Amongst other things, Liverpool’s 2012/13 season can certainly be remembered for being the campaign in which youngsters got their chance.
Whether it be by accident or design, the likes of Raheem Sterling, Suso and Andre Wisdom were given prolonged opportunities in the first team throughout the campaign as Liverpool looked to battle on four fronts, and whilst the results weren’t always the strongest, the season is likely to be looked back on fondly by both the youngsters and their manager.
Ahead of next season, Brendan Rodgers will be looking for the next batch of youngsters to break into his squad and make life difficult for the established names.
Here are five players who could join Sterling, Suso and Wisdom in breaking through sooner rather than later.
The 20-year-old scouser might not be too well-known outside of Liverpool circles, but the club certainly think highly of him.
The midfielder captains the Reds’ under-21 side, patrolling the centre of the field in a manner which has earned him comparisons with Steven Gerrard.
Like Gerrard, Conor Coady started his career in defence and has been capped by England at various youth levels, and after making his senior Liverpool debut in the 1-0 Europa League loss at Anzhi Makhachkala earlier this season, he’ll be looking at the next campaign as a key one in his development.
Winger Jordan Ibe hit the headlines shortly before he signed for Liverpool in late 2011 when, as a then 15-year-old, he celebrated scoring his first senior goal for Wycombe Wanderers by running to his parents in the crowd—only to be booked by the heartless referee (via Metro).
Now, after featuring for Liverpool in last summer's tour of North America, the precociously talented 17-year-old was deemed good enough for a place on the bench for the first team in Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Southampton, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ibe follow on from Sterling last season and make his senior debut in the closing weeks of this campaign.
Whether he can make the kind of impact that Sterling has if and when he gets into the team on a more regular basis next season remains to be seen, but he’s certainly an exciting prospect.
It is a pretty impressive feat to play for the Liverpool first team at all, but to do so at just 16 years and six days old is something special.
Jerome Sinclair became Liverpool’s youngster ever player when he came off the bench in the Capital One Cup tie at former club West Brom in September, when he appeared on the pitch just in time to see Nuri Sahin fire the winner.
Perhaps it was partly down to Rodgers wanting to make a statement about the lack of senior forwards at the club, but the lively Sinclair had earned his place, and with England under-16 and under-17 caps to his name, it might not be too long before he’s seen again.
It was when he played in a match against Liverpool’s under-21 side when Joao Carlos Teixeira came to Reds’ fans attention, and he certainly commanded a lot of that attention.
The Portuguese under-19 international both shone and scored in Sporting Lisbon’s victory in front of an impressed Anfield in the NextGen series, and with Liverpool liking what they saw, it didn’t take long for the Reds to make a move for him.
Teixeira turned 20 in January, so he’s reaching a stage where he needs to make an impact at first-team level, and maybe that impact will come next season.
Another young Iberian star, Spain’s Nacho Huertas―commonly known as Nacho―has recovered from an injury-hit start to have an increasingly influential role in Liverpool’s under-21 side, and the 19-year-old is certainly a player who Rodgers will like.
A stylish passer and one capable of slotting into several positions in the team, Nacho has also begun to add goals to his game as he gets used to the English environment more and more.
He, like many youngsters at Liverpool, will be looking forward to next season.