Are Liverpool’s youngsters becoming too big for their boots?

It’s no secret that Brendan Rodgers is focusing on youth players in his long term plan for his new club. No longer are Liverpool making the big name singings of Torres or Morientes, but instead are looking towards their academy as the key to their future. The logic is there too, as youngsters provide a mystery to opponents who will know little about the style of play these teenagers will bring. Fans at Anfield are now seeing more regular involvement from players who they would only expect to see in the Capital One Cup. But is this a problem for the Northern Irish manager? There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, a line that can easily be crossed by a Premier League footballer, especially by the younger player 

At the start of the season Liverpool were missing a few key players, especially Brazilian midfielder Lucas. Rodgers brought in 20 year old Jonjo Shelvey to the line up. And the Englishman started brightly, showing promise after his transfer from Charlton in the summer of 2010. Despite being in the headlines for a clash with Sir Alex Ferguson after being dismissed for a two-footed challenge in the game between United and Liverpool in September, Shelvey continued to prove himself as a top young player in the Premier League. However, during the Boxing Day visit to Stoke, things changed. As a team Liverpool played poorly, throwing away an early lead to lose 3-1. But it was Shelvey’s performance that was highlighted as one of the worst in the team. Questions were asked whether the youngster was ready for top-flight football every week. Shelvey hasn’t featured in the Premier League since.

But then came the real action that caught the eyes of Liverpool fans across the league. Speaking ahead of his England Under-21 game against Sweden, Shelvey suggested that he was made the scapegoat for his team’s poor performance in the 3-1 defeat. He said: “I played against Stoke and obviously I didn’t have too great a game. I had a few personal issues that were going on in my life. I didn’t think I was the only one that had a bad game that day but I was the one that suffered if you know what I mean.” Comments that manager Brendan Rodgers wouldn’t be impressed with. Despite adding that he was working hard in training to regain his place, many Reds fans will have been slightly taken aback to hear these words from a 20 year old looking to prove himself.

From there we move on to the highly impressive winger Raheem Sterling. Selected from the start of the season by the new gaffer, Sterling has impressed fans of all teams with his confidence on the ball, as well as his lightning pace. A remarkable talent at just 18 years old, but he too has caught the media’s eyes for the wrong reasons. He recently signed a new long term contract with the Merseyside team, but rumours suggested he requested nearly £40,000 a week. A big leap from his then current wages of £2,000. He eventually settled for a basic salary of £25,000 a week, with an additional £10,000 a week if he features in the first team. Sterling was again in the news a month later after he was summonsed to Liverpool Youth Court on a charge of common assault. Police said a 27-year-old woman suffered “slight” facial injuries in an alleged incident involving Sterling. Most fans would like to see their team’s youth players keeping their heads down and working hard on the training pitch, not living up the Premier League lifestyle at the age of 18 and getting into late night altercations.

Jack Robinson also managed to upset some of the Anfield faithful last month. Whilst Liverpool were trailing 3-2 to Oldham, the young wing back intercepted the play and was bearing down on the corner of the penalty area, but instead of crossing to Striker Luis Suarez, he decided to shoot at the extremely tight angle, blasting the ball high and wide. With the team trailing, Suarez was desperate to level up the tie, and showed his frustration at the wing back’s decision to shoot instead of pass. Unfortunately for Robinson, the ESPN cameras turned on him just as he impolitely told the Uruguayan ‘where he should go’. Obviously swearing on the pitch is nothing new, however many Liverpool fans took the social networking site Twitter to voice their opinion on the matter, commenting on Robinson’s disrespect to the man who the club have relied on so heavily this season. It was an action that split fans down the middle. Some said it was heat of the moment and happens all the time, where others demanded that the young full back showed respect to the fan’s precious star.

The latest of Liverpool’s naughty youngsters is Martin Kelly. The 22-year-old defender is currently recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, and recently started negotiations with the club over a new contract. With the Reds looking to tie up Kelly in a long-term deal, they were keen to offer him the same financial structure as to what was offered to Raheem Sterling. However Kelly has apparently shocked the Reds management by demanding £45,000 a week. He has instantly been told to reconsider his demands. A sum that would shock Liverpool fans, who would much rather see Kelly focusing on playing football instead of focusing on money 

So 4 Liverpool youngsters who have showed promise on the pitch during times of their Liverpool careers, but these actions suggest that maybe its all slightly got to their heads a bit quickly. As a fan you want to see the youth players working hard to improve both on the pitch and at the training ground, and you want them keeping their head down and focusing on their development. Fans definitely don’t want to hear the youth players criticising their manager’s decisions, demand huge wages or being involved in late night fights. Brendan Rodgers needs to just keep his youngsters under control and remind them that they have to earn their place in the team and indeed their wages.

Dan Eyre