One for the Future: Jordon Ibe

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Raheem Sterling made quite an impression at Liverpool last season.

He may have fallen out of form and down the pecking since, but it was been quite a campaign for the then 18-year-old.

Sterling has played 53 times for Brendan Rodgers’ side and made his England debut in November last year, rightfully establishing himself as one of the top prospects in the country.

However, he is not the only one showing great promise at Anfield.

In fact, there is a whole host of youngsters looking to break into the first-team picture in the coming years.

Sterling, Suso, Andre Wisdom, Martin Kelly and Jon Flanagan have all had varying tastes of senior action, while there are high hopes for Jerome Sinclair, Jack Robinson, Adam Morgan, Jack Dunn, Samed Yesil, Krisztian Adorjan, Conor Coady, Stephen Sama and Joao Carlos Teixeira.

That’s a huge list of potential stars of the future, and they are all coming through Liverpool’s academy.

Benitez

Rafael Benitez strengthened the youth system at the club during his days on Merseyside, bringing in specialists Pep Segura, Rodolfo Borrell and Frank McParland.

Benitez may be much-maligned following his spell as Chelsea’s interim manager, but his legacy at Liverpool continues to reap dividends for the club and will do for years to come.

The aforementioned players are all extremely highly thought of at Liverpool, but many regular watchers of the club’s development sides suggest there is one stand-out player from their current crop.

That man – or boy – is Jordon Ibe.

The 18-year-old was brought to the club for around £500,000 from Wycombe Wanderers in January 2012 after he made quite an impression in the Football League.

Ibe broke a number of records for the Chairboys, for whom he made 11 appearances and scored once.

The London-born teenager, who can play on either wing or up-front, made his Wycombe debut in the League Cup in August 2011 aged 15 years and 244 days.

He then became the club’s youngest-ever Football League player by coming on as a substitute two weeks later.

Everything was going swimmingly for Ibe, who then produced the moment of his career so far.

Unstoppable

On his first senior start, against Sheffield Wednesday, he went on a mazy run before rifling in an unstoppable effort, becoming Wycombe’s youngest-ever scorer in the Football League.

After scoring, he immediately ran over to his parents at the front of one of the stands at Adams Park, and was controversially booked by referee Chris Sarginson.

That goal showcased his talent perfectly, and after he was linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, he was snapped up by Liverpool.

Ibe’s attributes were obvious then, and he has further underlined them for Liverpool’s development teams.

His pace, strength and intelligence are clear, as are his excellent first touch and work-rate.

Ibe likes to run at defenders and his finishing ability is excellent, something he demonstrated in last month’s FA Youth Cup win over Leeds United, when he scored twice.

Rodgers has shown this season that he is not afraid to put his faith in youth, so a first-team bow for Ibe may not be too far away.

He played for Liverpool’s senior side for the first time in July 2012 in a friendly against MLS side Toronto, while he also has two caps for England’s under-18 team.

Reputation

Ibe could have stayed at Wycombe to secure more first-team football at a young age, and time will tell whether his move to Liverpool will work out.

However, the club has a fantastic recent reputation for bringing through youngsters, and they recognise that the likes of Ibe could save bundles of cash in the future.

There is little doubt that Ibe has what it takes to cut it at the highest level, although, as with all players of his age, he will need to continue to develop if he is to make it.

Gary Waddock, the Wycombe manager who gave him his debut, is certain Ibe will realise his potential.

He was reported by the BBC as saying: “It’s a fantastic move for him.

“He’s a phenomenal talent which is why we gave him a chance to show what he can do at first-team level.

“Obviously we wanted to keep him, but we didn’t want to stand in the way of an opportunity he deserves.

“I have no doubt in my mind that he will go on to become a big star and I will be keeping a close eye on his progress.”

Responsible

Liverpool’s future appears extremely bright with players like Ibe coming through the ranks.

He is certainly not the only one hoping to become a first-team regular in the coming years, with Liverpool’s academy now looking one of the most exciting in the country.

The last word should go to club legend Kenny Dalglish, who has no doubts as to who is the man responsible for the youngsters coming through.

He told the club’s official website in April 2012: “I think it’s been fantastic and it’s a great credit to the changes that Rafa made three years ago, bringing in Pep, Rodolfo and Frankie.

