THE focus and scrutiny of Liverpool’s Academy has arguably never been more great.
With the resources at Brendan Rodgers’s disposal limited and injuries leaving him with one hand tied behind his back at times, the Anfield club have been forced to look within for answers.
Rodgers has always been a manager ready and willing to accelerate the chances of emerging talent but even the 39-year-old must not have anticipated the pace with which he has been forced to developed certain players.
Though teenagers such as Suso, Andre Wisdom and Adam Morgan were all names familiar to Liverpool’s well educated and aware fan base, few would have expected to see any of them become first-team regulars.
Though Morgan has only been used sparingly, Suso and Wisdom have accumulated 25 senior appearances between so far this season.
A campaign which has seen Jerome Sinclair, at just 16 years and six days, become the youngest player to ever represent the first-team and others such as Samid Yesil and Conor Coady start in competitive senior matches.
Though Raheem Sterling was given a taste for the top flight last season, his elevation to being an essential part of Rodgers’s plans is a clear indication of how needs must at present.
But it also reflects incredibly well on the hard work of the club’s Academy – and the man in charge up at the Kirkby facility, Frank McParland.
McParland and the coaches working under him are in constant dialogue with Rodgers who is a familiar face at their training base.
“The manager is down here frequently, he wants to see how we’re working with the players and he’s really keen on finding the next one,” he said.
“Three or four times a week we’ll speak. He’s very focused on the young players, he loves working with them. Sometimes we’ll send an under-15 to work with the first team and he loves having them.
“The dialogue (between the Academy and Melwood) is as good as it’s been.
“Brendan is really refreshing to speak to and he has a massive passion for the club as well as for football. He loves the place.
“He’ll come down here and talk for an hour-and-a-half to the coaches and part-time coaches, not just the top end people but the people who work with the kids every day – and without them we are nothing.”
With the exception of Coady and Morgan, the players who have graduated into the first-team frame this season are not Liverpool-born.
McParland says finding the next in line to pick up the local mantle carried by Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher remains one of his key objectives.
“It’s the ultimate,” said McParland. “You’d love to get a Stevie or a Carra through, and I can assure you that we’re working really hard to do that. I don’t think it will be too long before that happens.
“If you don’t have good scouts, you don’t get good players. It’s not like 15 years ago when you’d go to a park in Liverpool and hope to find five or six players who are going to play in the first team.
“We may not have a scout in every single country in the world but we have a contact in most.
“So scouting is really important. We have scouts at home and abroad, and we scout in Liverpool. I still want the Scouse kids here.”
He added: “We haven’t got a perfect place where there aren’t kids who think they are Steven Gerrard when they are in the U-15s. It’s our job to educate them, work with them every day and keep them grounded. I don’t think we’re doing a bad job.
“I have seen some absolutely wonderful footballers who at 15 or 16 decide they are the next superstar, and very few make it.
“People like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are real winners, and when they were growing up they had that desire to be top players. There is talent, and then there’s determination. If you can match them, you’re going to have a good chance.
“But I agree with Steven. We don’t want to make anyone famous before they’ve done anything and we try hard to keep their feet on the ground.
“If a player wants to come to us just for money, we don’t want them,” he said.
“That really is the truth.
“What we can offer them is a pathway. We’ve got a manager who’ll play them, we’ve had three regulars this season aged 17, 18 and 19.
“When kids speak to the manager, they want to play for Liverpool.”