WHETHER through design or necessity, few Liverpool managers have been as compelled to throw youngsters in at the deep end as Brendan Rodgers.
But none of those fledgling talents have travelled quite as steep a learning curve as the Northern Irishman.
Since arriving at Anfield in the summer, Rodgers has had to juggle the need to bolster an underachieving squad while lowering the wage bill and correcting what Fenway Sports Group clearly believe are the mistakes of their previous transfer regime.
Not easy when the 39-year-old has also been keen to impose a specific playing style throughout the club while coming to terms with by far the biggest job of his managerial career and a deadline day fiasco that has further shackled his options.
All while having an unforgiving television camera to record for posterity his first steps at Anfield and then beam a sanitised version into homes across the country.
Testing times indeed.
Now Rodgers must contend with what is arguably his most unique challenge, one that, at least in the short term, can buy time both with the supporters and the ever-demanding media spotlight.
The Merseyside derby.
While the Liverpool manager will no doubt have been told for weeks in advance about the specific demands of English football’s most celebrated parochial spat, only with experience can anyone truly appreciate what it takes to compete in such an encounter.
The evidence suggests as much. For a new manager, the Merseyside derby can be a strange beast.
Rodgers will become the 12th different Liverpool manager to take charge of his first derby since the war, with less than half claiming victory.
Not since Roy Evans in 1994 has someone stepped in to the Anfield hotseat and beaten Everton at the first attempt.
Roy Hodgson oversaw a dismal 2-0 defeat at Goodison in October 2010 that was also the first fixture following the dramatic High Court takeover that saw the club switch hands from Tom Hicks and George Gillett to John Henry and the then New England Sports Ventures.
Rafael Benitez obviously learned his lesson from a 1-0 away defeat in December 2004 – Salif Diao preferred to Xabi Alonso in midfield – as he only lost two of a further 13 matches against the neighbours.
And Gerard Houllier, while in charge alongside Evans, could only eke out a goalless draw at Goodison in October 1998.
Hodgson, Benitez and Houllier are in good company. Neither Bob Paisley not Bill Shankly won their first derby, both Anfield legends held to a draw in their first games against Everton.
The difficulties of a first derby aren’t confined to the red side of Stanley Park.
Indeed, Everton’s managers have an even less impressive record.
Joe Royle may have famously began his managerial reign at Goodison with a 2-0 win in what will forever be known as the Duncan Ferguson derby in November 1994.
But the only other post-war Everton manager to win his first derby is Colin Harvey, whose side triumphed at Anfield 1-0 in a Littlewoods Cup tie in October 1987.
The other nine Goodison managers to have taken charge in a derby have failed to triumph at the first attempt, including Dave Watson in April 1997.
Howard Kendall, while winning the first game against Liverpool of his third stint in charge in October 1997, lost on his first Everton managerial bout against the neighbours 3-1 at Anfield in November 1981, while Harry Catterick could only manage a 2-2 home draw in September 1962.
Rodgers, of course, is likely to be one of several derby debutants on Sunday.
For Everton, Kevin Mirallas and, with Steven Pienaar injured, possibly Steven Naismith are in line for a derby debut, although both have had plenty of experience in Athens and Glasgow derby matches respectively.
David Moyes, a veteran of 23 Merseyside matches, will otherwise have plenty of derby experience to call upon.
Not so Rodgers. Of the team that started last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Reading, five have yet to appear in a derby with three having only made their first-team breakthrough at Anfield during the calendar year.
Joe Allen has appeared in a South Wales derby with Swansea City against Cardiff, while Nuri Sahin is a veteran of the Revier derby for Borussia Dortmund against Schalke in the Bundesliga.
But it will be another formative stage for Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Suso while Jonjo Shelvey, a substitute last Saturday, played just nine minutes from the bench in the 2-2 derby draw at Anfield in January 2011.
And Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones, who is on standby to play in his second successive derby should Pepe Reina fail to recover from a hamstring problem, has been impressed by the progress thus far of the youngsters.
“Raheem has been brilliant and the thing with him is that he's got the arrogance on the pitch but off it he's a very level-headed lad,” says Jones. “He listens to people, not just the manager but the older players as well, and he takes things on board.
“Andre as well. He's the same type of character. They are both happy to listen and aren't getting too big for their boots.
“You never stop learning. If we can keep playing Raheem and make him even better he will be a top player.”
While cliché dictates the form book should be thrown out of the window at Goodison, the reality is few derbies in recent times have gone against recent trends.
It makes Sunday’s game compelling. Everton may have made the better start to the Premier League campaign, but that early momentum has been checked by a run of just two wins in their last seven games in all competitions.
Liverpool have struggled for consistency this season but have lost only one of their seven away games, winning the last three against Young Boys, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City.
But the derby debut curse will give Rodgers food for thought and Everton reasons for optimism.