Who Will Make It?

We have been down this road so many times before. You know the one. When we see plenty of names of our up and coming youngsters put forward. As if making it is not hard enough anyway, some players in the past have been labelled with the, “this is the new…….” extra encumbrance as well. The question of who will make it will always be a popular and relevant question.

The associated pressure that comes with this is sadly a sign of the times in today’s modern football world. Having said that, top clubs employ experts to teach the youngsters how to deal with this. At the end of the day, if the youngsters make it to the Holy Grail of playing on the Fields Of Anfield Road, then it’s all been worth it hasn’t it.

Sometimes though with all the hype, fans build up an expectation level that is often unsustainable. Anyone remember Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama Pongolle? In case you haven’t heard of them, they were the French wonderkids signed under Gerard Houllier’s reign. They were in actual fact cousins.

In seven years, Le Tallec made 17 appearances for the Reds, but didn’t manage to find the net. Pongolle fared a bit better. He managed four goals in 38 appearances spanning five years. No doubt he will be best remembered for his goal against Olympiacos on our way to Champions League success in 2004/05.

These two are not alone though. But what of today’s crop of youngsters. Who will make it?

Who Will Make It?

We’re not going to go through the whole list of youngsters. We will concentrate on some of those who seem to be at the front of the queue. And who might they be? I think we are looking at Harry Wilson, Ben Woodburn, Rhian Brewster, Ovie Ejaria, Dominic Solanke and Sheyi Ojo. There will be others – for instance, Allan Rodrigues de Souza and Yan Dhanda to name just two. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Harry Wilson

Harry Wilson

The Prolific Harry Wilson

Harry Wilson, our prolific goal scoring winger from Wrexham. At 15, Harry became a full time member of Liverpool’s Academy. In July 2014 he signed his first professional contract with Liverpool. In 2015/16 he did have a spell on loan at Crewe. It didn’t really work out though. He only made 7 appearances and failed to find the net.

His biggest achievement to date was when he made his full international appearance for Wales in October 2013 against Belgium. Upon making this appearance he became the youngest ever player to play for Wales. This achievement eclipsed the previous record holder Gareth Bale by 108 days.

This season in particular his goalscoring exploits with the U23s has been exceptional. The regularity in which he scores for the U23s has mirrored Mohamed Saleh in a way. Two wingers who definitely know where the goal is.

Although still only 20, he has been around for a few years so this season is maybe a make or break one for him with regard to his Liverpool career. While Ben Woodburn, Dominic Solanke and Rhian Brewster are either included in the first team squad or very close to it at least, it seems that Wilson is overlooked. Why is this? Is there something in his game that the coaches are not convinced about?

There is talk of him maybe going out on loan in January. Is this to give him the experience he may well need, or is it a way to delay the inevitable? Hopefully Wilson will get a chance. But he needs to get the chance very soon, otherwise he will probably be thinking it’s time to move on.

Will He Make It At Liverpool?

Will he make it at Liverpool? On the one hand, as he hasn’t really stepped up to the first team that often and others seem to have leap-frogged him, you would say ‘No’. On the other though, a half season loan at a top Championship side and a few senior goals under his belt and you would say, ‘Yes’.

He is without doubt an excellent prospect. Will he make it? Most definitely. Let’s hope he fulfills his full potential for many years at Liverpool.

Ben Woodburn

Ben Woodburn - versus Leeds

Ben Woodburn – versus Leeds

Another youthful full Welsh international. Eighteen year-old Woodburn made his full international debut for Wales on 2nd September 2017. He did not start the game but made a huge impact when he came on as sub by scoring a 25-yard scorcher against Austria in a World Cup qualifier. This made him Wales’ second-youngest ever goalscorer at the age of 17.

His Liverpool career has taken off quicker than Wilson’s. He became Liverpool’s third youngest player in history when he made his senior debut in November 2016. After his second appearance, he became the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer when he scored against Leeds United in a League Cup game at Anfield.

Since then he has appeared in the first team squad on a few occasions. He is obviously highly rated by Jurgen Klopp. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t make the first team squad would he?

As he is so high up the pecking order you would think it is unlikely he will be loaned out. Having said that, to speed up his progression, a short term loan spell may be just the ticket.

