Paul Spillane assesses Ryan Kent’s time on loan at Barnsley this season and what the young winger has in store for him on Merseyside when the season ends.
A product of the Academy system, Ryan Kent has been a name on the lips of many Liverpool fans, despite still only being 19 years old. He plays as a dynamic winger, who can operate on the left or right-hand side of the midfield and is developing a ‘big game player’ tag after some impressive performances on loan this season.
After an impressive 2014/15 campaign for the Liverpool Under 21s, Kent was rewarded for his endeavour with a call-up to the first-team squad for the 2015 pre-season tour.
His reputation was further enhanced last season after he signed a four-month youth loan at Coventry City, making 17 appearances and scoring his first ever professional goal against Barnsley in a 4-3 victory for the Sky Blues back in November 2015.
The following day, it was announced that Kent would return to Liverpool to be assessed by the new manager. Klopp must have liked what he saw as afterwards, he was recalled to the squad.
Last season was another stellar showing with the U23s and Kent was rewarded with his first start for Liverpool in the Reds FA Cup third round win at Exeter City.
It was not a surprise that many Championship clubs were keen on taking him on loan, to which Kent chose Barnsley. Signing for a club who had been promoted themselves to the Championship the previous year, Kent has been ever-present in a Barnsley team that has defied expectations and look set for a comfortable mid-tabled finish.
Back in February, Kent spoke to LFCTV on his loan move, saying: “It’s a great experience to be playing in front of big crowds in big stadiums, for me, that’s something I am relishing at the moment.”
Kent has registered 35 league appearances, the second-highest figure in the whole squad, showing the Barnsley Manager Paul Heckingbottom has faith in his abilities. Kent has produced two goals in such time, finding the net quite brilliantly in victories against Rotherham and Leeds, and also making one assist. Moreover, Kent has recorded 19 shots, 16 of those on target – the second highest in the team, and hit the woodwork three times. It is clear then, despite not finding the net on a regular occasion as yet, the signs are promising that Kent is developing nicely at Oakwell.
The question remains, however, will he get a chance next season?
Whilst speaking to LFCTV last month, Kent spoke about what they future holds: “It’s great to see the boss putting his trust in young players in big games, and that’s more inspiration for me to go back there now and work hard in preseason and push forwards to the first team”.
There is no doubting the belief he has in his own abilities which is a great asset to have going forward when trying to make a name for himself at such a prestigious club like Liverpool.
From his showings this season I hope he gets a chance. It is always nice to see players developing through the academy and then make a name for themselves as part of the first team. This has been in short supply over the last few years, but with the likes of Ben Woodburn, Harry Wilson, Ovie Ejaria, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, things are looking up.
Reports have been circulating this week over supposed interest from Leeds and Bournemouth, so there is the need to tie him down to a new deal as quickly as possible. Personally, I would include him in the preseason squad but then look to loan him to a Premier League side in the bottom half of the table, where he will be able to further develop his craft, playing against a plethora of the game’s best players.
Kent will no doubt have competition if he is to break into Klopp’s first team squad next season, but I for one am certain he will get his chance in the future. By spending a year in the Championship, one of the most strenuous leagues it would have no doubt toughened him up, and have been an invaluable experience in the years to come.