Paul Spillane discusses whether or not Jon Flanagan has a future at Liverpool.
I think it is fair to say that right now it is a great time to be a Liverpool fan. With 10 games played, we sit third in the table, level on points with Man City and Arsenal respectively. We are playing an attractive, free-flowing type of football and we are reaping the rewards from it.
When you look at the team, there’s an increasing look of togetherness and as a result, it is difficult to see any reason to change it.
For a player like Jon Flanagan then, currently on loan at Burnley, is there a future for him at the club?
Whilst he is currently on loan, Flanagan already has a difficult task when he returns to Liverpool next season. Clyne has cemented his place in the first team at right back and has been consistently reliable so far during his time on Merseyside. Therefore, if Flanagan was to force his way into the team, he is unlikely to dispel Clyne from the right back berth. Even our situation at left back has miraculously resolved itself thanks to the professionalism of James Milner.
It is difficult then to see where Flanagan would fit into the current squad.
One thing to remember is that Flanagan isn’t that young anymore. At 23 years of age, he carries more experience than the rest of our aspiring youngsters. Flanagan has, however, been much more involved in the first team than the likes of Conor Randall and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
A natural right back, but the fans will more likely remember him for his performances on the left flank, during the 2013/14 season. We all remember what a memorable time for the club that was, and of course for Flanagan. The youngster was ever-present during our unlikely title challenge and put in some impressive tough-tackling performances to help solidify the backline. His goal at White Hart Lane capped off a delightful away day against Spurs that lives long in the memory.
Flanagan acted as a breath of fresh air and a nod to the past, optimising the culture of the club, with his tough-tackling, determined and passionate style of play. His showings in the first team created a buzz around the city, celebrating the triumph of another local boy playing for Liverpool. His performances on the pitch also earned the unlikely tag of the ‘Scouse Cafu’ by none other than the Brazilian legend himself!
But all this is looking increasingly a long time ago.
Appearances for the club last year were in short supply, making only eight for the first team. Although only managing to feature in a short spell of games, there were still highlights for Flanagan, notably being made captain vs Southampton and ‘that’ tackle on Sterling against Man City is remembered fondly by the Anfield faithful.
A loan move this season, therefore made sense, as he is in much need of first team action after such a miserable time out injured.
Sean Dyche recently expressed his thoughts on the young defender in The Lancashire Telegraph.
“Flanners has fitted in well here and he’s getting back to real fitness and sharpness, it takes a long time, we’ve seen it with our lads. He’d been out for a long time.
“He’s enjoying it; he wants to play of course but he’s enjoying what we offer here.”
It is good to hear the Burnley boss speak positively about Flanagan and that the young defender is enjoying his time at the club, however, that does not yet change the current situation. Burnley have so far this season stuck with Matthew Lowton and Stephen Ward as their recognised fullbacks and this looks unlikely to change in the immediate future. With a famous win over Everton and a valuable point being picked up against Man United, things appear to be looking up for the Lancashire club. Whilst Flanagan has featured in both these games, they have been as a substitute.
Flanagan must keep his head down and continue building up his fitness to prove to Sean Dyche that he deserves a start in the league. He needs to force his way into the Burnley starting XI firstly, in order to show he has what it takes to succeed at Liverpool.
The fans desperately want to see another rising Scouse star develop, following in the footsteps of Gerrard and Carragher in more recent times. It is an exciting time to be a youngster at the club, with first-team chances being offered already in the EFL Cup, most notably to one Trent Alexander-Arnold, who perhaps, at 18 years old, represents the biggest obstacle to Flanagan at Liverpool.
There are doubts over Flanagan’s ability to cut in on Merseyside, with his Scouse heritage perhaps working too much in his favour. It is clear that he will not be the first choice right back at the club, but can still be a useful addition to the squad. He signed a new three-year deal with the club back in March, implying the boss still has faith in the youngster. So, perhaps there is reason for optimism.
Right now, all Flanagan can do is focus on the job at hand at Burnley, forcing his way into the team and putting in as many good performances as he can until the end of the season, something I believe he is more than capable of doing.