5 Hot Prospects Ready to Come Through the Liverpool Youth System

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2014

5 Hot Prospects Ready to Come Through the Liverpool Youth System

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    Last season, Liverpool handed first-team debuts to 13 players—seven of them coming from the club's academy.

    Under Brendan Rodgers and owners Fenway Sports Group, the Anfield club are building a reputation for giving youth players a chance.

    Changes are being made to further develop the structure, with the departures of academy directors Frank McParland and Rodolfo Borrell an indication that, despite the progress made, Liverpool want more.

    They recruited Crewe Alexander academy director Neil Critchley to take over the under 18s and have previously taken Alex Inglethorpe from Tottenham's academy to head the Reds' under 21s. Two of the best and most highly rated youth coaches in the country now reside on Merseyside.

    Liverpool's long-term aim is to have 50 percent of the first team coming through their academy, as explained by former academy director Frank McParland to The Anfield Wrap last year, so who are the next prospects ready to come through the system?

Ryan McLaughlin

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    Ryan McLaughlin, 19, joined Championship side Barnsley on loan this month and made his professional debut for the Yorkshire side in their 2-0 win over Blackpool on Saturday.

    The Northern Irishman, who last year turned down an international call-up in order to regain fitness after injury and focus on his club, was up against Thomas Ince but dealt with the danger man comfortably.

    Had it not been for injuries in the last year, McLaughlin could well have made his debut for Liverpool by now.

    He's got all the attributes to fit into Liverpool's style under Brendan Rodgers: capable going forward but solid defensively, quick and good with the ball.

    McLaughlin was part of the Reds' squad that travelled to America for pre-season in 2012, marking none other than Francesco Totti against Roma!

    Ryan McLaughlin is some player, can see why Liverpool's gave him a 4 year deal

    — Aaron Lane (@aaronlane1989) January 18, 2014


Cameron Brannagan

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    Cameron Brannagan became the third player to be handed first-team involvement by Brendan Rodgers over the festive period when he was named as a substitute in the FA Cup third round match against Oldham.

    Rodgers had given left-back Brad Smith his debut at Chelsea, and midfielder Jordan Rossiter was an unused sub in that match.

    The trio of players are regulars at Melwood, training with the first-team and being given crucial experience in the process, including travelling with the squad to away games.

    Brannagan is just 17 years old but regularly impresses for the Reds' under-21 side.

    He was handed a new long-term deal at the club in November and is clearly highly rated.

    A creative midfielder, often occupying the "number 10" role behind the forward, Brannagan has been at the club since age 9.

Harry Wilson

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    Harry Wilson came to prominence when he was handed a surprise international debut for Wales aged just 16 last October.

    Brendan Rodgers admitted his surprise at the inclusion of a player who is yet to play for Liverpool's under 21s, let alone their first team.

    "It's important that we just stay calm and let him develop at his own rate," said Rodgers, as quoted by BBC Sport.

    "He knows he will have a great opportunity here if he continues to develop at Liverpool."

    Wilson has been catching the headlines again lately with some impressive form for the Reds' youth side, scoring twice in the FA Youth Cup fourth-round tie against Aston Villa last week.

    Michael Sweeting of This Is Anfield describes Wilson as "extremely quick, has fantastic technique and an eye for goal."

    Wilson is left-footed but plays either on the left or right of Liverpool's three-man attack.

Jordan Rossiter

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    Jordan Rossiter was named on the bench for the Reds' matches against Chelsea and Hull over the festive period, showing the faith Brendan Rodgers has in the 16-year-old.

    Admittedly, Rossiter is still some way away from actually breaking into the first-team squad, but the fact that he is a regular at Melwood, training with the first team, is a clear indication of how highly rated he is by Rodgers and the staff at Liverpool.

    Rossiter was playing in the NextGen under 19 series aged just 15, and even the fact he has made the step up to Under 21s football so comfortably is a compliment to him.

    A combative holding midfielder—how Liverpool could do with one of them!

Jordon Ibe

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    Jordon Ibe is a talented attacker whose style of play is perfect for the wide forward roles in Rodgers' 4-3-3 system.

    He made a surprise debut for the club on the final day of last season, at home to QPR, and immediately impressed.

    The 18-year-old has suffered from niggling injuries this season but is now back fit and has been in the last two matchday squads, named on the bench against Stoke City.

    The FA Cup tie at Bournemouth should be a perfect chance for Rodgers to give him his second appearance of the season in the first team—he started the League Cup match with Notts County in September.