Brendan Rodgers placed a lot of faith in his Academy in the 2012/13 season. Some might argue that the trial by fire was a result of the absence of any spark from his personnel. Others point to the influence and methodology of Academy technical director/head of coaching, Rodolfo Borrell.
Either way, the Liverpool manager's faith in the reserve system has paid some dividends.
Recent campaigns have seen quite a few youngsters take a bow for the Reds. Jordan Ibe, Raheem Sterling, Suso, Andre Wisdom, Samed Yesil, Jack Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Jerome Sinclair, Conor Coady, Ryan McLaughlin, Stephen Sama and Adam Morgan have all appeared for the first team at various levels of competition.
But that list is somewhat shortened when looking at those likely to enjoy consistent first-team action.
The first player who will probably see regular playing time for the senior team should come as no surprise. Given a small window during a second-half appearance in the match against Toronto FC, Jordan Ibe later shone in the last game of the 2012/13 season against Queens Park Rangers, setting up Philippe Coutinho's match-winning goal.
Powerful, pacy and unafraid to take on opposing defenders, he has demonstrated he can find the net, too. His goal against Preston North End in the first game of the preseason was a cracker from 20 yards out. And the thunderbolt he put past Simon Mignolet in training is a sign of things to come.
The next future starter is already a regular who seemed like he needed to reaffirm the confidence shown him by his Northern Irish manager.
Raheem Sterling managed 36 appearances in all competitions last season, and after falling out of favor later in the season, he looks set to make his comeback. With his pace and skill at high speeds, he possesses the ability to carve opposing defenders to pieces.
While Borrell criticized Sterling for his lack of humility and selfishness on the ball, Rodgers’ influence and first-team playing time seem to have taken those edges off him.
Not even starting, sometimes even getting onto the pitch is difficult. Academy players find it hard to break into the first squad and are stuck in the natural gridlock that some positions possess.
Loan deals have seen some of the more highly rated reserve youngsters head to other clubs to get the type of senior experience that might help them fulfill their potential and eventually step into regular first-team action.
Krisztian Adorjan is one of those players. Sky Sports’ Gerrit van Leeuwen reports that the 20-year-old is set to join Dutch club Groningen on a yearlong loan.
The young Hungarian impressed incoming Rodgers enough to be picked to join the senior squad on its American tour. He picked up his first appearance in the match against Toronto FC and later featured against Roma at Fenway, too.
He is cool on the ball, and his vision in the second striker role has been key in helping him set up other players. Add his 12 goals in 31 appearances last season with the U21s to his assisting abilities, and it is clear why Liverpool are not keen to sell him outright.
Suso is another player in that category. Under Rodgers last season, he made 20 appearances. The Spain U20 captain was used out of his favored attacking midfield role and primarily played on the flank. His skill and close-body control are superlative, and he has tremendous vision, using his range of passing to pick out other players.
Now on loan with Deportivo Almeria in La Liga for the season, if he can log significant time on the pitch and find his scoring boots, he might head back to Anfield as a first-team player in the following season.
Captain of the U21s, Conor Coady has spent some time with the first squad. The local lad played in a Europa League game against Anzhi Makhachkala as well as in the English Premier League, coming on late in the 3-1 win against Fulham FC.
A fantastic man manager, the 20-year-old controls the game superbly from the midfield, but the England youth international has not been able to make the leap to full professional. His six-month loan to Sheffield United will hopefully prove to be that little nudge that propels his game to the next level.
As for youngsters who are being touted as future Liverpool stars, all-around midfielder Jack Dunn is probably at the top of that list. Some of those who watch him on a regular basis describe the Liverpool-born youngster as the Reds' equivalent of Wayne Rooney.
He has a full range of passing abilities and is always dangerous around goal. If he can stave off injury, the 18-year-old has a brilliant future ahead of him at Anfield.
Others to watch for in the future are fullbacks Brad Smith and Ryan McLaughlin, who had the distinction of marking Italian star, Francesco Totti, during the preseason match against Roma; center-back Lloyd Jones, who was on the bench for the senior squad against Fulham in May; and Liverpool’s youngest ever first-team player (at 16 years and six days old), Jerome Sinclair.
Of course, readers will have their own picks. Please feel free to let us know who they are and why their abilities make them candidates to play in front of the Kop.
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