John Flanagan earns praise from ex-Liverpool defender
Rob Jones believes emerging young talent at Anfield highlights progress at Liverpool's academy
Former Liverpool right-back Rob Jones hailed John Flanagan’s performance after the teenager made his debut for the Reds against Manchester City on Monday.
The 18-year-old, who only found out he would start the match two hours before kick-off, produced an assured display at Anfield to help keep City’s strikeforce at bay during Liverpool’s commanding 3-0 win over Roberto Mancini’s side.
Jones, who was once tipped to compete with Gary Neville as England’s first choice right-back before succumbing to a career ending injury in 1999, believes the Liverpool youngster has what it takes to succeed in the Premier League.
“Flanagan did superbly,” said Jones. “As a Liverpool fan, you’re watching the game and hoping the young lad doesn’t make a mistake, but he never looked like that was going to happen, he was great.
“He looked very comfortable on the ball, always looked to pass it, and did all his defensive duties really well. He certainly never looked overawed by the occasion, and he can be very pleased with his performance.”
Flanagan is following in the footsteps of 20-year-old defender Martin Kelly, who had held down a regular starting place in Kenny Dalglish’s first-team until he suffered a hamstring injury in February.
Jay Spearing, who captained Liverpool to successive Youth Cups in 2007, is another young prospect who has featured regularly under Dalglish, leapfrogging the experienced Christian Poulsen as Lucas Leiva’s midfield partner.
And Jones believes the influx of young talent is testament to the Liverpool academy’s work.
“I’ve been watching Martin Kelly for the past six months, and he has been great,” he continued. “Now Flanagan has emerged, it looks even better for the club.
“You usually get maybe one player every two years or so come through, but these two have come through around the same time, and they look really comfortable.
“And of course, these young players – Jay Spearing as well – are lucky enough to have someone like Kenny Dalglish to guide them through. That must give a young player so much confidence, to have Kenny behind them.
“I used to have it with Graeme Souness, I’d always think that if he rated me enough to put me in the team then I must be doing something right, and it is the same with Kenny.”