Thursday, September 16, 2010

Europa League important for development of young prospects

Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing look set to start in Liverpool’s clash with Steaua Bucharest tonight.

It’s a good move by Roy Hodgson, not only does it give two of our younger players the chance to gain some experience against quality European opposition, it also allows some of our more senior players the chance to rest before the all-important clash with Manchester United on Sunday. 

It’s been said that Liverpool FC exists to win trophies, and of course I agree with that. But what’s more important is that Liverpool strives to win the biggest and the best competitions, even if that means neglecting some of those considered less prestigious along the way. 

One of the trophies that should be put low down in Roy Hodgson’s ranking of importance is the Europa League, especially with the current problems surrounding the club. 

Liverpool saw more players head out the exit door than came in over the summer, once again leaving the squad looking incredibly thin on the ground, and when a squad is lacking strength-in-depth it’s important to save the best players for the biggest competitions. 

For Liverpool this season that competition is the Premier League. After the poor show last season, and the current negativity surrounding what’s going on at boardroom level, it’s important the Reds finish as high as possible in the league in order to secure the long-term stability of the club. 

Whilst this means neglecting the Europa League, Carling Cup and to a lesser extent the FA Cup, it means Liverpool are more likely to clinch a place back in the top four, and that’s all important if Liverpool want to be back up there with the crème de la crème of football in the Champions League. 

That’s not to say that the Europa League doesn’t serve a purpose for Liverpool. The competition is a great way in which to offer our young prospects the chance to play first team football, against strong opposition, in a competitive environment - something which will allow these players to develop their skills and offer us more promise for the future. 

By playing in the competition the younger players will no doubt build-up their confidence as well as giving the hope they do have a future at Liverpool, something which is crucial after very few youth team players broke in to the first-team over the last decade. 

Dani Pacheco was rumoured to be interested in a move away from Anfield in the summer, primarily because of a lack of first-team opportunities despite his consistently brilliant performances at reserve level.

Offering players like him the chance to get regular first-team football will no doubt make them feel they have a chance of breaking in to the squad and will hopefully see a number of junior players make the jump in to the first-team on a regular basis. 

Liverpool can’t boast a squad large enough to send out a world-class team in every competition, but what Roy Hodgson can do is be smart in his team selection, ensuring players like Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are rested in less important matches whilst also offering the youngsters the chance to prove themselves on a big stage.


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