst performance at home with the worst being against Swansea in the first half of the season. What was more was that Wigan had lost only one of their last six league matches, so they were clearly in some form before this tie.
Liverpool clearly are not, having lost their last five meetings out of six matches in the league. That kind of form is more similar to that of teams that eventually get relegated to lower divisions. If reasons have to be cited for Liverpool's debacle, one may be the lack of interest for playing these games without anything left to achieve.
Liverpool players should not need incentive to play out of their skins even if a handful of fans have turned up to see them. This means that there is all the more reason to give more youngsters like Raheem Sterling a run out before the end of the season. Secondly, this Liverpool team's confidence may have taken a battering when they lost cruelly to a more clinical Arsenal side. To address this, again, the manager may look at youth that is unafraid to commit mistakes and takes to the field like they own it.
Seeing Sterling's cameo, it is clear that he and others like him in the Liverpool academy and that some reserves have outgrown reserve football. The time to unleash them on the big stage has actually arrived. The number of candidates waiting in the wings who are just as enthusiastic, talented and confident as Sterling does present a rosy picture for the future of Liverpool Football Club. The execution is what remains and I hope Dalglish can be trusted with that, if not funds for transfers.
Thus, more and more youngsters should get time on the bench till the end of the season with time to have cameos at the end of games. Raheem Sterling's performance has well and truly indicated that.