Who will make it? There is no doubt that Woodburn is going to make it. It is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’

Make no mistake we have an incredible talent on our hands.

Ovie Ejaria

Ovie Ejaria-Liverpool

Ovie Ejaria-Liverpool

Turning 20 next week (18th November), Ejaria was born in London to Nigerian parents. Ejaria, grew up supporting Arsenal. He played for Arsenal’s Academy for nine years before signing for Liverpool in 2014. It was certainly felt at the time that we had ‘stolen’ a huge talent from Arsenal.

His first Liverpool senior appearance was in a 2016/17 pre-season friendly against Tranmere Rovers. Despite being relatively unknown prior to the game he performed exceptionally well and caught the eye of first team manager Jürgen Klopp. After his impressive start, Klopp selected him for four more friendlies over the summer.

His first competitive first XI call-up came on 16 September in the Premier League match away to Chelsea. He was an unused substitute in Liverpool’s 2–1 victory. Four days later, he made his first team debut against Derby County in a League Cup tie, replacing Bobby Firmino in a 3–0 victory.

On 25th October, Ejaria made his full debut in a winning 2-1 League Cup 4th round tie against Spurs at Anfield. His Premier League debut soon followed when he came on as a substitute in Liverpool’s 6-1 home win against Watford.

In all, Ejaria made 8 appearances in the 2016/17 season. Two in the League and three in each of the FA Cup and League Cup. A good breakthrough really, but he seems to have fallen back in the pecking order again. He is different to the others in this piece as he is a central midfielder. All the others are either strikers, or wide attackers. He’s a big lad and we are crying out for some midfield presence.

Can He Make The Breakthrough?

With the imminent arrival of Naby Keita and with so many central midfielders already ahead of him, Ejaria really needs to break through soon. As it is at the moment though it looks as though he may well be best suited to a six month loan period at a Championship club.

Sheyi Ojo

Sheyi Ojo

Sheyi Ojo

Ojo is another winger and is also 20 years of age. In a way Ojo’s regular path to Liverpool’s first team has seemed to stall in a way. A fracture in his back before the 2016/17 season seemed to derail him a bit. As a result he didn’t return to training until mid-November. Missing the so crucial full pre-season set him back.

This was a huge blow to both Ojo and the club as the end of the 2015/16 season he was certainly in the first team fold. Ojo made his Premier League debut on 20 March 2016 against. He replaced Joe Allen in a 3–2 loss away to Southampton. As it happened, it was Sadio Mane who turned the game for The Saints that day. Liverpool were seemingly coasting 2-0 at half-time. Mane’s second half introduction as substitute turned the game as he slotted in two.

Three weeks later, Ojo made his first start for Liverpool in the Premier League against Stoke City at Anfield. Ojo contributed with an assist for Daniel Sturridge’s goal in a 4-1 win for Liverpool.

Fulham Loan

In the 2017 pre-season Ojo was loaned to Fulham on a season long loan. Unfortunately for him, his injury jinx struck again as he dislocated his shoulder in a 2-1 win against local rivals, QPR, in September.

Will he make it? It does look an increasingly difficult task for Ojo as, apart from his injury setbacks, there now seems to be a big queue ahead of him. His first priority of course is getting back to fitness and back in the Fulham starting XI. If that first step is not negotiated then it’s beginning to look a long way back into the Liverpool fold for Ojo.

Dominic Solanke

Dominic Solanke

Dominic Solanke

In a way Solanke should really be excluded from this list of youngsters as he does already appear to have made it. He is already a regular on the first team bench since his summer move from Chelsea. Another 20 year old, Solanke is widely tipped to go a long way in the game.

It is even rumoured that he is to be called up to the full England squad for next week’s friendly against Brazil.

Solanke’s background suggests that he has been on course for some time. While at Chelsea, he was named on the bench for a Premier League match against Crystal Palace in October 2014. Later, in the same week, he made his professional debut in a 6-0 win against Maribor in the Champions League. This made him the youngest player to make his debut in the Champions League for Chelsea.

Prolific Solanke

At youth level, Solanke was prolific. He scored 15 goals in 16 games before Christmas and finished as top scorer in the group stages of the UEFA Youth League.  In April 2015, Solanke scored twice in the semi-final of the 2014/15 UEFA Youth League against A.S. Roma to put Chelsea into the final.

