From Sterling to Suso: How Rodgers is Damaging Overworked Liverpool Youngsters
By Nick Howson | November 13, 2012 8:33 PM EST
The self-titled debut album from the trailblazers of the British ska music scene, The Specials, included the band's first UK No.1, 'Too Much Too Young'. While the submissive meaning of the song led to the lyric 'try wearing a cap' being erased from the final edit on a broadcast on Top of the Pops, the literal connotations lend themselves aptly to the current problems befalling Liverpool.
Such was the lack of direction and purpose of Brendan Rodgers' transfer policy that this season he's been forced to rely on the club's academy to bolster his playing resources. While Rodgers can be credited with assisting the careers of Ryan Bertrand, Scott Sinclair and James Pearce (and who wouldn't want the adulation) it would be wrong to lavish any praise on the Northern Irishman for the selection of Liverpool's current crop of youngsters.
Not least because in the summer, Rodgers was left to rue missing out on a series of key signings, including the much reported cock-up regarding Clint Dempsey, who eventually signed for Tottenham Hotspur on deadline-day despite being desperate to move to Anfield. Rodgers, and those concerned on Merseyside, dropped a dolly on that one.
Regarding Rodgers' dealings in the summer, and subsequently having to settle with playing many academy graduates in the current weeks of the season, there are two theories.
The first explanation was either, after being appointed on 1 June, he simply didn't have enough time to evaluate his squad and the academy before the club's first game of the season against Gomel on 2 August or the end of the transfer window on 31 August, and was therefore none the wiser if his players would sink or swim.
Or he had enough time to assess the depth of all players available to him, and still felt it necessary to delve into the transfer market, rue missing out on Dempsey and then continually state the need to add to his squad in January.
The reality is that regardless of the calculations Rodgers based the selection of this current crop of young players, arguably owed to blind luck or behind gritted teeth, those players are being handed a responsibility which they are unqualified to fulfil; and already we're starting to see the side-effects.
If you use Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to sell establish internationals and replace them with young players in the summer of 1995 as the exception, not the rule, then you'll rarely see a club introduce such a raft of young players so early into a season as Liverpool have done this term.
Due to their unknown quantity, young players in the past have been used to make an impact; utilised to change the face of a game with their youthful enthusiasm, carefree approach and foolhardy veneer. Liverpool have crossed that line between those academy graduates being a luxury, and being relied upon.
The frequency with which their performances, particularly those of Raheem Sterling, have fluctuated from the sublime to the inept is proof of the demands being put on these players, who have been used to mask the deficiencies of Rodgers' planning, or lack thereof, in the transfer market.
You fear what the lasting damage of these matches might do to the careers of these Liverpool players. Sterling, Suso and Andre Wisdom among others clearly have bright futures, but instead of a steady development programme, the trio are learning on the job.
"I've spoken to the people back in America, laid out my thoughts, had a couple of brief conversations and we move on. We'll reflect on it again next week, then hopefully go forward in the January window. Although the reality is there's not as lot done in the January window anyway.
"Certainly we need help because we've got as very small squad and we have a maximum of 27 games, a minimum 25 games with the group that we have, which is a young group.
"So we certainly need reinforcements."
These quotes could have, in truth, been taken after any stage of Rodgers' reign. They come from 3 September, as he reflected on a squad which he knew would require extensive surgery mid-season. Rodgers only has himself to blame for Liverpool's failings this season, as he uses his young players to cover up his own deficiencies.
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