Liverpool har en tradition av att ha ”local lads” i truppen, men under de sista åren med Rafa Benitez som manager fick man allt svårare att få fram egna produkter, och istället bestod resevlagstruppen till stor del av utländska spelare, trots att U18-laget skördade stora triumfer under föregående säsonger.
Mycket har förändrats under Roy Hodgsons ledning. I det senaste reservlagsderbyt mot Everton hade Liverpool åtta engelska spelare i laget, varav fyra Liverpoolfödda.
Liverpool-legenden David Fairclough är kritisk till den förra regimen: ”It is disappointing”, sa Fairclough till ESPN Soccernet rörande avsaknaden av egna produkter i A-laget.
Vidare fortsatte han: ”If you are from Liverpool, you are inclined to think, ’We need more Liverpudlians. We want our own in there’. Some would respond by claiming that football has changed now and that it’s a global game, but I still think there’s something in our make-up that says we want to have local lads, whether it be here or at Newcastle with an Andy Carroll leading their line. If we got another star man like Robbie Fowler or Steven Gerrard coming through, it would be utopia for the fans.
”I don’t think the club has been running on clear lines over the last ten years when it comes to the young players. It’s been very disappointing that the academy programme has not been running in conjunction with the first-team manager. I know that the set-up frustrated Steve Heighway [tidigare lagkamrat till Fairclough och jobbade inom klubbens akademi 1989-2007] a lot because the club has had a lot of success in the Youth Cup in recent years but the younger players weren’t encouraged through.”
Adam Hammill, som har gjort dundersuccé i the Championship den här säsongen, tas upp som ett exempel.
”Adam Hamill is a classic example. He won the Youth Cup in 2006 but was released last year having never played for the first team. He is at Barnsley now and is making waves up there – whether or not he’s got the X-Factor to make it at the top we don’t know yet, but he always had an awful lot of natural talent. When you watch him, he’s exciting. Hammill was released by Benitez for being almost too much of a character, but he is just one player who we have lost who springs to mind. There have been others, too, who could have had a shot and in a Roy Hodgson era might have been thrown into the squad a bit more.”
Vidare kritiseras Benitez, som ju ville ha in massvis med utländska spelare till reservlaget: ”Our transfer policy around the reserve team was absolutely barmy under Benitez. It was full of foreign players. You could go and watch the Liverpool reserves last year and there would be nine, ten foreign lads who were never going to make the grade for Liverpool in a million years. People like Nathan Eccleston couldn’t even get a game in the reserves because the foreign boys got the nod.”
I somras rensade Liverpool rejält i reservlaget och många utländska talanger fick lämna. Fairclough kommenterar: ”John McMahon definitely deserves credit for the changes. He was working under very strict guidance from Benitez, always being told what to do, but then Roy came in and told him to take full responsibility for looking after the reserves. John made his recommendations about who should stay and who should go and it’s no surprise that a lot of the young players who didn’t have a hope have now been released. Now you’ve got a reserve team with an English core, which is a move in the right direction.
”A lot of younger players featured for the first-team in pre-season and that was encouraging. One or two have just faded back a little bit. [Thomas] Ince has gone out on loan and [David] Amoo is stranded in the reserves a little bit, but I think it has been really encouraging that they’ve had a go.”
Samtidigt inser han att Liverpool inte kan satsa på hur många talanger som helst i A-laget: ”Obviously you can’t just throw six young lads in there every week and expect them all to make it, but I think there are a couple on the fringes who are capable of being regular members of the squad. Whether all this has come directly from Roy I’m not sure, but we’ve been carrying a lot of foreign deadwood in the reserves over the last couple of years and fortunately that has now been sorted.”
Trots att inhemska spelare bör prioriteras, medger Fairclough att Liverpool har ett par jäkligt duktiga utländska talanger också:
”I’ve watched all of Dani’s Liverpool career and he has got an awful lot of ability. He’s exciting and, while I wouldn’t quite compare him to Messi, he is that sort of flair player who can create things when playing in the hole. In the cameo roles he played last year, he made a big impression on Liverpool fans and I think they want to see a little bit more from him.
”I think he warrants a little bit more playing time as someone like him can really lift the crowd. I think he has been unlucky this season as he played wide on the right against both Northampton and Steaua Bucharest – he looked like a fish out of water. He has to be playing in behind a striker, where he starred for the Spain at the Under-19s European Championship over the summer.
”They’ve also got a new young lad called Suso, who plays in a similar position to Pacheco. He came from Cadiz and is very much in the mould of an old European No. 10, a real playmaker. He is only 16 and a half but is a really exciting talent, an excellent prospect.”