Solanke scored again against Shakhtar Donetsk in the final. He ended the tournament with 12 goals in 9 games as Chelsea won the title. Also in April, Solanke netted again as Chelsea beat Manchester City 3-1 in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup. This goal put Solanke on 35 goals for the season. He didn’t stop there though. His hat-trick against us in May in a 4-3 win obviously impressed the Liverpool backroom staff, as well as putting him on 41 goals for the season.

Later that month, Solanke notched the only goal of the game in a post-season friendly against Thailand All-Stars. This was the first senior goal of his career.

2015/16 season: Loan to Vitesse

In August 2015, Solanke joined Dutch club Vitesse on a season-long loan to gain first team experience. He ended the season with 7 goals in 25 appearances, just three behind top scorer Valeri Qazaishvili.

2016/17 season

The 2016/17 season saw the beginning of the end for him at Chelsea. In the April 2016, it was reported that both Chelsea and Solanke had stalled during contract negotiations. After rejecting many loan offers from several teams, Solanke was elevated to Chelsea’s third choice striker behind Diego Costa and Michy Batshuayi for the first half of that season.

As contract talks continued to stall however, Solanke was frozen out of the first team picture for the rest of the season. In February 2017, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte confirmed that it was likely that Solanke would leave the club in the summer upon the expiry of his contract. Without a doubt, Chelsea’s loss was to become Liverpool’s gain

Solanke Signs For Liverpool

In May 2017, it was confirmed that Solanke had agreed to join Liverpool on 1st July. The fee to be decided by a tribunal, with Liverpool expected to pay around £3 million. He was officially announced as a Liverpool player on 10 July 2017, and was assigned shirt no. 29.

International Career

Solanke has represented England at all youth team levels. His international highlight was during the summer of 2017 when England won the FIFA U20 World Cup. He scored four goals in the tournament and his performances earned him the award of the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament.

In a nutshell, there is no doubt that Liverpool have a real gem on their hands. Let’s hope he goes on to blossom even more and he turns out to be the player everyone expects him to be.

Rhian Brewster

Rhian Brewster

Rhian Brewster

Aged only 17, it seems that anything Solanke can do then Brewster can do as well. As with Solanke, in asking the question as to who will make it, there is no doubt that Brewster will.

At the age of seven, he was spotted by scouts from Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham and Charlton. He joined Chelsea and his game developed under coach Michael Beale in the club’s academy. Chelsea must be sick of the sight of Liverpool as at the age of 14 he left Chelsea, just like Solanke, to join us.

In 2015, with Beale now at Liverpool, Brewster signed from Chelsea following a recommendation by Beale. He initially started in our U18 side before being promoted to the U23 squad. He went on to score on his debut against Ipswich Town.

Much of Brewster’s development can also be credited to former winger, Steve McManaman. Brewster has been on a special training regime with McManaman.

In October and November 2016, Brewster was called up by manager Jürgen Klopp to the first-team for friendlies. His progress was such that he was named on the bench for our last home game of the season against Crystal Palace.

International Acclaim

Just as England won the u20 World Cup with Solanke starring, the U17’s also won their World Cup tournament. On this occasion, it was Brewster who was the star of the tournament. Successive hat-tricks in the quarter and semi finals, Brewster ended up with the Golden Boot as tournament top scorer with 8 goals.

Liverpool U23 v Tottenham Hotspur

I was lucky enough to see our recent U23’s 4-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur a few weeks ago. A good friend of mine is a scout and he got me a ticket. Harry Wilson was on fire as he scored a hat-trick. Brewster got the other and really was the star attraction on the night.

Who will make it? Most definitely, Rhian Brewster will. He is already knocking on the door at just 17. How long will it be before he is a regular first team squad member?

In Summary

Who will make it isn’t just down to the player’s abilities. Their personalities and characters will play a big part. Not only that. The path to the first team is hard enough anyway. But to see players like Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Saleh, Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana to name just a few ahead of you makes the task that bit harder.

Best of luck to all of them. And if they don’t make it at Liverpool we are sure that they will have brilliant careers elsewhere. Hopefully though we will see the best of all of them here on the Fields Of Anfield Road.

 

 

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