It only seems like yesterday we were saying goodbye to another season of missed opportunity and all of a sudden the new season is just around the corner.
Now, three games into a pre-season campaign, Liverpool fans around the world are eagerly anticipating the new season—particularly with the impressive links to two fine servants to the Premier League in recent times in Robbie Keane and Gareth Barry.
The season ahead promises many things but, first, we must get the ritual of pre-season friendlies out of the way.
Having watched two out of the three pre-season friendlies so far (I was working overtime when the Lucerne game was on but will make sure I catch one of the re-runs on LiverpoolFCTV) I have been kept very interested by the rare chance to watch some of the young talents that we have at our disposal.
Jay Spearing, Damien Plessis, Emiliano Insua and Daniel Pacheco have been particular highlights for me in two somewhat dull experiences so far. Stephen Darby, Jack Hobbs, David Martin and Diego Cavalieri are others that have featured.
34. Jay Speaing
At 5'6", Jay is one of the smallest members of the Liverpool squad. Do not be fooled, however, as Jay possesses the heart of a lion and looks to me to have an attitude to liken a cross between the mentalities of two of our heroes in recent times in Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.
Don't get me wrong—I am not trying to put his ability in the same bracket but I think this kid would rather die than pull out of a tackle.
In a spell when few local lads have made it through to the first team and the passion of some players is brought in to question, Jay seems to have come along at the perfect time for both himself and Liverpool FC.
Although he may never scale the dizzy heights that Steven Gerrard has, he definitely appears to possess enough quality to merit a place in the squad as a handy rotation player. A very welcome squad player too if you ask me.
I have been impressed in pre-season with Jay so far and hope he can carry his form through into the new season.
47. Damien Plessis
Having signed for Liverpool in August of last year, Damien Plessis is regarded as one of the most exciting young prospects at Liverpool right now. Like Jay Spearing, Plessis is a central midfield player who is not afraid to tackle. Plessis possesses a fair amount of skill to back it up too.
Plessis featured heavily in the successes enjoyed by Liverpool Reserves last season and even managed to appear in a few games towards the end of the season. Having featured in all of the pre-season friendlies so far, Plessis is obviously liked by Benitez.
So far he has not looked out of his depth and, with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, he could well establish himself as one of the first choice midfielders in a few years time.
48. Emiliano Insua
At 19 years of age Insua is another of the "hot" prospects currently at Anfield. Emiliano played in a handful of games towards the back end of last season and looked very assured—unlike John Arne Riise!
Emiliano is an attack-minded full back who possesses a fair amount of pace, skill and determination—a typical Argentine then!
Considered good enough for Kevin Keegan to be sniffing around in an attempt to lure him to Newcastle for the season on loan, Emiliano is sure to be a future first choice left back at Anfield.
Although he has not had much time on the pitch so far in the friendlies I do feel this kid will get his fair share of chances to impress if the Newcastle loan deal does not happen.
52. Daniel Pacheco
Pacheco is probably the least well known of this bracket of starlets but he is also one of the hottest prospects. At 17 years of age, Daniel Pacheco possesses a football brain far beyond his years. Having been a part of the setup at Barcelona his breeding is apparent for all to see.
Having started in a lone role against Tranmere Pacheco impressed with a display of intelligent football in a game that possessed little support for the young starlet. He featured alongside Andriy Voronin against Lucerne and, although I am yet to see it, was heavily praised for his performance.
A late substitute today against Wisla Krakow, Daniel did not really have long enough to influence a game that was never really under Liverpool's control.
Daniel is not a raw pace striker in the mould of Michael Owen. Although very early in his career, he reminds me a bit of Robbie Fowler. He is a gutsy but intelligent striker who knows what runs to make and when.
His positional awareness is immense for his age and his link up play is tremendous. I look forward to seeing more of Rafa's protege.
Darby, Hobbs, Martin and Cavalieri
Stephen Darby is another new addition to the Liverpool side of late and, although he has not scintillated, he has certainly looked like a solid player.
Jack Hobbs, the £1m signing from Lincoln City in 2005 is a centre back who is showing lots of promise. As Sami Hyypia's Liverpool career draws to a close I am sure the 19 year old will be doing all he can to force his way into the team.
I feel he would benefit from spending a season out on loan at either a Championship or Scottish Premier League club to build up experience that is so important to any centre back.
David Martin, son of Alvin (former West Ham keeper), was signed from MK Dons in 2006 and, now 22, will be keen to establish himself in the Liverpool squad.
Personally, I do not think he will cut the mustard and can see him being loaned out at some point in the future with a view to a transfer.
Diego Cavalier a player I know very little about to be honest. Although not dazzled by today's performance I feel it is far too early to attempt to pass any kind of judgement on a keeper who has come from a completely different culture on the other side of the world and who speaks little if not no English.
All in all, I have been encouraged with the progress of our young players. I feel at times we do not see enough of our starlets as they are protected in the reserves whilst their development continues. Well, if this is the result of that "protection" then I guess I am ok with it.