20 Liverpool Academy Prospects Who Never Stepped Up
Liverpool's youth academy in Kirkby has produced some excellent talent down the years, some of which is currently starring in the first team's current title challenge.
First-team regulars Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan are more recent success stories, while captain Steven Gerrard also came through Liverpool's youth ranks.
While several players have made the grade, many have not and here we present 20 players who never quite made that step up.
It's worth defining what is meant by academy prospects "who never stepped up."
Firstly, they did not necessarily leave Liverpool without playing for the first-team. Neil Mellor, Jon Otsemobor and Dani Pacheco all made first-team appearances, but failed to establish a firm place among the senior squad.
Similarly, players such as Richie Partidge made their only first-team appearances in League Cup games.
Secondly, they may have gone on to have successful careers elsewhere, even playing against Liverpool in some cases, but they never "made it" at Anfield.
At the turn of the century, Partridge was touted by some as the next big thing to break through from Liverpool's academy.
But by 2005, after brief loan spells at Bristol Rovers and Coventry City, it was clear Partridge's football lay elsewhere, and he went on to play for Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Chester City, MK Dons, Kettering Town, Stockport County and The New Saints.
There is a happy ending though—Patridge is now back at Liverpool as physiotherapist of the Under-21s.
Mellor's name on this list could be counted as slightly contentious.
He made a name for himself when he scored a stunning last-minute winner for Liverpool in a league game against Arsenal at Anfield in 2004.
Mellor also played a major part in Liverpool's Champions League success in 2005, scoring one and assisting one in the famous 3-1 victory over Olympiakos on the road to Istanbul.
Nevertheless, Mellor left Anfield in 2006 having started just 15 times for the Reds. He went on to play for Preston and Sheffield Wednesday before retiring due to injury in 2012.
Mellor has since returned to Liverpool to provide insight on Liverpool youth games for the club's television channel.
Signed from Hull City in 2005, Paul Anderson was a highly promising winger who played a key role in the Liverpool youth team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2006.
After being released by the Reds in 2010, Pepper joined Aberystwyth Town in the Welsh Premier League and now plays at Stalybridge in the Conference North.
Jon Otsemobor was an exciting prospect at right-back for Liverpool under Gerard Houllier, but his step up to the first-team never fully materialised.
Having played for numerous Football League clubs, Otsemobor is now on loan at Tranmere Rovers from MK Dons.
Jack Hobbs impressed Liverpool so much during a trial in 2005 that the Reds splashed out £750,000 to Lincoln City for his services.
His strong and composed style of play, great height, and his ability to shift from central midfield to defence made him a exciting talent to watch.
Hobbs' time at Liverpool came with big obstacles though, with two of the club's great defenders, Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia, playing in the prime of their careers.
He left the club in 2009, having made just five first-team appearances—three of which had come in the League Cup.
Hobbs is now at Championship side Nottingham Forest.
Liverpool born and bread, Darren Potter made a brief appearance for Liverpool in the Champions League en route to their success in 2005.
Potter came on as a substitute for Rafa Benitez's men against Bayer Leverkusen in the group stage and also made two Premier League appearances that season.
A succession of loan spells saw his time at Anfield draw to a close, and by 2007 he had made a permanent switch to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The shock of Whitbread's blonde hair went side by side with that of Sami Hyypia during a run of appearances at the start of the 2005/06 season.
However, Whitbread, a USA Under-20 international from Runcorn, spent most of that season on-loan at Millwall.
He made the switch The Den permanent 2006, having made just seven appearances for Liverpool's first team.
Pacey winger Adam Hammill was a member of the Liverpool side that beat Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup final in 2006.
Possibly the biggest disappointment amongst Liverpool fans in recent years is Spanish attacking midfielder Dani Pacheco.
Pacheco was just 16 years old when he signed from Barcelona in 2009 with bags of potential.
Although he made 17 appearances for the first-team, he failed to impress a succession of Reds managers—Rafael Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish—before Brendan Rodgers allowed Pacheco depart permanently for Spanish second division side Alcorcón in 2013.
Lindfield won many fans with some impressive performances for Liverpool during pre-season in 2006, and although he finished the club's top scorer at the Dallas Cup youth tournament in 2008, he spent most of his time on the Anfield books out on loan.
He now plays for Chester in the Conference North.
Mikel San Jose
Tall and strong centre-back Mikel San Jose has one of the more successful post-Liverpool stories to tell.
Although he was highly thought of at the Reds' academy, the Spaniard spent the 2009/10 campaign on loan at Athletic Bilbao.
He made that move permanent at the end of the season, where he has played in La Liga since.
There was much hype surrounding Bruna when he turned down a lucrative deal from Real Madrid—where he spent most of his youth days—to sign for the Reds in 2007.
It was at this point that Bruna's career fizzled out, as he languished in Liverpool's reserves side for a few seasons before moving to Blackpool in 2011.
Bruna made just two league appearances for the Seasiders, before moving to SD Huesca in Spain's regional leagues in 2013.
The one that got away? Alex Kacaniklic came from Swedish club Helsingborgs in 2007, but was sold by Roy Hodgson as part of the deal that took Paul Konchesky to Liverpool from Fulham in 2010.
A left-winger by trade, there's still a lot of faith in Kacaniklic, who has made 21 Premier League appearances for Fulham this season, including their two defeats to Liverpool.
Signed from MTK Budapest in 2007, big things were expected of Hungarian international Krisztian Nemeth.
He put goal after goal away for the Reserves, finishing the 2007/08 season top scorer of the Premier Reserve League North league.
However, Nemeth never made it to the Liverpool first team and struggled to impress during loan spells at Blackpool and AEK Athens.
After such a prolific scoring record for Liverpool's reserves, it is somewhat of a mystery how Nemeth's career slipped away.
After leaving Anfield on a permanent basis in 2010, Nemeth has played for Olympiacos, Olympiacos Volos, MTK Budapest, RKC Waalwijk and now plays at Roda JC Kerkrade.
Liverpool signed young Spanish midfielder Jose Ignacio Huertas Ortiz—more commonly known as "Nacho"—from Albacete in 2011.
Much hype followed him, with speculation that some of Spain's top clubs had been hopeful of signing him.
He suffered with injury during the early days of his career at Anfield, but made a string of appearances for Liverpool's Under-18s at the end of the 2011/12 season.
He made eight appearances for the Under-21s in 2012/13, but was released by the club at the end of the season.
Connor Wearing was a regular in the matchday squad for the Liverpool Under-21s between 2010 and 2012, but—despite being at the academy since the age of 11—signed for Shrewsbury Town in 2012.
Son of English journeyman footballer Dale Belford, goalkeeper Tyrell Belford moved from Coventry City to Liverpool in 2009.
He is still a hot prospect for the future at just 19 years old, having played for both England Under-16s and Under-17s, but his time at Liverpool ended in 2013 when he moved to Swindon Town.
After enjoying success as part of Paris Saint-Germain's Under-18 team in France, Mavinga caught the eye of Liverpool scouts and was signed in 2009 under Benitez.
However, Benitez's departure from Anfield in 2010 resulted in a lack of opportunities for the French Under-21 international, whose training sessions with the first team were ended by Hodgson.
Mavinga spent half a season on loan at Genk in 2011, before leaving Liverpool permanently for Rennes in 2011.
He now plays for Rubin Kazan in Russia.