“The way it has moved forward is a credit to anyone who has helped in any way, shape or form.

“It was Rafa who brought these people in and we should always be grateful to him for doing that.

“In years to come, if we get some players through it, I’m sure he’ll be just as proud as any of the players are.

“And he should be proud about what he’s set up here.”

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TEAM NEWS: Flanagan doubt for Liverpool’s trip to face Man City

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JON FLANAGAN is a doubt for Liverpool’s Boxing Day trip to face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

The young defender, who has been in superb form as of late, picked up a slight hamstring injury in last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Cardiff City.

Captain Steven Gerrard is progressing well in his recovery from a hamstring injury, but is still unavailable for the Reds.

Striker Daniel Sturridge (ankle) and left-back Jose Enrique (knee) are still sidelined until the new year.

Liverpool will look to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League with three points against Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

Liverpool provisional squad: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Agger, Flanagan, Lucas, Henderson, Allen, Sterling, Coutinho, Suarez, Jones, Kelly, Toure, Alberto, Aspas, Moses, Cissokho.

For Man City
Gael Clichy could continue on his ‘wrong’ flank at right-back due to injuries for Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards (both hamstring) or central defender Dedryck Boyata, midfielder James Milner or Aleksandar Kolarov could be drafted in.

Top scorer Sergio Aguero (calf) and defender Matija Nastasic (calf) are out and Stevan Jovetic missed the win at Fulham due to illness so could be absent once more.

Provisional squad: Pantilimon, Hart, Boyata, Milner, Kompany, Demichelis, Lescott, Clichy, Kolarov, Nasri, Silva, Navas, Garcia, Fernandinho, Toure, Rodwell, Dzeko, Negredo, Guidetti, Jovetic.

Brendan Rodgers plays down squad inexperience

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 Brendan Rodgers has played down the importance of experience in a Premier League title race.

The Reds are currently top of the table approaching the halfway stage of the season, but their status as genuine title contenders remains in doubt due to the fact that they have never won a Premier League crown.

However, Rodgers believes that the only way to get such experience is to put themselves in a position to challenge for the title, which is something he is confident that his side can do.

“Of course there are teams who will have much more experience than ourselves at winning titles but you only get that experience by doing it and focusing on the job,” Rodgers is quoted as saying by PA.

“If we can continue with that over the course of the next 10 games we will assess it for the final run in. You need to get that experience from somewhere and you only do that by going on and winning games.

“Since January we have shown we can consistently perform and win games on a regular basis and we have shown we are a very attack-minded team – we have the most goals of a Premier League team in this calendar year.”

Liverpool’s title credentials will be subject to their biggest test yet when they face Manchester City at the Etihad on Boxing Day.

Luis Suarez turns Santa! Liverpool star gives Uruguay charity a £10,000 Christmas present

LUIS SUAREZ is used to delivering the goods on the pitch. Now he’s delivered them off them.

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Suarez has given a specialist children’s centre in his native Uruguay a £10,000 Christmas present.

In recognition of Suarez winning the Football Supporters’ Federation Player of the Year 2013, award sponsor William Hill donated the cash to a charity of his choice.

Suarez, who this week signed a contract extension with Liverpool, chose the Teleton charity in Uruguay that looks after children with neuro-musculoskeletal disabilities.

Luis Suarez said: “I am delighted to help the Teleton initiative and I am very grateful to William Hill for their donation to the charity.”

Can Liverpool and Man City create the biggest ever Kolo/Yaya Toure chant on St Stephen’s Day?

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High flyers Manchester City and Liverpool meet on St. Stephen’s Day and the ever popular Toure brother’s chant could get its biggest ever rendition.
The top of the table clash will see the Reds attempt to prevent Manuel Pellegrini’s side from taking all three points, something no team has managed yet at the Etihad, but the presence of the Toure brothers will also give supporters something more to shout about than just the football.

Football supporters have tailored 2 Unlimited’s number one hit No Limits to incorporate Yaya and Kolo and it has quickly become something of a cult classic. Fans up and down the country have taken to the song and it can be heard regularly at PDC Darts events, while the two players themselves have appeared in videos lending their support to the chant.

With the Ivorian brothers in opposite sides for the game at Eastlands on Thursday evening, it is hoped that both sets of fans will join in for what would be the biggest rendition of the song.